what we call our negative sides — anger, anxiety, complaining, criticizing, procrastinating, controlling, and so on — are usually deep inner cries for help. Perhaps they are cries from early childhood, rising from emotional wounds that never healed. We were told so often to get over them, rise above them, forgive and forget, concentrate on the positive, that we thrust down these unhealed wounds below our conscious level.
But wounds do not just go away. If unhealed, they cry like abandoned children in the dark, forgotten places within us. The only way they can make their presence felt is through our negative attitudes, our addictive escapes, all symptoms of pain.
OUR BODIES MATTER in our faith. Our bodies matter in our spirituality. Our bodies matter in our prayer. Our bodies matter in our learning to follow the way of Jesus, in our receiving and responding to his transforming love for us.
But the resistance runs deep. …
Thinking about our bodies is complicated and confusing. Our relationships with our bodies, our fears and inhibitions and anxieties, are complex and deep-seated. It’s possible we grew up in homes where our bodies – their integrity, privacy, and care – were not respected. so we have no sense of when and how we can offer our bodies to God as a holy offering.
It’s also possible that our bodies have been violated and abused. While Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry healing bodies, he also ministered to people whose bodies had been violated or whose physical conditions caused them to be shunned. …
I believe that God is a tender God – acquainted with pain and understanding of our fears. If bringning the body into your practice of faith is a subject of deep anxiety for you, find a person you trust with whom you feel secure and safe and ask for help. The journey to receiving the gift of your body will take time and requires the support of trusted companions along the way.
“Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”
I AM BETTER OR WORSE as I pray more or less. If my prayer life sags, my whole life sags with it; if my prayer life goes up, my life as a whole goes up. To fail here means I fail all down the line; to succeed here means I succeed everywhere.
-E. Stanley Jones
CONTEMPLATIVE LEADERS show up to self, others, and God. They pay attention to what is going on within themselves as well as within and beyond their congregations. These leaders notice what God is doing in their own lives and outwardly in the congregation, as well as in the community beyond the walls of the church.
They are conscious of their own resistance to God’s invitation, and they work through it. This gives them discernment and spiritual authority to recognize and speak to congregational resistance to the Spirit.The contemplative leader lives and acts out of this deep attentiveness, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and releasing the outcome of that obedience to God.
Contemplative leaders exhibit profound courage and inner freedom. They are present, compassionate, discerning, wise, and resilient. They love well.
– Elaine A. Heath
GOD’S HEART BEATS with the pulse of compassion. God’s heart is not hardened toward the plight of the world; it is not callous and cold in the face of suffering. … God’s heart is moist. It is moved by the cries of those who suffer, and it delights in the beauty of creation’s flourishing. In stark contrast to the God espoused by the religious authorities – a God who is quick to condemn and whose purity is so severely holy it refuses to be stained by human imperfection – Jesus likens God to an extravagantly loving father who grieves a prodigal’s plunge through the pig sties of obscenity, who suffers with the pain of separation, and who rushes down the road, eyes wet with compassion, to embrace his beloved’s return, soiled clothing and all. (See Luke 15:11-32.)
Like the rain that falls on the unjust and the just, the sun that shines on the good and the evil, God’s compassion remains ever-present, abundant, and unequivocally extended to all without exception – the elder as well as the prodigal, the Republican as well as the Democrat, the Muslim as well as the Christian, the terrorist as well as the victim pulled from the wreckage.
– Frank Rogers
THINK OF THE WILL OF GOD like rain. If we run outside to capture some of the water, we go with an uncovered bucket. Rain can only fill an open bucket.
Similarly, when it comes to praying to know God’s will, our hearts must be open. … Our souls must be receptive. Otherwise, the “rain of God” will splash off and never soak our lives.
Now may be a good time to renew your covenant with God – a time to incline your heart to the Lord and say, “God I am willing to walk with an open heart, knowing that this is the starting point for any and all discernment.”