All Shall Be Well, anxiety, Bewilderment, Brokenness, Comfort, Despair, discouragement, Emotions, Feelings, God's Faithfulness, Grace, healing, Heartbreak, Holy Spirit, Hope, life, Loss, Rev. Kathy Manis Findley, Sacred Pauses, sadness, Sorrow, Stories, Weeping

How Is Your Heart?

Yesterday I noticed a dogwood tree in full bloom, the first blooming dogwood I have seen this year. The sight of it did my heart good, because it reminded me that some simple and beautiful things remain. They return every year. They mark a season. They grow, and their blooms become ever more vibrant, or so it seems.

The dogwood has its own story, a lovely legend that explains the tree’s qualities. The legend holds that the tree was once very large, like a Great Oak tree, and because its wood was strong and sturdy, it provided building material for a variety of purposes. According to the story, it was the dogwood tree that provided the wood used to build the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

Because of its role in the crucifixion, it is said that God both cursed and blessed the tree. It was cursed to forever be small, so that it would never grow large enough again for its wood to be used as a cross for a crucifixion. Its branches would be narrow and crooked — not good for building at all. At the same time, the tree was blessed so that it would produce beautiful flowers each spring, just in time for Easter. The legend says that God it is gave it a few traits so that whoever looks upon it will never forget. 

81189983-8ADE-4D60-9088-C52DA3983583The petals of the dogwood actually form the shape of a cross. The blooms have four petals. The tips of each of the petals are indented, as if they bear a nail dent. The hint of color at the indentation bring to mind the drops of blood spilled during the crucifixion.
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Diana Butler Bass tells the story like this:

There’s an old southern legend that dogwoods grew in Jerusalem — and that one gave its wood for Jesus’s cross. Because of this, the dogwood was cursed (its short stature a ‘punishment’ for being the wood of death) but it also became a blessing. Blessing? For on each twisted branch burst forth petals of lightness and light.

So let’s leave the dogwood’s story and look at our stories — your story and my story. People often use the term “storied past.” Well, a storied past is something all of us have.

In talking with a friend a few days ago, I asked, “How is your heart?” She began to tell me her story, which was a long and winding one that included many mini-stories — happy ones snd sad ones — from her life’s journey. Toward the end of her story, she said, “I feel as if I am cursed by God.” That was her bottom line answer to my question, “How is your heart?” Hers was an honest, heartbroken response that instantly revealed that her heart was not all that good, but that was a critical part of her story.

If you and I are honest, we will admit that our hearts were broken and hurting at several places in our stories. Recalling our brokenhearted times is something we always do when we tell our stories, and it’s an important part of the telling. My story and yours is never complete if we leave out the heartbroken moments, for at those points, what feels like God’s curse almost always transforms into God’s grace.

If not for our heartbroken moments, the hurting places in our hearts might never “burst forth with lightness and light.” Our heartbroken moments change us and grow us. They set us on better paths and they embrace our pain with grace. Our heartbroken moments give us pause, and in that pause, we find that once again, our hearts are good. Our broken hearts are once again peaceful hearts — healed, restored, transformed, filled with God’s grace.

How is your heart? That is a question we would do well to ask ourselves often, because languishing with our heartbreak for long spans of time can cause our stories to be stories mostly of pain. Instead, stop right here in this post for just a few moments and ask yourself, “How is my heart?”

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Your answer may well be your path to a contemplative, sacred pause that can become a moment of healing, a time for God’s grace to embrace whatever is broken in your heart and to transform it into love, light and hope. So don’t be afraid to look into your heart when pain is there. In looking, you may find reasons, many and and complex, that are causing deep pain and brokenness. You may also find the healing touch of the Spirit of God waiting there for you and offering healing grace — a Godburst of new hope.

May your story be filled always with times when your was light with joy and times when your heart was broken with loss, mourning, discouragement, disappointment. Both create your extraordinary story — the joyful parts and the sorrowful parts. So tell your story again and again to encourage yourself and to give the hope of God’s healing grace to all who hear it.

I remember a beloved hymn that is a prayer for the Spirit of God to “descend upon my heart.” May this be your prayer today.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
Oh, let me seek Thee, and, oh, let me find!

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heav’n-descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

All Shall Be Well, Ash Wednesday, Contemplation, Joel 2:12-13, Lent, Return to me with all your heart, Sacred Space

ALL SHALL BE WELL . . . A VIDEO BLOG ON SPIRITUALITY – EPISODE NUMBER 3

“ALL SHALL BE WELL” is a video blog that will help us enhance our personal spirituality and lead us into sacred pauses that will nourish our souls.

Welcome to “All Shall Be Well,” where we will explore together our spiritual center, create a moment of sacred pause and join together in contemplation and silence. In this episode, I want to focus our thoughts on spirituality and Lent. Today, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent. God speaks to us through the Prophet Joel in chapter 2, saying,

Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.

Finding sacred space as Ash Wednesday leads us into Lent

All Shall Be Well, Contemplation, coronavirus, Darkness, Sacred Pauses, Sacred Space

ALL SHALL BE WELL . . . A VIDEO BLOG ON SPIRITUALITY – EPISODE NUMBER 2

“ALL SHALL BE WELL” is a video blog that will help us enhance our personal spirituality and lead us into sacred pauses that will nourish our souls.

Welcome to “All Shall Be Well,” where we will together explore our spiritual center, create a moment of sacred pause and join together in contemplation and silence. Tonight my thoughts will focus on the dark times of our lives, the spiritual and emotional darkness that sometimes engulfs us and the ways we can dwell in our darkness to learn the secrets the darkness teaches us. We will listen in sacred space to hear the sigh of our souls.

Finding sacred spaces while hopelessly trapped in darkness

All Shall Be Well, Amanda Gorman, Inaugural Poem, Inauguration 2021, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris

America! January 20, 2021

The day of Inauguration has come. Long awaited! Hope renewed! Refreshing winds of newness blow across us! We saw a unity of different people and heard a diversity of voices — Lady Gaga, Garth Brooks, Jennifer Lopez, Fr. Leo O’Donovan, Rev. Silvester Beaman, Amanda Gorman. The poem recited by Amanda Gorman is what I share with you today.

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world, 

The Hill We Climb

When day comes we ask ourselves
Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry a sea we must wade. 

We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace.
In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice. 

And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. 

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, 
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before
We close the divide because we know to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired,
we tried that will forever be tied together victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat,
but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
and no one shall make them afraid.
then victory won’t lie in the blade,
but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth,
in this faith we trust for while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.
We feared it at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,
but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter,
to offer hope and laughter to ourselves so while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was,
but move to what shall be a country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent, but bold, fierce, and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because
we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain,
if we merge mercy with might and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the West.
We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the Lake Rim cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation,
In every corner called our country
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman (born March 7, 1998) is an American poet and activist from Los Angeles, California. Gorman’s work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora.nGorman published the poetry book, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough. In 2017, Gorman became the United States of America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She became the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration, reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.

All Shall Be Well, Julian of Norwich, Sacred Pauses, Sacred Space, Spirituality, Video Blog

ALL SHALL BE WELL . . . VIDEO BLOG

ALL SHALL BE WELL” is a video blog to help enhance our personal spirituality and lead us together into sacred pauses that will nourish our souls.

I am pleased to offer something new in hopes of communicating with you in new ways. “All Shall Be Well” is a video blog on spirituality — mine and yours. We will explore together ways to deepen our communion with God as we lean more into contemplative prayer, meditation, silence, centering prayer, listening for God, prayer of the hours and other ways of inviting the whispers of God to grace us.

I invite you to hear each video message, and I ask you to accept each message only if it feels good in your heart. Your spirit knows what you need. Listen to your spirit.

Please feel free to send your comments to let me know what kind of spiritual disciplines are most helpful and meaningful to you. Share a bit about your own spiritual journey and some of the ways you care for your soul and draw closer to God.

The following video message is an introduction to this video blog and offers a blessing for you as you move into a new year. I pray that 2021 will lead you into holy places and sacred pauses that enhance your spirituality. Though I do not personally know each person who follows my blog, I hold you in my heart, and as I prepare to send each blog post, I pray for each person who will watch or read it.

May God’s blessings be upon you and may the God of Hope walk beside you and fill you with all joy and peace that you may abound in confident hope by the power of the Spirit. Amen.