The Abyss of Divine Love

I’m at my annual conference — Mountain Sky — in session in Billings, Montana. There is so much uncertainty, anxiety, and pain in this place. And yet there is such love and joy that comes from being together in the beloved community. Wherever we are, wherever we are going, we go with this community of beloveds.

These words from Tilden Edwards have spoken to me and to this time of uncertainty in the church. Prayers for all those who are working to try to help us find our way.

Edwards writes about the process of discernment. [From pp. 64-65 in Spiritual Director, Spiritual Companion. Copyright © 2001 by Tilden Edwards.]

In approaching the Spirit’s movements … [we are called to] a habitual leaning into our souls in God, with a quality of trust in the abyss of divine love there, wanting to see our desires transformed in the light of God’s desire for us. We rest attentively in that abyss ultimately without knowing anything except our desires to embody those qualities of soul in our lives. …

Often we are not given … clear sight and [must] rest in our trust that we will be given enough of what we need to see as we go along. … Sometimes decisions need to be made without clear sight, but with just enough light to take a first step in one direction or another, trusting that the Spirit will shape our path with us as we go along. …

[The discernment process] may well not provide clear specific discernment, but over time … it can provide a way of approaching decisions that frees us from a focus on “getting it right,” that is, finding out just what God wants, or else we will be lost. Instead, we become free for a focus on an ongoing divine/human dance together … one that keeps us living out of our deep souls no matter how vague our sense of what decision to make. …

When we live out of our souls in trust, we become looser about knowing, and willing for a blind walk when that is what is given.

Let us trust in Divine Love to guide our steps in these days of struggle. May we allow our spirits to sink into the abyss of divine love, trusting that we will be given “enough of what we need to see as we go along.”

Day of Prayer for the Healing of the World

On Wednesday we will welcome Morgan Stafford as our preacher in The Upper Room Chapel. Morgan is working with the Tennessee Annual Conference as a Cross-Cultural Strategist. He will be preaching on “Will We Welcome”?

The service, at 10:45 a.m., is one part of a Day of Prayer for the Healing of the World. We will be gathering as a staff for a day of pray for the world, for our nations and leaders, for our churches, for our communities, families, and friends. We invite your participation from wherever you are. We hope you will send us your prayers for the world so that they may be a part of this day. Share your prayers with us.

Join us in body or spirit on Wednesday, October 18, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (CDT). 1908 Grand Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212.

Surviving Exile

By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
– Psalm 137:1-4, NRSV

I am wondering,
How do I navigate,
How do I survive,
How do I continue to live
In this time of Exile?

And then I think
Of all those
Who have lived in Exile
In this country
For centuries.

Let us hang on to
Community.
Hope.
Love.
Laughter.
Courage.
Trust.

Let us know when to
Take action.
Stay in the present moment.
Go outside.
Take a media break.
Remember the long view.

How shall we sing
The song of the Holy One
In this foreign land?

What are the scriptures, the songs, the poems that you hold on to? That ground you these days?

Dad, Can I Have a Horse?

I first rode a horse when I was in early elementary school. It was a pony owned by a family in our church. I was hooked and asked, “Dad, if the Bishop moves us to live on a farm, can I have a horse?”

Dad answered with full confidence, “Yes. If the Bishop moves us to live on a farm, you can have a horse.”

I never got the horse. Or had much opportunity to ride or be with horses over the years. But that part of me that loves horses has never gone away. So, Saturday afternoon, when I sat in row FF at the equestrian show, Odysseo Calvia, I was ready to move to a farm and spend the rest of my days grooming horses, mucking out stalls, and braiding manes.

I was surrounded by children, old and young, who felt the same as I did. Two girls in the row in front of me gripped their plush toy horses and waved their arms in the air at the wonder of it all. A young boy behind me wept in his mother’s arms as we were leaving; he didn’t want the show to be over.

What is it about these creatures that stirs our hearts in this way? I thank God for the gift of horses. And the gift of people who love them.

A Season of Blooms

In this season of blooms,
The hard work
Of birthing, growing, transformation,
Forgotten in the moment of metamorphosis.

God’s miracle of creation
Illustrated in color,
In delicate arrangement
Of petal, pistil, stamen,
Proclaiming life.

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One who created me,
Who shaped me before I was born,
Be in my heart, my mind,
Be in my voice, my hands,
As I step into this new job.
I am yours.

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This week I began a new position at The Upper Room: Director of Prayer and Upper Room Worship Life. I continue to mourn the loss of Weavings and Alive Now, but I remain grateful for the ways these publications shaped me and live on in the person I have become.

The Ungrounded Place

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It’s been a difficult year. (The San Bernardino terrorist attack, police shootings of black men, ambushes of police officers, protests, the mass murder of LGBTQ people in Orlando, a divisive election campaign and post-election turmoil.) Sometimes it seems like we’re in a national melt-down.

There is a recording that has helped me reflect on all of this. I’ve turned regularly during the last year to a lecture by Pema Chödrön, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. The recording, “Unconditional Confidence: Instructions for Meeting Any Experience with Trust and Change,” has been very helpful to me in trying to get through the chaos. It has helped me examine both my own feelings and actions and also the responses of others. I share below a short excerpt and recommend it to you if you are interested in further exploration along this vein.

Pema Chödrön sets out Buddhist teachings on fear and fearlessness during times of groundlessness:

“[Buddhist teachings on fear and fearlessness are] the best way to develop courage … in a time of challenge. … Generally speaking, when something is really tough, when the challenge is really great, it can go either way. It can easily, and has, historically, … led to aggression and violence, prejudice (fundamentalism of all kinds comes out of this fear). You just want something predictable, something you can hold on to, and it often comes in the form of blaming yourself or or someone else or a whole group of people. …

“One of the big teachings of the Buddha is that everybody wants to be happy and feel security and comfort, and everybody goes about it in the way that just makes a big mess. … You want to be comfortable, and so you scramble for ground. And, often, what that is, is blaming somebody else, striking out at somebody else, gossiping, slandering. And it gets to the point where people, in the attempt to get some ground under their feet, to feel that they have something to hold on to, … people steal. People lie. People kill. People even torture. Generally speaking, no one does any of these things because they want to feel worse. They do it because what they are feeling in the pit of their stomach is such a groundless, insecure, uncomfortable, wide open, nothing-to-hold-on-to, open-ended experience, that they just want to find … something that represents security.

“And one of the biggest ways to do it … is to divide the world up with our views and our opinions about how things should be and how things are supposed to be. And we hold tightly to those views and opinions. … We try to get secure by [interpreting] the world in a way that makes us feel comfortable. And then, it’s great if you can get a whole group of people that will agree with you. And you, all together, start to attack in either more or less polite ways people who don’t agree with you. And it’s a big way that people start to get comfortable.” [This quote starts at 7:55 minutes into the recording. Unconditional Confidence by Pema Chödrön. Copyright © 2009 by Sounds True, Inc. This recording is also available on Audible.]

(Pema Chödrön goes on to teach Buddhist techniques of turning towards your fear in a peaceful way rather than turning toward anger and aggression.)

For Reflection: What practices or tools do you use when you are are in the ungrounded place?