Thursday, September 30, 2021

Finding peace

 Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. (Luke 10:5-6)

Emud shouted in my direction as he stumbled up the steps to his front door, juggling a package in one arm and his two-year old daughter in the other. I didn’t understand him but thought I heard the Arabic word for peace, salaam, through his accent.

“Peace to you,” I shouted back, and he smiled. I’d misunderstood him.

He was trying to tell me his wife had given birth to their third child. A son had joined his two gorgeous little girls who grace the world just by walking across the lawn ... and picking my flowers.

Emud beamed, juggled the black-haired angel in his arms and went into the house. I returned to the dirt in my flowerbed, feeling something I wish I could switch on anytime I needed it.

Peace.

Today is one of those days I wish I had that switch. But maybe I do. Maybe we all do.

Maybe it is as simple as savoring the beauty of children. Maybe it is misunderstanding your neighbor and giving him and yourself exactly what we all most need, a taste of what the entire world needs.

Maybe it is writing these simple, utterly inadequate words and realizing for the umpteenth time that the world is filled with glory and that glory is the Love who arises within us whenever we share a joy or a sorrow and exchange a single word, peace.

I remember when “sharing the peace” was introduced ... or reintroduced ... into Christian liturgies after centuries of its absence. Some found it intrusive, an interruption of their prayer and contemplation.

Loving time for silence, I understand this, but for me it is a sacrament of Love’s living presence, a joyous celebration of giving each other what we cannot give ourselves.

The blessed irony of peace is that the moment you give it away you find it in yourself—and learn how to live with your neighbor in this crazy world.

I hope I see Emud again today. I know exactly what I’ll say. “Peace to you, Emud. I look forward to seeing your son.”

David L. Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Trust Love alone

When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem(Luke 9:51)

The spiritual journey inevitably takes one from what is known to a new country, to ways and places where the joys and comforts of what was must be abandoned.

One can try to hold on, crossing back into old ways in a vain attempt to revive past graces, but they lose their savor. The place you knew and which knew you moves on. The tired cliché is correct: You can’t go home again ... because the home that was is no longer there. Everything changes and so do you.

The road is our home, the road ahead. The Spirit of Life always leads beyond what we have known and cherished to deeper truth and more difficult ways that the heart might surrender its rickety justifications and defenses and learn to trust Love alone.

Biblical stories echo this journey.

The ancient patriarch, Abraham, leaves home with Sarah, his wife, looking for a new land and a new life, somehow trusting the Lord will show him the place when the time is right.

The captive Israelites escape Egyptian bondage and wander homeless, seeking the land God promised yet constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering if they should have stayed in Egypt.

Now, Jesus leaves the lake and villages of Galilee to climb steeper hills in Samaria on his way to Jerusalem. Determination lines his face as he is resolute to complete his mission, likely aware he will die painfully in the process.

He could have stayed safely home in Galilee. Abraham could have remained in the old country. The Israelites could have stayed in Egypt and avoided the blistering heat and deprivation of the desert.

But they didn’t. They trusted the Mystery who spoke in their hearts was a great and unconquerable Love leading them and everyone with them home to a country more alive and beautiful than any they had ever known.

David L. Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Wilhelm’s eyes

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. (Psalm 26:3)

Rest well, old man. Rest in the Love I saw in your eyes.

Wilhelm Linss passed into the eternal love I knew in him on a sunny Saturday morning. That’s when I heard the news that I knew would soon come, regretting only that I was not there to bless him one more time as he had blessed me.

He always sat at the aisle-end of the second row of pews at the front of the sanctuary to shorten the distance between him and the Holy Eucharist at the time of distribution. His balance was failing. The last time I was to place the host in his hand he slipped and began to fall as I and one other soul privileged to love him interrupted his descent.

He righted himself and held out his wrinkled old hands to receive, one more time, as I fought back the tears of loving him and loving the Lord who held us both, the Lord and Love who holds him even now.

He was old in the truest sense, having lived fully the years he was granted, dwelling not in the shallows but in the depth of the beauty and ugliness, pain, absurdity and joyous glory of being human on this planet, his life caught up in the juggernaut of history that might have crushed him, but mercifully it did not. And many are better for it.

I came to know him best as he sat at my left elbow during the adult class and discussion that followed worship before the pandemic shuttered that joy. He couldn’t hear well so I often leaned left, speaking in his direction, knowing he wanted to hear, often asking for his thoughts, calling forth his years as a New Testament professor.

He spoke slowly and soft, as was his temperament, his accent thick, at times impenetrable, his words always welcome as we leaned-in to receive whatever came out of his one precious life.

Most precious of all was the day he shared what it was to be a POW in the waning days of WWII. He was drafted into the German army, a teenager, in the final months when the Nazis forced virtually all able-bodied males to serve, trying to stave off the inevitable destruction of the Third Reich.

Wilhelm, quickly captured, became a POW in a French camp where German professors, POWs like himself, began their own university to teach the next generation and stave off the aimless boredom of camp existence.

It was there he studied theology and continued to learn biblical languages, and it was there that he produced one of the most precious things I have ever held in my hands. Wilhelm brought it to our Sunday discussion to show us.

He had learned piano as a boy, and in the camp composed a little music. That is what he showed us, a short piano piece, written on strips of toilet paper. He fashioned the cover from thicker paper that had been cut from a sack that had contained flour or some other commodity. Wilhelm stitched the little booklet together with thread on the left margin.

We passed it among ourselves, gently turning the pages to see the staves and notes traced by Wilhelm’s much younger hands, several of us brushing away tears, feeling the suffering hope in which he had created this masterpiece—and the long years and miles it had traveled with him to arrive at this moment to grace our lives and awaken our love for him, for God, for each other and for the glory of being a human soul in God’s own image.

We knew we sat in the presence of holiness and grace; we saw it in his eyes and felt it stinging our own.

Near Veteran’s Day, the congregation honors those who served with a red rose and special prayers at the start of the liturgy. The following Veteran’s Day I invited all our veterans to come forward for this observance, then looked over to Wilhelm in the second row.

He shook his head, no, but I insisted he come up, too, this one who served in an enemy army. How could we not honor his life, seasoned by war, deepened through suffering, graced by the Love shining in his old eyes?

Rest well, old man, and shine in the Love that illumined your life ... and mine. Thank you.

David L. Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Fall into the Heart

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’ But they did not understand this saying... (Luke 9:43b-45a)

I understand why Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand. They didn’t want to. They didn’t want to consider the goodness they felt when near him could and would be lost. The life radiating from him illumined and warmed their mortal hearts with hope that life could be more than whatever small joys they managed to cram into a precious few years.

They had experienced the Extraordinary. Without Jesus, without his palpable nearness, the touch of his flesh and the sound of his voice, life would again become  ... normal, mundane, ordinary.

Who wants normal when you have known and felt that which exceeds every expectation? And who wants to contemplate the inevitable passing of everything we know and love and are?

All of life is shadowed by death, every loss a little reminder of what cannot be denied. Implicitly knowing this from our earliest days, we anxiously grasp as much as we can hold, a death-grip on whatever good has touched our lives and hearts.

But there is one more thing to know, just one ... that changes everything. The Love who gives life brings Life Extraordinaire from every loss, if we but release our grip on what was ... and trust that Love always has a new day waiting to be born.

This new day ... that can be everyday ...  radiates the Life and Love of being with Jesus, our souls alive with the hope and love he awakened in his first disciples and now in us.

It was necessary for him to suffer and die. Only so could he reveal the fundamental truth of our existence. The Love who holds us all never lets go.

So we ... in every struggle and every loss ... can release our grip and let ourselves fall into the heart of Love at heart of the universe.

David L. Miller

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

In all that is love

 

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. (Luke 9:1-20)

The kingdom of God is the energy of divine love pouring from the Loving Mystery, drawing all that is into its healing waters.   

To be captured in its flow, even for a moment, transports the heart into the joy-filled freedom of knowing all that we are is welcome, enveloped in the Love who draws us near to heal our hearts and make us whole.

The disciples knew this Love in Jesus’ presence as he sent them out to bless, heal and announce the great tide of God’s energetic love present among them. Their power was the surge of divine love awakened within them, freeing them from their fears to bless, welcome and share the Love inundating their hearts.

The power of the kingdom remains available to us in these latter days.

It is the joy and freedom awakened when our hearts know and are filled with the Love who embraces us despite ourselves, our sins and failures. The energy of divine love is known in all that is love, in the welcome of friends, the beauty of an autumn sun, the compassionate tear that stings our eyes over the suffering of a friend ... or of human souls a thousand miles away.

All of this and so much more is the energy of the Love who is and was and ever shall be embracing our lives, lifting us out of ourselves, out of our funk, that our startled faces may glow with the light of an eternal love, free and filled with the joy God intends.

David L. Miller

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

How to listen

 

Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away. (Luke 8:18)

It is not the knowledge of many things that fills the heart but the savor of a few. So listen ... and hear.

Hear the lilt of a voice that awakens hope, renewing confidence and joy. Savor the voice and the emotions stirred. They tell you how to listen to the Voice who speaks within you.

Even more, they are the Voice of Love restoring your wholeness and setting you free to live beyond the bondage of failures, sad memories and anxious preoccupations.

The human heart more easily dwells on what is wrong, what may go wrong, what is lost, what we no longer or could never have.

But the Voice of Love draws us forward, out of our internal quagmire into the lightness of being, out of isolation into the communion of mutual love and regard, out of ourselves into the wholeness of relationships that awaken gratitude for the goodness of life and the sacred beauty of loving laughter.

So listen to the moments that awaken life in your mortal being. Pay attention, not once in a while but every hour. Recall and retell moments that freed your heart to breathe. Turn them over. Examine them from every direction lest they be lost. 

And give thanks that the Voice of Love found you ... exactly where you are.

David L. Miller

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Life beyond the weeds

 As for [the seed]that fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. (Luke 8:14)

More than ever I come to learn that one must live from within, daily reclaiming who you know yourself to be as a creature of Love’s presence,  discovering anew the hunger to know and become the Love the heart desires beyond all else.

Even the hunger for that Love is the Mystery, who is Love, present within, drawing us to know and become the fullness which is the proper destiny of every human soul.

The seed is the word of God, Jesus said, and it falls into various soils, every one of which is found within us. Word should be capitalized, of course, Word, Logos, Love incarnate.

The Word is the energy of the divine Spirit active in all that is, moving everything toward wholeness, to greater unity with others, with creation and with the mystery of Love who unceasingly draws us beyond ourselves to touch and know more love, beauty, joy and wonder.

The seed is sown, but the wounds of living, our anxieties and angers choke its growth, sometimes to the point we wonder if it has died within us. But the seed remains, still bearing the life of the One who is Love.

There is a strange horticulture that governs the growth of this seed. You can exhaust your time and energy hacking away at the weeds that get in its way, but this doesn’t help much because the damn things keep growing back. Meanwhile, you are frustrated and exhausted.

Time is better spent in places and with people among whom love and laugher naturally spring up to fill your heart with gratitude for the world around you and the simple pleasure of being alive for just that one moment.

The love that surges within is, of course, the Love from whom we come and to whom we go, and that Love is more effective with the weeds than our herbicides.

David L. Miller

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