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The Soul Is Shy: Parker Palmer

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Great piece from Parker Palmers book "Hidden Wholeness" about the soul…MC

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The soul is like a wild animal…tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient:  it knows how to survive in hard places.  I learned about these qualities during my bouts with depression.  In that deadly darkness, the faculties I had always depended on collapsed.  My intellect was useless; my emotions were dead; my will was impotent; my ego was shattered. But from time to time, deep in the thickets of my inner wilderness, I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive even when the rest of me wanted to die.  That something was my tough and tenacious soul.

Yet despite its toughness, the soul is also shy.  Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush, especially when other people are around.  If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out.  But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently at the base of a tree, breathe with the earth, and fade into our surroundings, the wild creature we seek might put in an appearance.  We may see it only briefly and only out of the corner of an eye—but the sight is a gift we will always treasure as an end in itself.

Unfortunately, community in our culture too often means a group of people who go crashing through the woods together, scaring the soul away.  In spaces ranging from congregations to classrooms, we preach and teach, assert and argue, claim and proclaim, admonish and advise, and generally behave in ways that drive everything original and wild into hiding. Under these conditions, the intellect, emotions, will and ego may emerge, but not the soul:  we scare off all the soulful things, like respectful relationships, goodwill, and hope.

The people who help us grow toward true self offer unconditional love, neither judging us to be deficient nor trying to force us to change but accepting us exactly as we are.  And yet this unconditional love does not lead us to rest on our laurels. Instead, it surrounds us with a charged force field that makes us want to grow from the inside out—a force field that is safe enough to take the risks and endure the failures that growth requires.

Circles of trust combine unconditional love, or regard, with hopeful expectancy, creating a space that both safeguards and encourages the inner journey.  In such a space, we are freed to hear our own truth, touch what brings us joy, become self-critical about our faults, and take risky steps toward change,–knowing that we will be accepted no matter what the outcome.

 

Hidden Wholenss

By Parker J. Palmer, p. 59, 60.

 

Being and Doing

Shutterstock_42810049 I love it when people take the prophet Micah's words seriously. In chapter six of his book in the Hebrew Bible, Micah reveals the traits that God is looking to be demonstrated by a man or a woman…His criteria indicate whether or not their heart is in alignment with His.


He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

There is a two-fold path in that thought. First there is a doing act, yes? God says it is good when we act justly. There are actions of justice that God loves to see us perform in His name, and in His Spirit. To engage in helping humanity…to make a difference in the lives of people…to act in a way that is compassionate and just, or right.

This right action has a source. The source is love. He continues and notes that the person who makes God smile also loves mercy. Isn't that an interesting way to put ity? To, "love mercy?" Why didn't God say through Micah that we should also act merciful,, or show mercy? That would seem to fit with the first thought of acting justly. Yet, He notes that we should move towards mercy, but we move to mercy through the conduit of love. 

When we are bitten by love, there is nothing that we won't do for the focus of that love. Men and women have been scaling mountains and doing some of the strangest things since the beginning of time in the name of love. Love is the pinnacle of our emotions, it is the highest action in the human arsenal.

There have been wars fought and won over love…The greatest sacrifice the world has ever experienced was done for you in Christ out of God's great love.

I sense that God knows that if we came to a place where we actually loved mercy, not merely for our own sake, but towards others, this world would be a radically different place. Micah didn't note that we are to only love mercy for some issues or towards some people…that would be easy. Rather Micah is revealing that we are called to have an orientation of love that is demonstrated in mercy…not just showing mercy…but having a heart that loves it, is committed to it…has been transformed and can act in no other way. 

Micah quickly notes that not only are we to have a A heart that loves mercy, but there is another orientation enable action involved…to walk humbly with God. Here he says that God loves a heart that understands the power of humility…a heart that is honest about itself, no pretense, no hiding, complete honesty. That takes an incredible amount of trust that God is good and can be trusted with your flaws, deficiencies, sins and brokenness. That takes a heart that believes that God is for you and will not become the critical parent always asking you to perform or to do better…Here, Micah reveals that the better only comes from a place of total-being with God.

Brother Lawrence, who was a monk in the Carmelite order in France in the 1600's. He wrote a series of letters that have become a classic read called "The Practice of the Presence of God.Somehow, Brother Lawrence was able to authentically examine his heart, life and motives, find the darkness that resided there, yet be able to find the love and grace and mercy of God in His presence.

Most people hide from shame or guilt when they realize that they are not performing well or as they should. Rather than bring those flaws into the light or presence of God or others, they run from the love that they need, and slowly the guilt and shame harden their emotions and they are unable to give or receive love.

Read as brother Lawrence moves between an honest assessment of his heart and the loving presence of God:

"I consider myself as the most miserable of all human beings, covered with sores, foul, and guilty of crimes against my King; moved not sincere remorse I confess all my sins to him. I ask him pardon and abandon myself into his hands so he can do with me as he pleases. Far from chastising me, this King, full of goodness and mercy, lovingly embraces me, seats me at his table, waits on me himself, gives me they keys to his treasures, and treats me in all things as his favorite; he converses with me and takes delight in my countless ways…Although I beg him to fashion me according to his heart, I see myself still weaker and miserable, yet even more caressed by God."

What I see in operation in the church today is a missionality that is separated from the centeredness of being in love with and loved by Christ. We are seeing a large "Doing" movement which is good, but still not what God is looking for. A "Doing" church or person, is merely acting religiously instead of being a living sacrament of an incarnational person.

If we are to move deeper into the kingdom of God, the movement is predicated upon a true relationship of love and not an intellectual to-do list.

In order to love mercy and walk humbly with God, we need to experience a radical transformation of our heart…the Good News is that that is exactly what Christ came to do…a total transformation of your heart so that we could begin to not only do good actions…but have those actions flow from a place of being totally loved and accepted by God. God's unconditional love results is a gift of mercy…when we experience mercy, we begin to love mercy and desire that the world experiences the same liberating and healing presence of God.

Being and Doing; both are necessary, but the doing must flow from the being. When that happens we will all finally experience real love, and when you have tasted that, there is no going back.

Dei Gratia

Monty

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