Confessions of a Racist (White Privilege – 2)

This is the second of two posts on White Privilege that I have re-posted today. This one was written in 2013.  Each post rings very true in today’s world. I hope both posts challenge and encourage you.

This morning I read a wonderfully warm and authentic article* by a local pastor on racism which, he called ” a slippery snake that pokes its head out of the rocks and then slides back into the labyrinth of our thoughts.”  In the article he comments, “More than once, we have seen public figures look into the camera and say, ‘I am not a racist.’ Who would dare to admit that, if they were?”

Well,  I’m always up for a challenge. So – I admit it.  I am a racist. And I bet you are, too.  I am also prejudiced.  And I bet you are, too.  Before you click out of this blog, let me assure you that now that I realize it, I do everything in my power NOT to act on racist or prejudiced thoughts that come, seemingly unbidden, to my mind. I hope you do, too.

I learned I was a racist nearly 30 years ago when I married a proud black man. At the time, I thought that  our relationship proved that I wasn’t a racist. (You know, like the way the people say, “I’m not a racist.  I don’t even see color.”)  However, as we have lived life together, we  have learned that we are each racist and prejudiced.  It has been a fascinating adventure for the past decades to look more deeply at my  initial responses to life and see how often they are prompted by a subconscious pre-judgment.

For example, living near Flint, Michigan for many years, I  absorbed the notion that when a big black man  comes down the street toward me, I should immediately head to the other side of the street.  When I realized what was motivating my crossing the street, I stayed right where I was no matter who was coming. This upset my husband who believed that because we were in a dangerous part of the city I should always be on the lookout for danger from any source – black, white, or purple.)  But that lesson taught me to look more deeply at the thoughts that poke their heads out of the rocks before I speak or act.

Today, while reflecting on the reality of the “unbiddenness” of racist thoughts and attitudes, I was reminded of a lesson in the Bethel Bible Series from years ago which taught that when sin came into the world (there’s that “slippery snake” again),  harmony left.  Before sin, we humans lived in harmony with each other, with God, and with the rest of creation. Even our souls were undivided.  But with sin came a desire for control and with the motivation to  keep or gain control came the urge to look at everyone and everything else as “other.”  We have perfected that caution about “the other” so  well that we don’t have to consciously make a choice to fear.  In fact, we have to make a choice to not fear.

So, yes, I have to admit that sometimes I look at “others” and prejudge their actions, their motivation, and their probable reaction to me based on what they look like and what color their skin is. But I am learning to disown those thoughts and am rewarded daily with deeper understanding of the harmony that God intended for his creation.

*Casting out Fear and Loving one Another by Chris DeVos in the Holland Sentinel (Sept. 14, 2013).

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For a brilliant description of the disease of white privilege and a superb suggestion of how to treat it, read Melissa Stek’s essay from the Reformed Journal – The Twelve.

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“I Just Don’t see Color” (On White Privilege – 1)

I’m taking an unusual step – re-publishing two posts at the same time.  This one is from February, 2017. It describes my journey in uncovering the the stain of white privilege and the horror of the assumptions, openly shared or deeply hidden, it motivates. The second post continues that theme.

In the recent film, Hidden Figures, Katharine (played by Octavia Spencehidden-figures-4r), a black woman who is in informally in charge of the “black computer group,” has been repeatedly denied promotion to supervisor by her white boss, Vivian. In my favorite scene in the movie, Katharine encounters her boss in the public restroom, which has been recently been desegregated. After an awkward pause, Vivian says, “Despite what you think, I don’t have anything against y’all.” In response, Dorothy fixes Vivian with an unforgettable gaze and delivers one of  the film’s most stirring lines: “I know you probably believe that.” 

In a scene from my life, a group has come in to give our staff “sensitivity training.” After nearly an hour of discussion about racial inequality in the work force, a staff member who has been looking puzzled finally says, “I really don’t understand what you are talking about. I just don’t see color.”  Several others smile and nod their heads.

With a huge sigh, the leader says, “That’s just the problem. We need to see color.  We need to see and accept differences.” Now I’m nodding my head.  For more than 25 years, I have been married to a black man. Before we began sharing life, I would have said the same thing:  “I don’t see color.” To say we don’t “see color” sounds inclusive and accepting. It implies: “I don’t treat people differently because of their color.” But to a person of color it says: “I don’t see you.” And, unfortunately, it means that white people do treat people of color differently.

I have learned from living in a black/white world, that I, a white American, have an attitude of privilege. White privilege means that being white is the ideal. “People of color,” a young black man recently mourned on the PBS News Hour, “are all trying to achieve whiteness. White is the default race.” As my husband  says, “‘If you’re white, you’re right. If you’re black, get back.’ For example, if you are white and you are going to an interview, all you have to do is put on good clothes.  If you are black, you have to change your color.”

The term white privilege refers to the way white people subconsciously assume the world to be – assumptions that are not part of the life of people of color. Activist and author, Jim Wallis says, “Whether we or our families or our ancestors had anything to do with the racial sins of America’s establishment, all white people have benefited from them. No matter who you are, where you live, how you have acted – and even if you have fought hard against racism, you can never escape white privileged America if you are white” (American’s Original Sin, p.35). 

As “educated” as I was about the world I lived in, my white privilege was so ingrained that I didn’t see it until it was brought to my attention by my loving but often impatient husband who frequently said, “You just don’t understand!!”

My White Privilege

Here is some of what I learned about my white privilege:

♦  My family assumed that I would receive a good public school education and graduate from college. I expected the same thing for my children. My husband Fred’s family taught him to find a job (with General Motors, if possible) and keep it all his life! “That is all that a black man can expect,” was their message. “Don’t even try to go to college.”

♦ My parents taught me to call a policeman when I am in trouble. The last thing my husband would do is call a cop! He, and all blacks – especially males – have been taught, “If you see a cop, hide!”

♦ I assume that I can drive down any street in any city with no harassment.  My husband has been stopped by police more times than I can count – for no other reason than he is black. I have been in the car with him some of those times. Some of those times, he has been searched for no reason.

♦ I assume that I may live wherever I want, as long as I can afford it. When we were first married, we learned about an apartment complex in a small town and went to look at it. As we turned off the highway to enter the city, Fred noticed that a police car which had been going west turned at a crossover and followed us into town. He said, “That cop’s following us.”

I said, “You’re crazy.  Why would he follow us? You weren’t speeding.” (White privilege rears its ugly head!)

The cop followed us to the apartment we had planned to look at and parked across the street while we debated going in.  Finally Fred said, “I’m not going to live anywhere where the cops follow me when I drive by.”  We left the town and headed toward the highway, followed by the cop.  When we turned onto the highway, he went in the opposite direction. I learned that we would have to go separately to check out rental properties; after one of us signed on the dotted line, the other could look at the property. Fred wasn’t wanted in the suburbs, and I wasn’t wanted in the segregated downtown. As a bi-racial couple, we weren’t wanted in either place together. 

♦ I assume that when I am interviewed on the phone, offered a job, and told when to report, that I would have the job. Fred was offered a job at 5:00 by phone and told to come in at 9:00 the next day.  I went with him because I was familiar with the town, and it was a long drive.  When he gave his name to the receptionist, there was a loooong pause. She said, “I’ll go get the boss.” After a loooong time, she came back. “The boss said that you are not what we expected after all. I’m sorry, we’ve hired someone else for that position.”  My husband just turned and left, tears rolling down his face.

♦ I assume that I will be waited on when it is my turn at a retail store counter. Fred is often ignored until I come up and stand next to him  . . .  and then I am waited on. The first time this happened, we had been shopping separately, and I wondered what was taking him so long. I finally went to find him. The sales woman turned to me and said “May I help you?”  I said, “No, but you can wait on my husband who has been standing here totally overlooked.”  (At least she had the grace to look embarrassed).

♦I assume that I will be welcome in church. When we moved to the town  where I had been raised, I proudly brought Fred to my former church. After the service, a woman came up to him and said, “You must attend the seminary here.”  Fred looked at me in confusion and said that he didn’t attend the seminary.  “Then you must be a visitor from Africa.” He turned to me again and then said, “No I live here.”  Now she looked confused. “Then why are here at this church?”  He said, “I’m with my wife.” She quickly turned and walked away.  A minute or two later, a man came and shook hands with Fred. “Welcome!” he said.  I smiled at him. Then he offered, “Did you know we have a second service?  Most people like you prefer that service.”

The next time you hear an interview with someone from Black Lives Matter or with a civil rights protester or with a mother of color complaining about her child’s poor education, stop and listen to what they are saying. Can you see that your assumptions about life are based on your white privilege? Can you understand why others are upset when they are denied the fulfillment of those same assumptions? And the next time you see a person of color, really see them.  Maybe even strike up a conversation and find out who this person really is.  We are all different, but we are all the same in God’s eyes.

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For a more complete treatment of the idea of white privilege, read America’s Original Sin, Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis. Better yet, gather a group of people and study it together.

For a black woman’s view on the presence of white privilege in the church, see this post in the blog Literary Hub.

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From My Reading – June

“It’s important to remember that almost everything we receive along the Christian road—   freedom—comes by degree. We don’t get it, we grow into it—like lava layers become ocean islands or infant limbs become sprinting legs. Freedom flourishes inside us as each of our root desires are reordered and reformed and redirected toward love”(jonathan@ jonathanrbailey.com).

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦ ♦

“Lying to God is like sawing the branch you’re sitting on. The better you do it, the sooner you fall” (Frederick Buechner).

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦ ♦

“The ‘self-denial’ many Christians practice is born of fear—fear of God’s punishment and others’ rejection. It’s the kind that denies our worth and belovedness, thinking we’re doing God a favor. The fruit is self-pity, resentment, and depression. 

“But the self-denial of which Jesus spoke is borne of love—love of God, love of others, and love, in the healthiest sense, of self. It is saying no to needing our own way (now!) to saying yes to God’s way and the interests of others. The fruit is life and peace” (Brian Morykon, Renovare Weekly Digest for February 3 – 7).

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“Darkness deserves gratitude.  It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight” (Joan Chittister).

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“But when the Bible is read through the eyes of solidarity—what we call the “preferential option for the poor” or the “bias from the margins”—it will always be liberating, transformative, and empowering in a completely different way. Read this way, Scripture cannot be used by those with power to oppress or impress. The question is no longer “How can I maintain my special and secure status?” It is “How can we all grow and change together?” I think the acceptance of that invitation to solidarity with the larger pain of the world is what it means to be a “Christian” (Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, May 24, 2020).

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦ ♦

Service doesn’t start when we have something to give – it blossoms naturall when we have nothing left to take” (Nipun Mehta).

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦ ♦

“When somebody you’ve wronged forgives you, you’re spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience. When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other’s presence” (Frederick Beuchner in Wishful  Thinking).

 

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On Being a Martyr

A month or so ago, we chose to enter my husband in a local palliative care program, the goal of which is to make him comfortable and as pain free as possible.  I have been caring for him on a variety of levels for years, but this transition assumes that hospice care and the end of life on earth are next. Coping with the COVID -19 pandemic has being made responsible for his well-being even more scary. His stage 4 COPD means that he is a prime candidate for COVID – so neither of us done anything outside the house or car (except for blood draws and a short trip to Sam’s Club) since the beginning of March.

As I learned to cope with new responsibilities and new doctors and nurses and social workers, I was grateful to have the strength and organizational skills to do the job.  Fred was grateful as well.  He did not want any home health care visitors, and I longed to serve him in “sickness and in health.”

As March became April became May became June, I began noticing some angry feelings creeping up especially in response to Fred’s growing crankiness and  “leave me alone” feelings.  I started to sorry for myself and unappreciated. And then I got upset with myself.  “He’s very sick and I should expect him to be angry and bored and tired of being told what to do all day long,” I told myself.  Thus guilt was added  to the mix.

Soon negativity wafted through the every room in the apartment like a thick fog.  I felt more guilty and didn’t know how to fix it.  Then I woke one morning dreading the day. “It’s not fair!” came creeping in. I knew I was in trouble.  As I gathered Fred’s morning pills and walked toward his room, out of the blue came this Voice, “You are behaving just like a martyr.  You’re just like your mother – the one you criticized constantly during her life and even after her death for ‘being such a martyr.’ I knew that Voice.  I knew things had to change.  I had to change! But how?

I began thinking about martyrs.  I turned first to the story Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in Acts 7. He preached and preached and the crowd got angrier and angrier.  The Message reports that “the crowd went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective.” Then  they “dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks.” But Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed – he only had eyes for God whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side.” . . . .”And then he knelt down and prayed and asked God not to blame them for this sin – and he died.”

Next, thoughts of martyrs who served humanity throughout history flashed before me, William Tyndale, Anne Frank and her family, JFK and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela.

Captain Rowland Koskamp, my own chaplain father, also came to mind. During WWII, he walked into a wall of guns to try to bargain with the Germans to save the lives of the injured soldiers that he and medics were treating in the basement of a nearby house.  The Germans spared the house, but the men, including my father, ended up in a prisoner of war camp. Months later he and his men had been released and were marching to join with Patton’s army. On Easter Sunday he served communion to his men and their German guard in a corral on a farm where they had stopped to sleep. A week later he died from a concussion caused by American bombers bombing a nearby train station.

Lastly, I saw the pictures of struggle and death in Minneapolis:  George Lloyd on the ground with a police officer’s knee on his neck.  I heard again his pleas,  “I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.  No invective here, just a cry for help. And then the tear gas, rubber bullets, and physical attacks on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park came to mind. And then the Black Lives Matter protesters beaten by police batons or shoved by cops to the ground came into my view. These, too, all martyrs for a cause.

I, however, was not a martyr. I was a phony martyr. I didn’t have a cause outside myself; I was acting like a teenager-feeling sorry for myself.  I was selfish and longing for praise or appreciation.  I didn’t need to be praised or appreciated.  I needed to stand up and carry out the mission God has assigned me to do.  But how do I do that without the self-pity?

A week or so later I read this quote from the work of Henri Nouwen:

“The basis of all ministry is the experience of God’s unlimited and unlimiting acceptance of us as beloved children, an acceptance so full, so total and all-embracing, that it sets us free from our compulsion to be seen, praised, and admired and frees us for Christ, who leads us on the road of service. This experience of God’s acceptance frees us from our needy self and thus creates new space where we can pay selfless attention to others.

This, then, is how we carry out our missions without self-pity or martyrdom. Like Stephen, we look into the face of Jesus standing at the side of God. Like Nouwen, we embrace the fact that we are God’s beloved children. We open our hands and our hearts to God’s unlimited and all-embracing acceptance. We let go of our compulsions and neediness and free ourselves to serve. And like Captain Koskamp, we step out into our world free from our needy selves and open to  serve until God takes us home.

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Psalm 23 for Today

Use the questions below the Scripture verses (Psalm 23, NIV) to help you interact with God in prayer.  For example, thinking about Jesus as a shepherd may bring to mind places in your life where you need Jesus to lead you. Pray about those places.  Reflecting on the phrase “I shall not be in want” may help you realize you don’t have everything you need.  Pray about the needs you uncover. Or it may remind you that you have all that you need – and you can express gratitude.

Psalm 23 has always been my favorite Psalm.  This post came to mind again during a dizzyingly awful week.  I posted it first in 2012 and again in 2015. I surely need it now! It feels as if it is time to send it out again.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

  1. Do I need a shepherd now?
  2. How do I need to be led by Jesus?
  3. Do I feel as if I don’t have everything I need? Why? What is missing?
  4. What shall I pray for?

 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.

  1. Do I need rest and quiet? Do I need to catch my breath?
  2. What do you want to teach me, Lord, in the stillness?
  3. Do you see me as ready to listen? Help me shut out the world.
  4. How does my soul need to be restored and refreshed?

He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

  1. Am I headed in the right direction?
  2. This is where I am confused . . .
  3. Please give me . . .
  4. What areas of unrighteousness do I need to confess?
  5. Thank You for guiding me!

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;

  1. What fears am I battling?
  2. Are they phantom fears (or false narratives), or do they have reality behind them?
  3. If they are fears caused by my own decisions, how can I use your rod and staff to protect me?
  4. How can I come closer to you as I walk through the valley?
  5. How can I live with this grief or pain?

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

  1. Who do I perceive as an “enemy?”
  2. Help me pray for these enemies.
  3. Help me invite them to the table of grace you have set for us.
  4. Help me to see the face of Jesus in each of them.

 You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

  1. I feel your favor! I bask in your delight. I am surrounded by your presence.
  2. I am filled with gratitude for the blessings you have showered on me today.
  3. I now recount these blessings . . .

 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

  1. I rest in the assurance that God goes before me and behind me.
  2. How can I become aware of God’s presence every moment of the day?
  3. What can I do to leave a trail of goodness and love wherever I go?
  4. Every day I will remember that I am safe in God’s unshakable kingdom. YES!
Posted in Living as Apprentices

Our “Mission of Care”

My little spiritual formation group (which now meets on Zoom) has been struggling with the question “how can I help?” since early in the pandemic and again in the era of protests in the street. Many of us are doers. We all feel guilty safely ensconced in our homes while the world is crashing around us. We know that for now it is foolish for most of us to try to volunteer outside our homes. Most of us are using Zoom to stay in contact with other  groups we were a part of before the pandemic struck.  But the satisfaction that comes from seeing other lives impacted by what we personally do is rare.

So when I read the Ministry of Arts Prayer for Caregivers, I was struck by this phrase: “May Abundant Love lift you and Gratitude bless you as you live the mission of Care entrusted to you.”  “Living the mission of care” entrusted to me has become a helpful way to determine “how can I help?”

This week when our little group met it was easy to determine what each of us is being entrusted with. The mission of care for one was to support her grandson as his family struggles with mental health problems. Another member just welcomed a bi-racial great grandson to her family. She now has the opportunity to love, support and mentor  her granddaughter as she sorts out how to be the mother of a bi-racial child in the midst of racial chaos. Another has been asked to serve her neighbor by being her unofficial “next of kin” during her illness. A fourth member found a way to assist her church through her service on a local denominational committee.  

My mission of care is to help my husband physically, emotionally, and spiritually navigate the path of leading to the end of his life. It requires “nursing,” planning, companionship, encouragement, unconditional love, chauffeuring, phone calls, laundry, cleaning, washing, cooking – and staying home so I don’t bring home COVID-19 to further decimate his lungs. Many of these tasks seem beyond me some days and I have to rely on  Abundant Love and Gratitude to see me through. But knowing that God has entrusted me with this mission of care is motivating and empowering. 

I have also learned that putting on “the whole armor of God” can protect me from spreading my negative feelings and cranky behavior to my husband.  I see my “armor” as similar to the PPE put on by front line workers during this awful pandemic:  masks and face shields and gloved and gowns and shoe coverings  protect them from the virus.  When I get up in the morning I dress in my clothes and then don my virtual “PPE” to protect my husband and myself from the emotions that sometimes want to escape my body and contaminate both of us.

We all are uniquely crafted and blessed with talents, abilities, histories, and opportunities that make us the perfect person to be used by God for important missions – even if we can’t leave our homes.  We just need to be willing to accept those missions when God sends them our way – even if they seem small or homely. I encourage us all to welcome the lifting of Abundant Love  and the blessing of Gratitude so that we can recognize and live into every mission God sends our way.              

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Going Deeper with God – Rehearsing the Good Things (Psalm 103)

Eugene Peterson’s book “Eat this Book” teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. Psalm 103 encourages us to rehearse the good things that God has done for us and respond with passionate thanks.

The world is in a difficult place! We have a pandemic swirling around us,  a political and literal inferno in our streets, and a president who doesn’t seem to care.  My little family is in a difficult place. My husband is now in Palliative Care, the precursor to Hospice;  I am his sole caregiver. All of this has made it difficult to write. I’m sure this is temporary, so I’m re-posting a Going Deeper with God post from October 16, 2017.  It blessed me today, it’s author.  I hope it blesses you as well.

PSALM 103: 1 – 12 (NIV)  

“Praise the Lord, my soul;/all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
 Praise the Lord, my soul,/and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins/and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit/and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things/so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 The Lord works righteousness/and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,/his deeds to the people of Israel:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,/slow to anger, abounding in love.

 

 He will not always accuse,/nor will he harbor his anger forever;
He does not treat us a
s our sins deserve/or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,/so great is his love for those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,/so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

CHEWING

Psalms 103 and 104 are part of a quartet of four hymns that conclude Book IV of the Psalter.  They are closely linked, as the ‘Bless the Lord’ frames of each indicate. Psalm 103 speaks of a God who creates and sustains all life. The Message version of the first two verses reveals the passion of the psalmist writer:

O my soul, bless  God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing!

I wonder if I have ever praised God from “head to toe!” Enthusiastic worship, whether external or internal, (depending on our personality type, I suppose) is a “must” for the Hebrews – and should be for us as well. The Psalm also gives us the encouragement to practice the soul training exercise of reciting or journaling our blessings daily. 

David, whom scholars agree is the author of this psalm, blesses God (or “praises” God in the NIV) for a variety of actions: forgiving sins, healing disease,  redeeming lives, crowning lives with love, satisfying desires, working righteous and justice for the oppressed, making God’s ways known to man, acting with compassion and grace, being slow to anger and quick to love, and removing our transgressions. What a job description God has!  And how easily we forget his work in our lives.

 DIGESTING

♥  When God’s words are written in our hearts, they come into our mind unbidden.  Try to memorize these verses 1-2 (or more) 12 verses of Psalm 103.

♥  Write about a time or share with a your spouse, your children or a friend about a time when you have felt one of the actions listed in the paragraph above (forgiving, healing, acting with grace, etc.). How does this recounting sustain your faith?

♥ Make a list of the songs and hymns that these verses remind you of – Great is Thy Faithfulness or Amazing Grace, for example – and choose one or two to listen to or sing during your day for the next week.

MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Lately, I have been intrigued by all of the ways churches serve as the holders of memory. Our churches, especially older churches, literally have remembrances carved into them. My church has stained glass with names long forgotten by the congregation. Our hymn board was given in remembrance of a name forgotten by the congregation. As I reflect on Psalm 103, I am beginning to see these names in new light. They are like the lines of the Psalm in that they are reminders of the ways in which God met people in their need. They are records of God’s action. Commemorations of the acting God.

“As I reflect on those names, I am also beginning to know what it feels like to forget God’s benefits. To lose the stories of God and God’s people is tragic. I am therefore grateful that the space between the lines is a generative space, capable of birthing and holding the new stories of God’s steadfast love. What is lost can be found again, what was born can be reborn, what was dead can be made alive.  (Adam Hearlson, Working Preacher website, August 21, 2016). 

Posted in Going Deeper with God

From My Reading – May

“Contemplation helps us discern what is truly important in the largest, most spacious frame of reality and to know what is ours to do in the face of “evil” and injustice. Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, January 18, 2020) . . . . . Like Jesus, Francis [of Assissi] taught his disciples while walking from place to place and finding ways to serve, to observe, and to love the world that was right in front of them. Observation with love is a good description of contemplation” (Daily Meditation, February 2, 2020).

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

“The way you make apprentices [of Jesus is to ravish them with the Kingdom of God.  You set it before them in such a way that they will realize their great opportunity in life is to enter the Kingdom of God as a disciple of Jesus” (Dallas Willard).

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“We must learn to be gentle with ourselves. It may be helpful, from time to time, to picture ourselves as children learning to walk. No one scolds a little one when they stumble, and we shouldn’t scold ourselves either. Falling down is part of growing up. God doesn’t expect us to be flawless, He expects us to flourish. We’re going to make mistakes, if we respond to them in the right way, we deepen in humility and He expands His likeness inside of us. “Accepting the reality of our sinfulness,” wrote Brennan Manning “means accepting our authentic self. Judas could not face his shadow; Peter could” (Jonathan R Bailey).

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Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!  Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love – unconditional, everlasting love”(Henri Nouwen).

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“Beauty to the spirit is what food is to the flesh. A glimpse of it in a young face, say, or an echo of it in a song fills an emptiness in you that nothing else under the sun can. Unlike food, however, it is something you never get your fill of. It leaves you always aching with longing not so much for more of the same as for whatever it is, deep within and far beyond both it and yourself, that makes it beautiful. ‘The beauty of holiness’ is how the Psalms name it (29:2), and ‘As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee (42:1) is the way they describe the ache and the longing” (Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark).

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