Loved One

Though I cry, this I know: God is always good and I am always loved and eucharisteo has made me my truest self, “full of grace.” Doesn’t eucharisteo rename all God’s children their truest name:

“Loved one.”

Me, my dad, my mama, all the children, all the broken ones, all the world, He sings us safe with the refrain of our name, “Loved one.”

— Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 225

The Gift Horse

Very often when God delivers a miracle, we look the gift horse in the mouth and pat it on the rump to get it out of our lives. “It was too good to be true,” we tell ourselves — but was it? All too often we are the ones who determine what is too good to be true, and we may set the limit far lower than God would. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears,” we are told in Psalm 34:4, but often, when something good is happening to us and we are seized by the fear that it is too good, we do not seek the Lord. Rather than go to God asking for the acceptance of the good things that are coming to pass, we withdraw into ourselves, rehearsing our fears and taking them for reality.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 152

Strength from Memory

The Elegance of the Hedgehog reminded me, bone and blood, heart and soul, of Anne-Marie. It was as if I could hear her saying to me, “Yes, Nina, life is hard, unfair, painful. But life is also guaranteed — one hundred percent, no doubt, no question — to offer unexpected and sudden moments of beauty, joy, love, acceptance, euphoria.” The good stuff. It is our ability to recognize and then hold on to the moments of good stuff that allows us to survive, even thrive. And when we can share the beauty, hope is restored.

People often talk about the importance of living in the here and now, and express envy at how children enjoy their moments of pleasure without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Fine, agreed. But it is experience — a life lived — that allows us to recall moments of happiness and feel happy again. It is our ability to relive a moment that gives us strength. Our survival as a species is linked to this ability to remember (which berries not to eat; to stay away from the big toothy animals; to huddle close to the fire but not touch it). But survival of our inner selves also depends upon memories. Why else do we have such acute noses? I smell an evergreen and swoon with delight. Why? Because of the many pleasant hours passed at the foot of a Christmas tree. And the smell of popcorn is so seductive because of the movies I’ve enjoyed while eating it. The taste of a good green olive makes me hungry, because an olive or two have accompanied so many delicious meals and flowing wines.

— Nina Sankovitch, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, p. 35

Song Lines

If I want to live my ability to be fully present and compassionate, my ability to be with it all — the joy and the sorrow — I must find the ways, the people, the places, the practices that support me in being all I truly am. I must cultivate ways of being that let me feel the warmth of encouragement against my heart when it is weary. I must be fiercely and compassionately honest with myself about those choices and actions that are inconsistent with my deepest nature and soul’s desires. I must find the song lines that run through my life, the melodies that remind me of what I really am and call me gently back to acting on this knowing. I must learn how to dance.

— Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Dance, p. 13

The Last Word

I know this is not the current version of what is psychologically “correct,” because we all seem to think we need nothing but unconditional love. Any law, correction, rule, or limitation is another word for conditional love. It is interesting to me that very clear passages describing both God’s conditional love and also God’s unconditional love are found in the same Scriptures, like Deuteronomy and John’s Gospel. The only real biblical promise is that unconditional love will have the last word!

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, p. 33

The Secret of Life

You will go through your life thinking there was a day in second grade that you must have missed, when the grown-ups came in and explained everything important to the other kids….

But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help, and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others, so no one will know that you weren’t there the day the instructions were passed out.

I know exactly one other thing that I hope will be useful: that when electrical things stop working properly, ninety percent of the time you can fix them by unplugging the cord for two or three minutes. I’m sure there’s a useful metaphor here.

— Anne Lamott, Some Assembly Required, p. 91-92

Reading as Revolution

Lately, I’ve begun to think of this as the touchstone of a quiet revolution, an idea as insurrectionary, in its own sense, as those of Thomas Paine. Reading, after all, is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage. It connects us at the deepest levels; it is slow, rather than fast. That is its beauty and its challenge: in a culture of instant information, it requires us to pace ourselves. What does it mean, this notion of slow reading? Most fundamentally, it returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. Even more, we are reminded of all we need to savor — this instant, this scene, this line. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise, the tumult, to discover our reflections in another mind. As we do, we join a broader conversation, by which we both transcend ourselves and are enlarged…. It is in this way that reading becomes an act of meditation, with all of meditation’s attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It’s harder than it used to be, but still, I read.

— David L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading, p. 150-151

Cooling Emotional Fires

The destructive effects of anger are easily recognized. When even mild annoyance arises it can quickly grow and overwhelm us. Inner peace is lost. If we look at how anger arises we see that it usually happens when we feel unheard, unseen, or unfairly treated. If in that moment we look within, we may sense a feeling that anger can help us get even with the offending person or change the vexing situation. So the anger that arises can seem to have value, but in reality it cannot. There might be some logic to responding with anger if it could negate the offense that has taken place, but that cannot happen because the deed has already occurred. So anger cannot reduce or prevent the perceived wrong. In fact, if we react to a situation in an angry way instead of with patience, not only is there no benefit, but negative energy is created, which is likely to exacerbate a volatile situation. Further, when intense anger arises, it impedes our ability to use sound judgment and envision the consequences of our actions. Anger, annoyance, and impatience deplete energy. Patient effort strengthens our resources. We need to practice cooling emotional fires and alleviating fierce disruptions in our lives. The benefits of developing greater patience will be felt in all our relationships: intimate, casual, professional, as well as that all-important relationship, the one we have with ourselves.

— Allan Lokos, Patience, p. 22-23