Wednesday, October 28, 2015


As children most of us have to be taught the importance of sharing. A sense of possessiveness seems ingrained in our human nature. I remember reading, when my children were small, of a parent who claimed her child’s first words were “dat mine.” Sometimes we force our children to share by prying their tiny hands open to extract the object they won’t willing share with their friend.

Even as adults, me, my and mine are often used words in our vocabulary. We may still find it hard to share possessions. Many I know operate out of a fearful sense of scarcity, feeling that if their grip on something they value is loosened, it will be gone forever. They exhaust themselves protecting, defending and justifying not only their possessions but also their image and actions.

Freedom, however, is not found in possessiveness but in generosity. Those who are happiest are not those who cling tightly but those who live with an attitude of openness and abundance. They have learned that sharing is life-giving, not only for those with whom they share but also for themselves.

I read a quote recently from Andre’ Louf about prayer that teaches me something new about sharing:

Prayer is a heart that overflows with joy, thanksgiving, gratitude and praise. It is the abundance of a heart that is truly awake.

When we share, we pray. When we live from a stance of abundance, we are truly awake. And when we are truly awake, we are able to share not only our possessions, but love, life and presence with others. To be present with others we have to be awake, aware and open. We let go of the need to be right, the need to protect ourselves, the need to maintain a certain image and even the need to be understood. A posture of abundance frees us to joyfully offer ourselves to others, to receive joyfully from others, and to live prayer as we share life with each other. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Goodness vs Wholeness

It is better to be whole than to be good.
                                                                                Parker Palmer

This observation, from Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak, may surprise you. It certainly makes me reflect on what my life’s goal should be. I suspect many of us have lived our lives trying to be good—fitting our behavior into norms established by some external authority. We follow the law, the Ten Commandments, the expectations of family and friends, the church. Even our consciences are shaped by external influences.

We may can answer the question, “What is it that makes me good?” but can we answer as easily the question, “What is it that makes me whole?” Many people live their entire lives without considering what is needed for their wholeness. We may use addictions to fill the emptiness, and I’m not simply talking about addictions to substances like drugs or alcohol. We can be addicted to the need for approval from others, to material possessions, to status, to exercise, to busyness. Anything we use to try and fill the yearning inside us is subject to becoming an addiction.

Being good can keep us from being whole. Being good can keep us from being who God created us to be. When we are focused on being good, we respond from a place of fear and insecurity instead of from love and freedom. A focus on being good holds us captive, causes us to try to be in control of our image, and thus, to try to control those around us who may reflect on our image.

Wholeness and freedom are two sides of the same coin. We move toward wholeness when we look to Christ dwelling within us, when we begin to recognize that the things we label as “good” may actually be masks, false images that constrict us and, if we can be still and silent long enough to recognize it, are burdens we are not even asked to carry. I think Jesus had this in mind when he invited the weary and burdened to find rest in him.

Yoked to Christ, instead of to the expectations of goodness, we can learn who we really are. We can learn to listen to the Godseed planted within each one of us that yearns for light and freedom and grace and space to grow.

It is a journey that many of us never begin, or if we begin, it is only after recognizing the frustration and futility of being good. The great gift of seeking wholeness is that when we seek it for ourselves, we invite others to seek it also. We stop imposing our standards of goodness on others, and allow them to live in love and freedom. No is replaced with yes. Rules are replaced with grace. Judgment is replaced with love. It’s a much more refreshing way to live!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Accessing Inner Wisdom

Sometimes, if you are paying attention, you know the truth of the phrase from Psalm 42: deep calls to deep.  I had one of those experiences yesterday evening at Taize worship. As we sang “Jesus, Remember Me,” the words I sang came from deep within my soul. It was my prayer, my longing, my heart’s desire, not merely lyrics sung as a participant in a service. My chest ached and tears filled my eyes. I thought of the first one to utter these words, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and I was grateful that he spoke those words and that, set to a simple tune, they worked their way so deeply into my spirit that I sang them as an expression of my own longing to be remembered by Jesus.

Recently I read Sue Monk Kidd’s book, When the Heart Waits. It contains much wisdom, but one thing she wrote has probably had more impact on me than anything else in the book. She speaks of looking within, of accessing and trusting the Spirit within me, my inner wisdom. Thomas Merton said of the Spirt as our Inward Guide, “We don’t have to rush after it. It was there all the time and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.”

Moments such as I had at Taize remind me that even my longing for God is a gift given to me by God, by the Spirit dwelling within. This Spirit lives in all of us, but for us to begin to hear its wisdom without the filter of our own egos, we have to practice regular silence and stillness. I’m not talking once a month regular, but daily. Like muscles subjected to exercise, our ability to hear with the ear of our heart is strengthened by showing up to silence and stillness daily and with an investment in time.

Conscience is not the same as our Inward Guide. Conscience is a good and necessary starting point, but our consciences are influenced by our egos, our biases and life experience. The difference between conscience and inner wisdom is found in letting go of control. The way to learn to let go of control is through regular periods of silence and stillness, practiced without any expectation of receiving anything. And this is why few will choose this discipline. We are results oriented. If nothing is happening, we move on to something where we can see results. It keeps us in control and, in our spiritual lives, keeps us from accessing the wisdom of God.

The way of silence and stillness is narrow, and few will choose it. But, as Merton notes, for those who will take the slow, steady steps of silence and stillness, not rushing after it, giving it time, the inner wisdom of the Spirit will make itself known to us. It will catch us by surprise the first few times it happens, but eventually we come to trust it, knowing its Source is trustworthy.