How Time Heals

I receive a daily feed from The Henri Nouwen Society (he’s one of my favorite authors) and love the way he makes me step back and view the world from a perspective I other than my own.  Today’s post struck me as aptly timed in light of all the cries of injustice coming out of the Casey Anthony trial and the state of relationships as a whole these days.

I hear so often the words “forgive and forget.” I love what Henri says in this passage.

“That is not realing healing; it is simply ignoring reality.”

Healing takes more work than memory loss.  Forgiveness is not about forgetting, it’s about rebuilding.

“Time heals,” people often say.  This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened.  That is not really healing;  it is simply ignoring reality.  But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it.  “Time heals” implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

 

What do you think? Can you forgive AND forget?

Check out another great post on forgiveness here at Folks, Listen!

Do you have one? Share your link in the comments! I’d love to read them!

On Coming Home


In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), there are two sons: the younger son, who runs away from home to an alien country, and the older son, who stays home to do his duty.  The younger son dissipates himself with alcohol and sex; the older son alienates himself by working hard and dutifully fulfilling all his obligations.  Both are lost.  Their father grieves over both, because with neither of them does he experience the intimacy he desires.

Both lust and cold obedience can prevent us from being true children of God.  Whether we are like the younger son or the older son, we have to come home to the place where we can rest in the embrace of God’s unconditional love.

~ Henri Nouwen

 

Did you hear that?

“Both lust and cold obedience prevent us from being true children of God.”

Where do you fall?

Downward Mobility

“The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up.    Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record – that’s what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame.

The way of Jesus is radically different.  It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility.  It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place!  Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing?  Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.”

~ Henri Nouwen

Choosing last place….

Can I do that?

Can I intentionally set my heart to choose last place? To downward mobility? To servanthood for the simply the sake of being like Christ?

I waver in my belief that I am holy enough to do this….to choose this life for me. And if I’m truly honest, on most days, I don’t choose Christ’s way over the world’s.

But then, God whispers grace and love and peace and an invitation to abide in Christ.  The encouragement that while I am not holy enough, Christ abides in me, through him I can do all things, and being a Princess in His Kingdom is far more valuable to me than being mogul in this world.

So today I choose the last place…the behind the scenes…the Way of Christ.

Will you choose downward mobility today?

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”~John 15:4

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:13


Loving the Church Remix

I originally posted this back in Oct of last year…it seems, however, the more people I talk to, the more discontent the neuvo-Christian world seems to be with the Church.  Do you want to know what I think God says about our discontent with the gossip in the next pew, or the number of hymns sung in the contemporary service, or the Bible passage that was preached on in the sermon this week? I think He says, “Go anyway. Love anyway. Connect anyway.” With that in mind, I think this is an appropriate repost… 

 “Loving the Church often seems close to impossible. Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church – whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic – belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared. When we remember that, we may be able to say, “I love the Church, and I am glad to belong to it.

Loving the Church is our sacred duty. Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it in joy and peace. And without a true love for the Church, we cannot call people to it.” – Henri Nouwen

We are imperfect reflections of God’s love and grace.  Put a lot of us together in one body and the result can be A LOT of imperfection and A VERY LITTLE reflection of God.  But this is what we are called to.  To love, to be gracious, and to gather together- with all our good, bad and ugliness. When we are obedient to this duty, God takes all our strengths and weaknesses and uses them for His good, for His beauty.  It’s only together that we can truly reflect God’s grace and love.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

– Hebrews 10:25

Have you been forsaking the sacred duty of loving the Church? Do you have Church wounds that need to be healed? Can we pray for you?




A Lenten Prayer

I found this prayer in my in box today from The Henri Nouwen society. He is one of my favorite authors and I find myself reading his works voraciously. He so often writes the insecurities of my heart. I am encouraged to know that other men and women of God sense the same division that I do.  I hope that this prayer encourages you as well.

A Lenten Prayer

Henri Nouwen (photo)The Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life.  I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me.

Amen.

Reflections from St Scholastica: Fearing Emptiness

“We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our “horror vacui,” our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.”

– Henri Nouwen

Today was a beautiful day.  As our group began our Day of Recollection and our presenter, Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr began sharing with us how to discover the “Monk Within,” I found myself drawn to her poetic style and use of metaphor. She began, “we offer to God everything we meant by I, so that the divine love may pass through the space that is left unimpeded.”  As she spoke about the monk and how it is the universal archetype for the heart within us that searches for the divine, I knew that I was in the right place.

Most of the retreat was spent in silent reflection.  Most of the teaching was done by God in those spaces. The communal silence shared among the retreatants became comfortable and cherished and easy to flow in and out of.

As we finished our day, I began to sense a great unease welling up within me.  Everyone was leaving to head home to their families, but I had chosen already to extend my retreat another day for some more alone time with God. As I said goodbye to new heart sisters, my unease became disquiet and settled into my belly like the stone representing my brokenness I had carried to the center of the labyrinth earlier that afternoon. A fear sprang up within me—solid and palpable, without cause or reason—a fear of the emptiness of time.  The space and solitude that was waiting after all my fellow retreatants left for the day.  I began to wonder if I should not just pack my belongings and head home early.

After the last of the ladies left, I went back to my room and paced about. I tried to nap.  I returned to the labyrinth that had offered such comfort and outlet for my nervous energy before. I couldn’t focus my steps, but just kept thinking I should go home and spend time with my family and be at church in the morning and run away from this open space. I was scared.

I packed my bags and sat them next to the door of my room.  Finally, I called out for help.  I picked up the phone and called my husband. We talked for a few moments (I thought I did a pretty good job of sounding light and upbeat—he tells me I did not.) I told him I wanted to come home. He told me I needed to stay and pray through this emotion, to get to the bottom of it.

I went to the chapel and knelt by the altar to pray. “Lord, Jesus, I know this fear is not from you.  I know that you want me to stay, but I feel so alone here. Please let me go home.”

“Stay with Me. You are not alone,” came the answer. “Sit here with me for a while.”

So I closed my eyes and quieted my mind and focused only on that soft voice inside that said, “Stay.” An hour later, Sr. Macrina came to invite me to dinner with the community and I jumped at the opportunity.

God poured out exactly what I needed this evening…first in his invitation to sit at peace with Him and then with His invitation to join the community of St Scholastica for a movie night.  What a joy it was to be invited into the personal residence of the Sisters of St Scholastica and see them through lenses unfettered by my preconceived notions of what life within these monastery walls is like.  It is not unlike mine, with chores and housework, and vocational work, and friends and quarrels and conflict and movies and pizza with the girls.  It is full of life and love and laughter.  I was blessed to be a part of that life for just a short time.

I head up to my room content and no longer afraid. God knew exactly what I needed and because I was willing to surrender my emptiness to Him—he filled it….with love.

“The most important practice of all to the monk is the practice of waiting.” Macrina Wiederkehr

Upgrade Your Spirit- Forgiveness

As we head into this Christmas weekend, my thoughts turn to healing relationships.  To mending broken pieces and patching torn places.  To human love in its purest form.  To Forgiveness.

I read this recently and it resonated deeply with me…I want to share it with you:

Forgiveness is made possible by the knowledge that human beings cannot offer us what only God can give. Once we have heard the voice calling us the Beloved, accepted the gift of full communion, and claimed the first unconditional love, we can see easily–with the eyes of a repentant heart– how we have demanded of people a love that only God can give. It is the knowledge of that first love that allows us to forgive those who have only a “second” love to offer.

I am struck by how I cling to my own wounded self. Why do I think so much about the people who have offended me or hurt me? Why do I allow them to have so much power over my feelings and emotions? Why can’t I simply be grateful for the good they did and forget about their failures and mistakes? It seems that in order find my place in life I need to be angry, resentful, or hurt. It even seems that these people gave me my identity by the very ways in which they wounded me. Part of me is “the wounded one.” It is hard to know who I am when I can no longer point my finger at someone who is the cause of my pain!…

It is important to understand our suffering. It is often necessary to search for the origins of a suffering.  It is often necessary to search for the origins of our mental and emotional struggles and to discover how other people’s actions and our response to their actions have shaped the way we think, feel, and act. Most of all, it is freeing to become aware that we do not have to be victims of our past and can learn new ways of responding. But there is a step beyond the recognition and identification of the facts of life.  There is even a step beyond choosing how to live our own life story. It is the greatest step a human being can take. It is the step of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all of us love poorly. We do not even know what we are doing when we hurt others. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour– unceasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.  The voice that calls us the Beloved is the voice of freedom because it sets us free to love without wanting anything in return. This has nothing to do with self-sacrifice, self-denial, or self-depreciation. But it has everything to do with the abundance of love that has been freely given to me and from which I freely want to give. – Henri Nouwen

I am praying for you this Christmas- that your hearth is warm and your family is near, that your heart is full of love and laughter  and hope.  I am sending love your way! Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday Jesus!

There are still 4 posts left in the Upgrade Your Spirit series.  Check back next week for more reflection on deepening your relationship with God.

Upgrade Your Spirit- Finding Community

“Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so dull and insignificant.  As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of god.  That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.”- Henri Nouwen

Finding ways to engage the community of believers is the central teaching of Strings Attached Ministries.  Learning to plug into and act as a vital part of the Fellowship of Christ is key to truly deepening your relationship with God.

We have focused in the past weeks on deepening our quest for solitude and time to BE with God alone because it is a spiritual discipline that often gets overlooked and laid aside when our lives get busy.  And frankly, because it is the part of MY spiritual walk that I am most called to at this time (Yay- that you are experiencing this learning curve with me!)

However, when I was discussing this series with a friend recently, she asked a question that gave me a moment of pause. “If you are plugged into community, how does solitude fit?”

Hmmmmm….

Then I ran across this in my reading.

“Solitude is not a private space over against a public space of community, nor is it merely a healing space in which we restore ourselves for community life.  Solitude and community belong together; each requires the other as do the center and circumference of a circle.  Solitude without community leads us to loneliness and despair, but community without solitude hurls us into a void of words and feelings.- Bonhoeffer

“A void of words and feelings-“ wow….ummmm….ouch.

This is where I live my life often when I find myself stealing moments with God instead of scheduling time with Him. (Here’s a hint….I am not a very good thief. Stolen moments never happen.) You see, I am learning that it is a fallacy to think that we grow closer to each other only when we talk, play, or work together.

“Solitude is inseparable from community because in solitude we affirm the deepest reality of our lives together, namely, that as a community we are like hands pointing to God in prayer.”-Nouwen

So what does the discipline of community look like? Doesn’t that sound strange? Discipline of community? But without discipline, community becomes a ‘word that refers more to a safe, homey, and EXCLUSIVE place than a space where new life can be received and brought to its fullness.” It requires discipline because to create space for God among us requires us to look past our differences and prejudices and constantly recognize the Spirit of God in each other.

We are called to a level of fellowship far deeper than potlucks and small group studies.  The Greek word used to describe this community is koinoniaKoinonia is a word so rich in meaning no single English definition quite suffices.

“To create a bond between comrades is the meaning of koinonia when people are recognized, share their joy and pains together, and are united because of their common experiences, interests and goals. Fellowship creates a mutual bond which overrides each individual’s pride, vanity, and individualism, fulfilling the human yearning with fraternity, belonging, and companionship. This meaning of koinonia accounts for the ease by which sharing and generosity flow. When combined with the spiritual implications of koinonia, fellowship provides a joint participation in God’s graces and denotes that common possession of spiritual values.

Thus early Christians had a fellowship with God, sharing the common experience of joys, fears, tears, and divine glory. In this manner, those who shared believed their true wealth lay not in what they had, but in what they gave to others. Fellowship is never passive in the meaning of koinonia, it is always linked to action, not just being together, but also doing together. With fellowship comes a close and intimate relationship embracing ideas, communication, and frankness, as in a true, blessed interdependent friendship among multiple group members.” –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koinonia

Community requires a deep understanding of those we choose to fellowship with.  It is vital to our walk with Christ to find and engage a community of believers, those that  walk alongside us, that hold us accountable, and that love us for who we are.  It is also vital that we are our true selves within this community, open and honest and willing to be vulnerable.  This is not an easy feat in this world.  It requires….that’s right….discipline.

Take some time today to reflect on the following questions:

  • Am I a part of a community of believers?
  • Am I truly plugged in or am I ‘just playing church?’
  • Am I open- willing to be vulnerable or am I faking it?
  • How would my walk with Christ change if I truly plugged into fellowship with other believers?

You are a vital piece of the puzzle. Without you our picture is incomplete.

Are you plugged in?

Upgrade Your Spirit- Knowing by Heart

I hope that you have already begun this with us.  This journey into Scripture memorization. It’s been a little scary at times.  My fear of failure or of letting someone down (who will I let down by memorizing scripture, really?) has plagued me throughout the past couple of weeks creating an ongoing dialogue in my  head about the efficacy of this discipline.  I must be doing something right. This practice is vehemently opposed.

If you grew up in Awana or in Sunday School, you are no stranger to scripture memory.  I didn’t.  I heard the phrase “to hide it in my heart,” from my children.  Conviction comes to me in the form of children’s quiet questions and wise smiles at times.  My babies, they memorize God’s word for Awana, and they memorize God’s word for school, and they memorize God’s word to speak blessing over their spiritually ill-educated Mama when she needs to hear from the Lord and is too weak to seek it.  They are God’s greatest blessing to me.

I started to seek out passages to memorize last year when starting the practice of reserving “quiet time” for God.  I found that repeating a Bible passage over and over again became the metronome for prayer, starting out as the focus, but fading into the background after a few moments.  Then these words became blessings to me in times of crisis.  Apparently I am not alone in this.

“Personally, I regret the fact that I know so few prayers and psalms by heart. Often I need a book to pray, and without one I tend to fall back on the poor spontaneous creations of my mind. Part of the reason, I think, that it is so hard to pray ‘without ceasing’ is that few prayers are available to me outside church settings.  Yet I believe that prayers which I know by heart could carry me through very painful crises.  The Methodist minister Fred M orris told me how Psalm 23 had carried him through the gruesome hours in the Brazilian torture chamber and had given him peace in his darkest hour. And I keep wondering which words I can take with me in the hour when I have to survive without books. I fear that in crisis situations I will not have to depend on my own unredeemed ramblings and not have the word of God to guide me.” –Henri Nouwen

You can still join us.  We are memorizing the entire book of Ephesians over the course of the next 7 months.  You can read about how to make a Scripture Memory book here and why we are embarking on this journey here.

Lord, help me to learn your word. Help me to hide it deep within my heart. Help me to let it soak in and help me to let it spill out Love over everyone I touch. Guide me with Your word, Lord. Amen

What passages bring you comfort through the difficult times in your life?

Upgrade Your Spirit – Scripture Reading and Contemplation

We have talked about contemplation and prayer as a way to deepen our relationship with God.  Spending time simply in God’s presence, with no underlying agenda, ruminating on his attributes and his graciousness is a vital part of our spiritual lives. A part, I feel gets forgotten, or left out, or run from.  We live in a world of activity- a world of doing, but we are human BE-ings for a reason.

Contemplative scripture reading is not the same as Bible study.  It is an extension of your “quiet time” with Jesus.  It is the discipline of having “empty time” just to be with Christ in His word.

“To take the Holy Scriptures an read them is the first thing we have to do to open ourselves to God’s call.  Reading the Scriptures is not as easy as it seems since in our academic world we tend to make anything and everything we read subject to analysis and discussion.  But the word of God should lead us first of all to contemplation and meditation.  Instead of taking the words apart, we should bring them together in our innermost being; instead of wondering if we agree or disagree, we should wonder which words are directly spoken to us and connect directly with our most personal story.  Instead of thinking about the words as potential subjects for an interesting dialogue or paper, we should be willing to let them penetrate into the most hidden corners of our heart, even to those places where no other word has yet found entrance.” – Henri Nouwen

Contemplative reading is engaging God’s word in a way and at a time in which you have the space to allow his words to soak in.  It is reading with intentionality, being and staying present to the reading of it and allow those words to speak to where you are.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are mornings when this is more of a discipline than a joy.  When intentionality and presence go out the window and I read his word out of sheer obedience, but what Nouwen said about prayer applies to scripture reading as well,

because God is greater than my mind and my heart, and what is really happening is not measurable in terms of human success and failure.”

Add contemplative reading to your daily practice and I promise you will hear God’s word for your life.  It is amazing how deeply his word resonates with me on a daily basis.  I pray that you will find this in your life as well.