A common brokenness

… the sources of our suffering becomes the source of our hope…

Here’s what struck me from this passage from Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved: living with and leaning in to our dependencies becomes a way of connecting with our dependency on God. I have read similar ideas many times yet when I get in such an obsessive/dependent state as he describes (so good to know someone else does this), I can’t yet automatically go to this idea, rather I just experience shame and, depending on the strength of the usually unreciprocated attachment, acute embarrassment. I get attached to people in the way he describes and lose sight of myself…I fear I am too much and also not enough.

 

But I find I can trust Nouwen and the 12 step ideas he draws  on in the passage in this photography … openly confessing our dependencies whether material or emotional is part of spiritual growth, and leads us toward understanding our dependency on God. I have noticed that the dependencies I have leaned into and acknowledged have produced vulnerability, which produces spiritual growth.

So here’s to embarrassment, awkwardness, dependency and brokenness. Indeed, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven — a kingdom of shared brokenness and openness, where no one is placed above the other, and where we each give comfort according to our capability and take comfort according to our need.
Kelly Dombroski blogs as www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com.

Family Hymn

I can’t resist posting a second poem from Aotearoa Psalms — it is still within the copyright (less than 10%), and since the book was published by my grandparents, I’m hoping I wouldn’t be sued anyway (wave and wink to my grandmother).

I need to have this poem on our fridge, or in the bathroom or just painted on the wall of the house somewhere. Here goes:

Family Hymn

While the Angelus breaks the evening air
and prayers wash through cloisters,
Christ makes waves in his bath
and wants to know
if tiger sharks have fur.

While the scholar sits in awe
over an ancient manuscript,
tracking the history of his faith,
Christ nestles against her mother
and tells from a book held upside down,
a story about some clowns
who make rainbows out of icecream.

While the priest at his desk,
somewhere between the front door
and the telephone,
writes another homily on love
and wonders if someone remembered
to repair the lectern microphone,
Christ comes sleepy and a little tearful
into his parents’ bed
and says, as he plants cold feet
on his father’s back
“I love you a big much, Daddy.”

While pilgrims journey
from shrine to shrine
on a long and well-blessed path,
Christ, laughing, takes are parents’ hands
and shows them the short-cut to holiness.

By Joy Cowley, Aotearoa Psalms 10th Ed. 2000

That last line is what sticks in my head — ‘the short-cut to holiness’, because, really, all this shows is that there is no short-cut. It’s in the mess and muddle of everyday life that our spirits are formed and reformed, our bodies offered up as acts of worship as we birth, nurture, organise, argue, sit, hold, cook and cry.

Kelly Dombroski writes at www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com, among other places. 

Oasis

I am clinging to a fleeting moment of calm

Oasis

I am scared that my heartache will return

Tentative

“In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.”

Psalm 20:1 (NLT)

I feel – 

like I have managed to grasp a precious moment of peace, away from the verge of tears.

let me find rest in this tranquility.

“I, yes I, am the one who comforts you.
So why are you afraid of mere humans,
who wither like the grass and disappear?”

Isaiah 51:12 (NLT)

I desire

Peace and comfort during this time.

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

John 14:27 (NLT)

My breath becomes prayer – both are vital.

Inhale – you are here, Lord

Exhale – nothing else matters.

Emily is a student, writer, and creative thinker from Auckland, New Zealand. Read more of her writing at emilyontheinternetblog.wordpress.com 

Feature Image: “Calm” by David Robertson. Accessed via Flickr.

The Letter W

God is like the letter W.

She fills the hole inside us and makes us whole,
sometimes silently,
and when we listen, we can’t hear the difference.

But when we look, the smallest change gives a new meaning to the word
and The Word becomes part of a sentence
and the sentence becomes the story of our life.

“God,” I asked. “Are you sure you’re in the story?
Sometimes I just can’t see you
in the chapters
in the pages.”

“Emily,” She responds. “I am the one writing it.
And in every character I create, I add a little bit of myself.

Just like you do.”

Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.’

 – Genesis 1:26a

 

Emily is a student, writer, and creative soul from Auckland, New Zealand. She blogs fortnightly at emilyontheinternetblog.wordpress.com 

Image: ‘W’ by Wee Sen Goh. Accessed via Flickr.

The journey to knowing yourself

Search me, O God, and know my heart; point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-34

I often think it would be wonderful to be eighteen again and know everything. But now I am 37 (how did that happen?) and I seem to be ever more aware of how little I know of the world and other people. But what I do seem to be getting better at is knowing myself. I think the journey to knowing yourself is one of the most difficult journeys of emotional and spiritual maturity, but when we can really face our honest fears and access our emotions — to process, rather than act out unconsciously — I think we become closer to being a Christ-bearer in the world.

My journey toward self-awareness has been aided by many tools, but one I have used recently is a little wallet card published by the AA for  a ‘daily personal inventory’.  It provides a list of possible ‘liabilities’ we might need to watch for, and a list of ‘assets’ we can strive for. It’s pretty simple, and it didn’t jump out as useful to me when I first read it. But I thought I would give it a go for a few weeks, and I must say, it has been a completely new, and uncomfortable, journey of self-awareness.

I have been trying to write about these things in a journal, and have really struggled to be honest when writing them down. How quickly I tend towards self-justification!

Now, I don’t think we need to be tearing ourselves apart and condemning ourselves here. What I am interested in is becoming braver and more honest with myself — in order to really understand my behaviour and practice a small change. For example, noting when I am being insincere, and taking a small step towards being more straightforward. Asking myself, what is it that I fear when I am insincere? And, what would take this relationship to the next level? While I feel vulnerable being straightforward, I can acknowledge my efforts to be a little bit more straightforward than before, and to notice the positive effects this has on my relationships.

As I have practiced this daily inventory, I have learned new things about myself, and experimented with different behaviours. Is this something that might help your journey to self-awareness?

Kelly Dombroski blogs at www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com.

Solitude and Connection

 

You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and pastime.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

I recently read this quote in a book about introverts. The words pierced me sharply and took my breath away. Convicted me, one might say.

I’m not an introvert, you see. I have long realised that for me to continue growing in my relationship with God, I need to be in community with other people doing so. I feel close to God when doing God-related stuff with other people who want to be close to God too. So I make time for those activities: for about 18 years I’ve been involved with worship leading in a variety of contexts, working with others to craft spaces where people might encounter God; I have been involved in groups, prayers groups, homegroups, student groups, and reading groups; I have committed myself to things like The Daily Marinade, knowing that it will push me towards God if I am in a position of having to write something other people will read.

For a long time, I’ve accepted that I need those things. But sometimes I slip from acceptance and knowledge that I need those things to relying on those things to the degree that they become my only relationship with God. And that is why the Gibran quote struck me.

In the quietist practice of contemplative prayer — which I have tried on and off to practice for some 16 years or so — we turn our attention inward and focus on our ‘hearts’, a metaphor for that small place in us where, somehow, miraculously, mysteriously, the Holy Spirit dwells. We don’t have to produce, we don’t have to speak, we just have to be still and know. When I read the Gibran quote recently, I realised that I had been living through my ‘lips’, through communications with others over contemplation in the solitude of my heart.

I do need others, that is true. But spending time alone and in contemplation strengthens my connection — not just with God, but with who I am when others are not around. In fact, on one point I disagree with Gibran — our hearts are not a place of solitude, but a place of true unity and connection. When we take multiple small moments in our day to draw ourselves inwards in little sips of apparent solitude, even those of us that are extroverted can find connection to the Mystery of the indwelling Spirit.

Kelly Dombroski is a writer, mother, lecturer and avid reader, among other things. She blogs at https://throwntogetherness.wordpress.com. Tweets as @DombroskiKelly.

Save

Awakening a forgotten brightness

A world without beauty would be unbearable. Indeed the subtle touches of beauty are what enable most people to survive. Yet beauty is so quietly woven through our ordinary days that we hardly notice it. Everywhere there is tenderness, care and kindness, there is beauty…The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us and calls us forth from aloneness into the warmth and wonder of an eternal embrace. It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life…We respond with joy to the call of beauty because in an instant it can awaken under the layers of the heart a forgotten brightness.

John O’Donahue, Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

I am a compulsive activist, and yet I know that I need stillness and beauty to keep me alive, to sustain me and nourish me. So today let’s find something beautiful and sit with it a while – it might be in nature, it might be your child, it might be a corner of your home, or a poem, or a picture. Let it awaken your heart again and remember that there is so much good and so much beauty in this world.

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.

Lamentations 3:21-23

And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created

from Shadows, D H Lawrence

 

Getting off the right path

When you are constantly judging what you are doing, you aren’t here. You aren’t present. You are standing outside of your life, looking in, observing.

The time for judgement will come at some point, but in the moment you have only the 1. And then the 2. And then the 3…

The first number is always a 1.

You don’t know what you have when you start and so you suspend judgement on whatever it is you’re doing while you’re doing it.

(Rob Bell, How to be here)

I have a very deep instinct for judgement, and it is most persistently and critically aimed at myself. When I was a kid, and who am I kidding, even as an adult, I catch myself imagining random authority figures or experts critiquing whatever I’m doing, from bedtime-story-reading to washing-up. (Yes, really).

It’s an almost paralysing need to ‘get things right’ – and the older I get the more I realise what a complete farce it is, because what does that even mean?

I can laugh at the very idea. But if I’m honest, it’s hard to transition from a life of strong conviction about getting things right (deluded as it was), towards a life where I am following my instincts and the nudging of the Spirit without the conclusive conviction that this is the RIGHT THING or the RIGHT PATH. Telling myself it’s ok to try, it’s not to be sure, it’s ok to nudge and stumble forward and make a bit of a mess.

I love Rob Bell’s words above, from his latest book, about not needing to know where things are going (or not going). All we see at the start is the first step, the idea, the beginning, and so that’s the only step to take.

I’m trying to respond to that invitation to start, to be here, to not know, to not end-game; and to abandon my fear of being wrong. And these familiar words from Rilke help:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

Jenny Flannagan lives in Luton, UK, with her husband and two small kiddos. She is an actress and writer, currently works at Youthscape and blogs at jennyfromtheblock.co.uk.