Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community

I help my son with his math a lot these days, sometimes I feel like it’s my job while they are remote. It works out because I’m also confused so it boosts his confidence and he gets to teach me a lot of the time. But in between problems I whittle. I’m almost done with St. Margaret of Scotland who looks more like the princess from Mario Brothers and the other is the Blessed Mother, who is not finished yet. I’m trying to figure out a way to do them that would look more folk art than a cartoonish depiction, so I’ve been studying museum folk art pieces. Totally irrelevant to the book featured here that I will read soon as it was a recommendation from a priest who is my spiritual mentor while I’m taking this discernment course. Anyone out there ever read it? What did you think?

The book of Lamentations

I have no authority to teach you. These are my own contemplative thoughts, you may disagree and that’s OK!

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness, and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail… They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait (quietly) for him.”
(Lamentations 3:19-24)

The title of this book was originally translated from Hebrew to the words “Alas!” or “How?” Lamentations is a sort of epic poem of which
Jeremiah was probably the author. Throughout the book, the prophet is lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem. We all have things that
bear weight in our hearts, the crumbling of our comforts and securities perhaps? Here Jeremiah describes the horrific events in Jerusalem; then with hope and faith in the Lord’s mercy, he prays for
the people and describes the Lord’s mighty hand of Love which delivers perpetual hope to the faithful of this Hope. Jeremiah reminds us that we must remember our afflictions and the distractions that kept us wandering away from God’s path for us. To continually grow and mature in Spirit we must remember, like Christ, we too have born our own crosses, and these crosses were not in vain. Their purpose was to teach and redirect. When Jesus was nailed to the cross he looked up to heaven and lamented ‘why?” to God. “Why has thou forsaken me?” Which are the same words David speaks in psalm 22. In doing this he was lifting his troubles to God giving God credit, not only for future generations to see the Truth in that day, but to show the witnesses that He had not lost His faith even when it was God who allowed Him to suffer the way He did. The verse of Lamentations continues saying, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?”

Paul’s letter to Titus

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved
us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his
mercy.” -Titus 3:5

Paul’s letter to Titus, who was leading ministry efforts for the
island of Crete, is an essential letter for leaders of the church even
today. Paul’s words in the verse above here are important for us too,
as he reminds us that we are to love even those who hurt us. As we’ve
heard it before, it’s easy to love agreeable people who love us back
and show their love to us, but it can be hard to love those who hurt
us and don’t want us in their lives, but if your heart is open to the
Holy Spirit it will be easy to love these difficult people. Be open to
the Spirit and let her talk to you about True love and mercy, because
it’s the only language she knows. Any other language speaking to the
heart that doesn’t revolve around love and mercy is not coming from
the Holy Spirit and comes from some other, dare I say, unholy place.
Be well in heart, all of you!

The book of the Prophet Jeremiah

Oh my anguish, my anguish!
I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
My heart pounds within me,
I cannot keep silent. For I have
heard the sound of the trumpet;
I have heard the battle cry.”
(Jeremiah 4:19)

Any time I have witnessed an injustice I have felt this way. Here
Jeremiah, a prophet, emphasizes exactly what I felt when I read about
the Poletown neighborhood in Detroit that was razed for the GM plant
in 1981. I can’t explain it, but the story awakened something within
me. It was like a trumpet that vibrated every part of my soul, and I
couldn’t shake the urge to talk about it endlessly to those who would
listen. I finally contacted a publisher and now the book, which has
been a year in the making, will be on shelves by Febuary 8th, 2021.
The sound of the trumpet is a call to something. It is the adrenaline
that bubbles up in our chests when we feel the need to speak Truth. It
is the nagging urge to do something, call someone, reach out, show
love. So by this, sometimes the trumpet’s call may sound different but
it is still a call. It is our job to try our best to listen for its
cry. Jeremiah’s book begins with his call to be a prophet, he heard
the trumpet, God’s voice saying, Get yourself ready!…They [the kings
of Judah and priests] will fight against you but will not overcome
you, for I am with you and will rescue you…” (Jeremiah 1:17-19). If
you have Christ’s Truth which is centered around unconditional love,
mercy and, empathy, then you have God. Do not be afraid to speak
Truth, do not be afraid of the trumpet’s call, its battle cry may just
be your life renewed.

The book of Luke

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)

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In the class I’m taking through the diocese, we are learning about a lot about prayer. It is a time for renewal and restoration. Some go on week long retreats to pray, some for the weekend or a day, and others take 15-30 minutes everyday to center themselves in prayer. Some simply meditate. However you do this it is healthy and good to reconnect to God and to your ‘center’, where God exists or the very best version of yourself. We all need to reconnect to this part of our existence often to keep ourselves restored, renewed, energized, inspired so we are able to continue straight the road to Love.

How do you pray or center yourself?

The Book of Isaiah

“Listen! Your watchman lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” ( Isaiah 52:8)

“Israel’s watchman are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs; they can not bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.” ( Isaiah 56:10)

Basically the book of Isaiah can be summed up by these two contrasting images of the watchman. In one half of his book he prophecies hope & redemption and the other half he prophecies realty of the future based on what he sees in Judah and Israel. It is a warning to them. To not let the watchman sleep, as they were getting a little lazy in their devotion to God.

We all have a watchman inside of us, do not let the seeker in you sleep, keep an eye out for Truth and Love, watch with the eyes of your heart and listen with the ears of your heart. “Watch and pray….The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14: 38)

I think I wrote more notes from the book of Isaiah than any other. It is long for one thing, but it is also filled with wisdom and beautiful words.

The books of John

“…God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

 Anyone out there afraid of the dark? When I was going through a tough time my grief manifested itself in anxiety. As soon as the sun went down the wolf, as I called it, began to hunt me, and I was terrified almost every night. I could not see clearly; all my thoughts were too muddled to see my way out of it. 

There is a phrase soldiers use called ‘the fog of war’. Popularized by Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, it’s a term which refers to the clarity of vision that disappears when we must fight for our lives. It’s often used in recollections of warfare and battlegrounds, but the fog of war can begin its seeping journey into our homes and minds if ignited by fear or anger. It is the reason we cannot see our way out of “attacks” of the mind. So how do we remedy this and possibly cure ourselves of this affliction?

I experienced this in another form last week when they tore yet another perfect old home down in my neighborhood. I Facebook vented (something I never do) with pictures and words and received many comments from people who agreed with me. I then sent the whole correspondence and post to the City (names blacked out). In this moment I was fueled by anger and though I felt I was fighting for a certain justice, I found it hard to navigate with the compass of truth and love, and I know this because I began to think dualistically, them vs me, good guy vs bad guy. I think this is because I did not bring God/Christ into the fight with me, I sort of left God behind and went on my own fuel and thought I was alone in it or needed to do it alone. We must bring God/Christ into these fights with us, every fight, and by Him we will be guided and the fog, the darkness which blinds us will dissipate and we’ll see our way out. 

 

Beginning a Journey…

And so the journey begins…

I have decided to join EYSJ this year, a program offered by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan for spiritual discernment and discovery. I have mulled over this decision for three years and I’m finally doing it. It’s a program required by the diocese before lay people are recommended for seminary school, but through the program you discover what God is really calling you to do, which may not be ordination but some other ministry. So I am open to whatever I discover and thrilled to meet some new friends along the way! Also excited and terrified in a good way! Wish me luck or prayers! ☺️

The book Song of Songs

“Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.” (Song of Songs 1:2)

Said to be an allegory if God’s love for his people, Song of Songs or Song of Solomon is a love poem of a Jewish woman and her lover King Solomon. It is written as dialogue between them. With ‘friends’ intermingling their words of inquiry to the mystery of their love. It is a beautiful read either with allegory in mind or just with human love in mind, but God is in all love, so one can’t help thinking of him as these two go back and forth.

I placed a little work in progress in this shot, a whittle project not yet finished of Thomas Merton. My whittle projects are my love letters to the saints and writers with whom I spend time and who have assisted my spiritual journal in some way. It is a meditation and my love letter of thanks. What do your “love letters” look like?

The Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Today I’d like to remember Robert Murray M’cheyne who gives so much richness and truth in this letters and sermons, which thanks to Andrew Bonar, M’Cheyne’s good friend, we now have this Presbyterian Reverend’s entire collection of writings, sermons, and letters—his “remains”. I come back to his work time and again because his words are so alive with the Holy Spirit that his work serves to strengthen me when I feel dried up and brittle like a dead branch.

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“He became a babe, and was laid in a manger, for there was not room in the inn. The inn was like your heart; it was filled with other lodgers, and had no room for Jesus.” —Robert Murray M’Cheyne. (A letter “To One Awakened: A call upon a soul to choose Jesus. 1842).

M’Cheyne died when he was only 29 years old of Typhus and was buried at St. Peter’s church in Dundee, Scotland where he served. There was an estimated 7,000 people at his funeral. 💕

M’Cheyne Photo credit: lukesblog.org