More Beautiful for Being Broken: Scrubbing my Soul

Scrubbing My Soul, by Amy Israelson

I sit,
wondering if I can ever beat
this,
Beat this anger that is bubbling up inside of me.
It feels wild, volatile, untamed;
Like a whip, eager to lash out – 
to sting like I’ve been stung!
The kindness of yesterday melts away like a spring snowfall, revealing the dirt and grime underneath.
It is ugly.
I feel ugly.
Years of dirt and decay lie exposed.

Hate: rotten, stinking, potent.
How can this be inside of ME?
I look away.

Yet the storm brews.
I stir; wondering how to calm the soul within.
     “Be still.”
          But how?
               “Be still.”

The Psalmist says:
     “I have stilled and quieted my soul,
      like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
A weaned child? Resting. Nestling. Beloved.

How about
     “a clenched fist”;
          “a wild storm”;
               “a garbage heap”
                     is my soul within me?

I search for an image, placing my hand on my heart.
     “Lord, what is the state of my soul?”

It is in the crook of a darkened room,
scrubbing a filthy wall on my hands and knees:

“A sooty cavern.”
And there I am:
     In the corner,
          Hunched over.
               Face scrunched.
                    Eyes narrowed.
                         Sweat dripping.
Trying to scrub it clean!

I have made progress.
Yes!
A small patch of wall,
about the size of a handheld mirror,
is white – ish.

Jesus comes into my cavernous room.
With light about him.
Emanating from him.
Walking into the room,
with radiance around him.

The walls (I notice),
become bright, themselves full of light: gleaming back at me.
Jesus stops and waits.
I am full of awe and spin around on my knees –  to face this Light-man. Jesus.
My heart leaps inside my chest.
He IS light. He BRINGS light!

“Jesus,” (I laugh!)
“it is THAT easy for you, isn’t it?!”
My God who turns my darkness into light!
He smiles – He radiates with joy and brilliance.

“Will you drop the rag you hold?”
He asks compassionately.

Yet I stiffen.
     Resistance rears up.
          Pride roars.
               I grip the cloth.
                   I want control!

What should I do?
Jesus has invited me to cease.

I keep my face towards the Light-man,
not wanting to return to a life of scrubbing.
I sit and watch him:
Jesus at ease in my mess.
His shoulders unburdened and his posture open;
He is completely at home with soot-covered me.

I return to this image for weeks,
striving – willing my resistance to fade.

Finally, something in me breaks.
“Who am I kidding?!”

I drop the rag and move toward him
I finally let myself go, and fall into his arms.
He laughs, embracing me.

“Now THAT wasn’t so hard, was it?!” 

“Be still” is the voice of the Light-man.

In this quiet moment,
The walls melt away –  
giving way to a free, open space –
fresh air and sunshine swirl around me,
fields unfold in the distance.

Overwhelmed by a sense of joyous adventure,
I dance.
Like a little girl, I twirl freely – arms wide open.

How is my soul within me now?
It is….
     A dancing child.
          A bubbling brook.
               A wide-open field.
                   A forgiven daughter.


Amy Israelson is an educator and life-long learner in the curriculum of the Spiritual Life. She is, as we come to recognize this in ourselves, more beautiful for being broken.

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More Beautiful for Being Broken: Multiple Sclerosis

That guy that can’t walk

by Dion Oxford, Reposted with permission.

In 2010 I traveled to Costa Rica with Erinn and Cate for surgery. It was rumored that this procedure could do a lot to alleviate some of the significant symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis that I was experiencing.

To make a long story short, The surgery did not pan out for me like I hoped it would, but I am glad I tried it. Otherwise I would have forever wondered if something more could have been done to slow this thing down.

But alas, I just ‘celebrated’ 20 years of living with this disease this past summer, and its toll on my body marches on.

Our family made its ‘every second year’ trip to Newfoundland this past summer. It was a bittersweet time for me as while I absolutely love being home and all that comes with that, my parents got to see just how much worse my body has gotten from when they saw me just two summers ago. That was hard both for them and for me. But we got through it as families do, and we had a wonderful time together. I am thankful for that two week vacation.

(I really wanted to have a day ‘on the water’ aboard a boat while we were in Newfoundland. This pic is of their creativity and willingness to do what it takes to make that happen. My cousin borrowed a wheelchair, and then my dad and cousins lifted me aboard)

As a family the 3 of us got to, for the first time ever, preach together at my sister’s church. That was such a blessing on so many levels. Then the following Sunday I was so incredibly thankful to have been invited to share my personal story at the church I grew up in. And now next week I’ve been invited to travel to Winnipeg to participate in a weakened dialogue on faith and disabilities.

All of these things have gotten me more focused lately on thinking about how this disease and my faith intersect.

My mind took me back to 2010 again. Not the time we went for the surgery, but the time we were in Newfoundland that summer and went to my home church again. There was a retired Salvation Army officer (clergy) there who went forward for prayer that morning. During that time, all these very rugged and strong working men surrounded him and laid hands on him and prayed. It was so moving to watch. My mother leaned over to me and whispered that he had been diagnosed with cancer and was going to visit his specialist on Tuesday.

When he stood up he said this to the congregation; “I just had an appointment with my cancer specialist. He told me that everything was going to be all right.” By then I was so moved I was ready to be mopped off the floor. But then he continued on with something even more profound and that I will never forget. He said this:

I don’t want you to pray for my healing. I have no doubt that the God of the universe could fix cancer. So I could live through this or I could die. I don’t really care which way it goes as long as my life brings glory to God. That’s what I want you to pray for for me.

Those are some words I internalized that day. I am trying my best to live this life in a way that points to something/someone bigger than me. That’s my only real hope.

That’s my prayer.
I don’t understand it.
I don’t like it.
I don’t want it.

But I am trying as best I can to place my trust in a God who loves me and understands the mysteries of life, disease, and death.
At the end of the day, that’s all I really have any control over.

My prayer:

Lord Jesus,
I don’t want to be ‘that guy that can’t walk’. I have been pitying myself because of my broken body and have questioned you for letting this happen to me.

And then you answered me by reminding me of your own battered body and the beauty that is found there.

Help me to continue to embrace the wisdom That can only be found in weakness.

Thank you for hearing my prayer.
Amen.


Written by Dion Oxford; this is what he says about himself:

I’m trying to take the Jesus Way on the road of life. I’ve been hanging out with people that live on the street for more than 25 years. I’ve been married to Erinn for close to 20 of those and we have an awesome daughter Cate who is a teenager. I’ve also lived with Multiple Sclerosis for almost 20 years. I’ve learned that life is a confusing, exhilarating, joy and pain filled adventure that on most days is worth getting out of bed for.


He is, as we come to recognize this in ourselves, more beautiful for being broken.

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The Greatest Gift of my Friendship

The greatest gift of my friendship…

The greatest gift my friendship can give you is the gift of your Belovedness. I can give that gift only insofar as I have claimed it for myself. Isn’t that what friendship is all about: giving each other the gift of our Belovedness?

If it is true that we not only are the Beloved, but also have to become the Beloved;

If it is true that we not only are children of God, but also have to become children of God;

If it is true that we not only are brothers and sisters, but also have to become brothers and sisters…

If all that is true, how then can we get a grip on this process of becoming… what is the nature of becoming?

This is such an important question because it forces us to let go of any romanticism or idealism and to deal with the utter concreteness of our daily lives:

Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do. It entails a long and painful process of… incarnation.

From “Life of the Beloved“, by Henri Nouwen.


Nouwen so richly understands the process of becoming the Beloved because this comes out of his own anguished life, and his attention to the love of God through Christ. He says that as along as “being the Beloved” is little more than a beautiful thought nothing really changes:

What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exist between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about and doing from hour to hour.

As Nouwen says, “I can give that gift only insofar as I have claimed it for myself.” Here I am at this stage of my life finally “claiming it for myself” – being quick to say that this claiming isn’t based on how wise, or smart, or worthy I think I am (for those who most know they are beloved are those who inspired Nouwen: the physically disabled & developmentally delayed adults of L’Arche).

No… my claim comes through the hands of the body of Christ whose friendships help reveal this to me.

Isn’t that what friendship is all about: giving each other the gift of our Belovedness?

For more of my own experience of learning to become my Abba’s beloved, and a friend of God, see: “Belonging.”

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More Beautiful for Being Broken: Kintsukuroi

“The Japanese art of Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, repairs broken pottery with seams of gold. This repairs the brokenness in a way that makes the object even more beautiful for being broken. It is a long and difficult process, but the results are treasured by those around it. Uplifting and hopeful, it is an inspiring metaphor for dealing with the times we feel broken in life. It’s a reminder to find the gold to mend ourselves.”

I’m not sure we can always find gold, or that we can always be able to mend ourselves; I believe we need to let the One who made us for Himself also to be the One who restores our souls unto Himself – that we would be the medium of His further creative impulse to redeem us – to the praise of His glory.

Nevertheless this is a powerful metaphor of the beauty of restoration – a restoration that does not exactly return to the old pattern, but embellishes beauty along fractured lines of our brokenness.

Japanese symbol for rebirth and new beginnings

 

 

“We break, we feel and we possess the courage to heal.
Kintsugi art is a “golden token” to remind us that we are more beautiful for being broken.”

Mission Statement of: Kintsugigifts.com

“There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen, Anthem

“Gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight”

Bruce Cockburn, Lovers in a Dangerous Time


Kintsukuroi lamp

More beautiful for being broken

Let me embrace this fragmentation;
let me join You in searching for the shards #
and watch, holding my breath,
as you fill the cracks with gold
that let its luminescence leak through
with the incandescence of your presence.

More beautiful for being broken,
like artists who pulverize plants for paint,
or mineral pigments crushed;
they suffer to release their royal hues,
splendid and liquid and chrysalid,
the place where beauty and tragedy meet.

More wonderful for being wounded?
This space where the light gets trapped
and refracted within the pigments;
The grace arena where it all happens: *
Light snared and shaped in the gap
between the layers of paints and strokes. 

More beautiful for being broken
I do this to remember You,
and You do this remember me?
You, the prism of fractured light
of hidden colours until the moment
Radiance travels through the Triune.

Only in You can we be more beautiful for being broken

#Psalm 74:3
* Credit to artist, Makoto Fujimura:
Interview in “Objects of Grace

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And the Table will be Wide

"The Last Supper" by Hyatt Moore. What language would He use to speak to each of these? Their own.

The Last Supper” by Hyatt Moore. “What language would He use to speak to each of these? Their own.”

And the Table will be Wide by Jan Richardson

And the table will be wide.
And the welcome will be wide.
And the arms will open wide to gather us in.
And our hearts will open wide to receive.
And we will come as children who trust there is enough.
And we will come unhindered and free.
And our aching will be met with bread.
And our sorrow will be met with wine.
And we will open our hands to the feast without shame.
And we will turn toward each other without fear.
And we will give up our appetite for despair.
And we will taste and know of delight.
And we will become bread for a hungering world.
And we will become drink for those who thirst.
And the blessed will become the blessing.
And everywhere will be the feast.

A Blessing for World Communion Sunday: The First Sunday of October

Written by Jan Richardson

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Yom Kippur – a Palestinian Christian Perspective

yom-kippur

Yom Kippur  (the Jewish day of atonement) – starts at sundown tonight. The following comes from a Palestinian Christian perspective written for last year’s celebration – for your edification:

“Today, we celebrate in Israel the day of atonement or Yom Kippur. It is a day of repentance, humiliation before God, and forgiveness. On this day, there is no eating, no bathing or washing, no anointing, and no marital relations. It is a day dedicated to seeking the forgiveness of God. It is a day in which God expects from those who follow Him to forgive the sins of others.

Can Jews forgive the sins of the nations who attacked and abused them? Can they reflect on their own sins that led our country to the current situation? Can Palestinians forgive the Jewish people? I pray that I will discover my own sins on this day and will seek to forgive and bless all of my neighbors. I also pray that my Jewish neighbors will seek true forgiveness that is much more than just ritual celebrations. Perhaps, the test of Yom Kippur is more than ritual! It is also an ethical one. Furthermore, it seems to me that Jewish ethics today cannot be divorced from the Palestinian question. The latter is the litmus test for the authenticity of celebrating Yom Kippur in Israel in the 21st century. Such forgiveness would change the hearts of the nation as well as its politics leading to the support of a politics of peace and reconciliation rather than war and further alienation. May God answer the desires of all the hearts that seek forgiveness and bless them with true atonement! As a Christian I found this atonement embodied in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross for my own sins.

Jesus of Nazareth brought all of God’s creation under one banner. He forgave his enemies and sought every possible way to bless them. He wanted to make forgiveness a daily reality. Thus in the Lord’s Prayer he insisted that we need to forgive as God has forgiven us. John adds that, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 8-9).

In light of the above, perhaps we need to design a new politics rooted in forgiveness. Let us stop piling up the sins of the past as we address each other over TV or radio stations. Let us stop the politics of anger and revenge claiming that it is a mere military response. Let us celebrate our humanity not only within our faith communities but by building bridges as Jesus of Nazareth did with the Samaritan women. Only then we can convince God that we are truly seeking forgiveness!”

Yom Kippur: A Palestinian Christian Perspective – by Yohanna Katanacho on the Persona blog.

Rev. Dr. Yohanna Katanacho is a Palestinian Evangelical. He has earned his M.A. from wheaton College and his Master of Divinity as well as his Ph.D. in the Old Testament from Trinity International University. He has translated several books from English to Arabic and has also written several books as well as dozens of articles in English and Arabic. He is now serving as the Academic Dean of Bethlehem Bible College and Galilee Bible College. Dr. Katanacho has spoken in many churches and conferences around the world addressing the theological perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict. (Source, here)

For more on the Day of Atonement see “Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement.”

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On Time and Prayer

“May your prayer flow freely over the landscape of your life.”

On Time
by John Milton

Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race, Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy plummet’s pace; And glut thyself with what thy womb devours, Which is no more than what is false and vain, And merely mortal dross;

So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when as each thing bad thou hast intombed,
And last of all thy greedy self consumed,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss,
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood;
When every thing that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With truth, and peace, and love, shall ever shine
About the supreme throne
Of Him, t’ whose happy-making sight alone
When once our heav’nly-guided soul shall climb,
Then, all this earthly grossness quit,
Attired with stars, we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee, O Time.

John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674)  is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667).


On Time and Prayer

by Kelly Davidson

Each of us conceives of time in a way that is unique to us: Farmers measure time by seasons, teachers by semesters, sprinters by a stopwatch. We use time to frame those activities that consume our immediate attention: jobs, family, church, housework, child care, self care (the latter often last). Rarely do we have enough time, and since we are not God and are thus powerless over time, we use language to give us the illusion of control: We stretch, borrow, steal, even race against time, forgetting that any time we have is a gift from God that is to be turned back to Him.

The best way to turn time back to God is to turn to Him in prayer. Far too often, though, rather than praying or meditating on God’s character, I find myself plotting and planning my way through portions of time that I have not yet been given. I am trying to spend something I do not even have. In these misguided, misspent moments, I remind myself to not be held captive to what Charles E Hummel calls the “tyranny of the urgent,” for as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am already in eternity, and God has all the time in the world for me.

The English poet John Milton understood the ephemeral nature of time and the boundless nature of God and eternity. In his poem “On Time,” Milton personifies Time —note his capital—and makes it mortal: “Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race.” Here rapacious Time consumes that which “is false and vain” for Time is finite, earthly and greedy. In contrast, to those who trust in God, the One to whom “our heav’nly- guided soul shall climb,” Eternity is a “Joy [that] shall overtake us as a flood.”

Since our mortal selves will one day be cloaked in immortality, our joyful mission then, is to live fully in the here and now with a Christ-centred urgency, to love without getting tired, to take the gift of time and spend it wisely on those things of eternal value. If God cares about time, and I am not sure that He does for He exists outside of time, He cares that we spend time in intimate communion with Him. Indeed, as The Westminster Shorter Catechism instructs, we are called to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Forever. There is a lot of life in that word. More life than I can imagine. More eternity than I can conceive. This is where prayer comes in to relieve me of my worldly notions of time. In prayer, we can lay time and all its short term possessions at the feet of the One who is Timeless. Through prayer God invites us into life-giving relationship with Him. When we are “sitting in God’s embrace,” to borrow from Brother Lawrence, we discover that the time-centric uncertainty of this world, and the obligations we find so pressing, are merely “mortal dross.”

In our current sinful state, God and Time exist in tension but as Christians, we know that someday time will cease to exist, for God, as Milton reminds us, has triumphed over “Death, and Chance, and thee, O Time.” We are fully liberated.

In this spirit of freedom, let me encourage you in your prayer life: Find time each day— as if Time were hidden—to push aside all your urgencies and immediacies. In prayer, the eternal certainty of Jesus Christ is kept in constant focus. In prayer, you will find a space as wide as the Heavens, as timeless as the stars. For prayer, by its very nature, reaches out from God, up to God and back again from here to eternity. You have time for a rich and full prayer life because you are a child of our Eternal God.

May this prayer, may all prayers, flow freely through the landscape of your life:

Gracious Father, May we ever seek to follow You all the days of our life till we reach that land where You are the light, and night never comes. You are the author and finisher of our faith and we will trust You till the end.

In Jesus name. Amen.


Kelly Davidson is a teacher, lover of literature, disciple of Jesus Christ, life-long learner, and long time friend.

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