Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Something about knowing ourselves

Artist: Jan van Eyck

Here's something I came across today. It gives me pause. There is much to think about here and much to pray about as well. It seems to me that it could be a good focus for Advent to keep this assertion as much in mind as we're capable of managing:

The things that we love tell us who we are.

-- St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wake up!

The opening movement to Bach's Cantata #140 just says "Advent" to me. And the following performance is simply magnificent:

I performed this many times myself back in the day. The oboe parts are to die for, truly! And, I must say, I would have loved working with this concertmistress (whose role, by the way, can be as important as the conductor's). Her leadership technique is awe inspiring.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The eternal silence of God

Artist: El Greco

Today, I'm finding myself focusing on the writings of John Main for several of my blogs. Here's a passage that addresses something about silence:
Language is so weak in explaining the fullness of the mystery. That is why the absolute silence of mediation is so supremely important. We do not try to think of God, talk to God or imagine God. We stay in that awesome silence open to the eternal silence of God. We discover in meditation, through practice and taught daily by experience, that this is the natural ambience for all of us. We are created for this and our being flourishes and expands in that eternal silence.

“Silence” as a word, however, already falsifies the experience and perhaps deters many people, because it suggests some negative experience, the deprivation of sound or language. People fear that the silence of meditation is regressive. But experience and tradition teach us that the silence of prayer is not the pre-linguistic but the post-linguistic state in which language has completed its task of pointing us through and beyond itself and the whole realm of mental consciousness. The eternal silence is not deprived of anything nor does it deprive us of anything. It is the silence of love, of unqualified and unconditional acceptance.
I think the distinction between a pre-linguistic and a post-linguistic stated is an important one, actually.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Something about love; something about God

Artist: Antoni Karwowski
I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened.
The above passage is from a book by Donald Miller called Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.

I've just today come across several passages from this book. (One reviewer said it read like the diary of a born again Woody Allen!)

I think I want to read it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blessings of the day

Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art....It is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can choose to take part in the self-healing of our world.

Joanna Macy

Monday, November 22, 2010

Remembering C.S. Lewis

Artist: Briton Rivière

It was on the 22nd of November in 1963 that C.S. Lewis died. Here are just a few quotations that I particularly like:
Something of God...flows into us from the blue of the sky, the taste of honey, the delicious embrace of water whether cold or hot, and even from sleep itself.

Where, except in the present, can the Eternal be met?

This moment contains all moments.

I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.

Looking for God--or Heaven--by exploring space is like reading or seeing all Shakespeare's plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters...

It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from.

Indeed. May all of us be sustained in our aspirations "to find the place where all the beauty came from."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ the King

One of my favorite preachers, Kate Huey, suggests some reflection questions for today:

As the end of another year draws close, what are the powers that you and your [fellow] church members fear, consciously or unconsciously? What "philosophies" and "false teachings" undermine Christian faith today, especially in your own setting? What is the power that helps you get through your day and the struggles of your life? Does the universe, does creation itself, feel out of control to you?...

The image of a king may seem a bit outdated for people in post-modern democracies. Do you think it is still relevant for the church today? Is there another image that works better for you? How might our understanding of Jesus' being "raised up" expand beyond what happened on one Easter morning to a comprehensive understanding of his place over everything, not just our individual, personal lives, or the community, or the church in every age, but all of creation, in all time?
I found the above questions right here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

So longs my soul for you, O Lord

There are many recordings of this on YouTube. I've listened to quite a few and this is definitely the best so far. The tempo is almost miraculously sublime and the diminuendo at the very end is shimmeringly perfect. Do listen!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Believing "in" rather than merely "about"

Artist: Max Slevogt

Believing in him is not the same as believing things about him such as that he was born of a virgin and raised Lazarus from the dead. Instead, it is a matter of giving our hearts to him, of come hell or high water putting our money on him, the way a child believes in a mother or a father, the way a mother or a father believes in a child.

-- Frederick Buechner

I have shared with you before how much I respect and value the works of Frederick Buechner. I really appreciate this passage because the misconception is widespread that we must believe certain doctrines about Jesus rather than placing our faith in him, setting our hearts on him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doing a small something

Artist: Mikhail Natarevich

I frequently have people come to talk to me who feel defeated because they can't come up with a strategy or a plan that solves everything about their predicament in an ideal way. Encouraging them to do something small can be really difficult because there is often a huge resistance to such an approach. That's probably why I like the following so much:

The doing of something productive regardless of the outcome is an act of faith. The doing of a small something when a large something is too much for us is perhaps especially an act of faith. Faith means going forward by whatever means we can.

Julia Cameron (from Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The paradoxical nature of Christian identity

Every single sentence of this is powerful and worth pondering on its own:

When Christians draw lines between themselves and others, Jesus remains a relentless and scandalous crosser of these lines. He quietly slips to the other side. Whenever an attempt to imprison him is made he disappears from sight and appears elsewhere. Thus is lived out the paradoxical nature of Christian identity. A Christian is simultaneously a member of a community and an outsider. It is as if Jesus still prefers to be with the outcast, however wrong their beliefs or behavior, rather than with those who are self-righteously sure that only they are right. The intolerant Christian isolates himself or herself from the Christ of universal tolerance. Jesus' truth is greater than all the opinions about him put together.

-- Laurence Freeman

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Artist: Van Gogh

I first discovered Richard Rohr when I lived in Ireland - back in the early nineties. And I'm so glad I did. His writings and the recordings of his talks have been of great help to me in my continued formation ever since. Here's something he said that can offer rich material for many hours of reflection:
Let go of the private dream for the dream of God. Most of us live in the past, carrying our hurts, guilts and fears. We have to face the pain we carry, lest we spend the rest of our lives running away from it or letting it run us. But the only place you'll ever meet the real is now-here. It's the hardest place for us to live, the place where we're most afraid to live, because it feels so empty and boring. Now-here almost always feels like nowhere, and that's precisely where we must go.
Desmond Tutu also talks about the dream of God.

Probably the "private dream", as Rohr puts it. is really the dream of the ego. When you think about it, that dream is so very made up. It's not real at all. And yet, we become so easily attached to it. Learning to be right here, right now, helps us see through the phoniness of it all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

True homage

Oh my, oh my, oh my. Please look:

If God said,

"Rumi, pay homage to everything
that has helped you
enter my

there would not be one experience of my life,
not one thought, not one feeling,
not any act, I
would not

-- Rumi

People, if we took this on board, really integrated this understanding into the depths of our being, it would revolutionize our lives. Yes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Body and soul

Artist: Gustave Caillebotte

I did not know he said this. And, of course, it is the last point that we all too easily overlook, I think:

Good for the body is the work of the body,
good for the soul is the work of the soul, and
good for either is the work of the other.

-- Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Do we enjoy God?

Margret Hofheinz-Döring/Galerie Brigitte Mauch Göppingen
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Here's a poem that has escaped my attention before today. I'm very glad I found it and I'm going to spend a good bit of time reflecting on it:

Just these two words He spoke
changed my life:

“Enjoy Me.”

What a burden I thought I was to carry--
a crucifix, as did He.

Love once said to me, "I know a song,
Would you like to hear it?

And laughter came from every brick in the street
And from every pore
in the sky.

After a night of prayer, he
changed my life when
He sang,

"Enjoy Me."

-- Teresa of Avila

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This is it, folks; really

Artist: Niko Pirosmani

Somehow, this remark by the great Gandhi escaped my attention before today. This is one that deserves to be taped to the bathroom mirror or right beside the door through which you leave your home every morning - or both:

If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further.

-- Mohandas Gandhi

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When the storm is over

Artist: Wilhelm Krause

There is a lot more in this wonderfully evocative sentence than is immediately apparent. Please, don't read it just once:

When the storm is over and night falls and the moon is out in all its glory and all you're left with is the rhythm of the sea, of the waves, you know what God intended for the human race, you know what paradise is.

-- Harold Pinter

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Communion with God

Artist: Carl Ludwig Becker

This is so very much the way Archbishop Tutu thinks and feels:

Like when you sit in front of a fire in winter — you are just there in front of the fire. You don't have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you.

-- Desmond Tutu (on communion with God)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls' Day

"Ascent of the Blessed" by Hieronymus Bosch

By Your resurrection from the dead, O Christ, death no longer has dominion over those who die in holiness. So, we beseech You, give rest to Your servants in Your sanctuary and in Abraham's bosom. Grant it to those, who from Adam until now have adored You with purity, to our ancestors, brothers and sisters, to our kinspeople and friends, to all those who have lived by faith and passed on their road to You, by a thousand ways, and in all conditions, and make them worthy of the heavenly kingdom.

-- from the Byzantine Divine Liturgy

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day

All Saints icon

We have to become saints. We have to become like Christ. Anything less is simply not enough.

-- Anne Rice