The Heart: It's Language

Do you know the language of the heart,

my heart, your heart, thy heart,

his heart, her heart, their heart,

our great heart, 

when it speaks,

really speaks?

 

I don't.

 

Each speaks in its own, own voice

which changes to each hearer, each telling.

 

That's how I give my messages to you, 

Sunny.

 

That's how I get my messages from you,

beloved.

 

It's you,

and me,

in the world.

 

Ain't that something!

Poem by Leonard H. Seyfarth

Note:  I made this recording of my dad reading his poem during one of our Thursday morning breakfasts together at Joe's diner last year.  "Sunny" in the poem is my mom, his wife of 53 years.  Enjoy!  

The Blessing of a Joyful Death

Make a joyful noise all the earth, break forth into joyous song and sing praises.  Psalm 98:4

"My hope is to have a joyful death."  That was my dad's response when asked by the palliative care nurse what his hopes were for this final chapter of his life.  In our culture that idolizes youth and fights death at every turn, his response is a beautiful anomaly.  Certainly, none of us wishes to hasten the arrival of our own final days. And, sadly death all too often comes suddenly and/or violently with no chance for reflection. However, if given the opportunity when it is our time, how will we choose to face the end of our earthly life? 

Our usual response is simply not to talk about it; to pretend that we aren't all a step closer to death with each and every breath.  However, my dad's response has been just the opposite.  As has always been his style, he wants to talk about it.  He has asked to talk with each member of our family alone - a chance to openly and honestly explore the language of our hearts.  Together we listen, laugh, cry, sit silently and fumble for words.  Through these conversations about his upcoming death, my dad is gifting us with an even deeper appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.  

May we all experience the gift of both a joyful life and a joyful death - not as a denial of the very real struggles and sorrows that are an integral part of our earthly journey, but as a conscious decision to choose joy over sorrow, hope over despair and resurrection over death.   As we continue the journey through Lent toward Easter Sunday, may we face the trials of our lives with resurrection joy in our hearts.   Thanks, Dad, for the reminder... 

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Lying Fallow

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow. Exodus 23:10-11

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FALLOW - My word for the year is an odd one this time around. Initially I thought my word would be something lovely and inspiring like "light" or "grace." However, during this winter season of hibernation and rest, the unexpected word FALLOW has been percolating within me.  Perhaps is it time for me to "lie fallow" for awhile? Perhaps this is the season for me to tend the fields that have already been sown, but not to plant any new seeds - to let the soil of my soul rest and replenish? Reflecting and praying with this idea has already infused new life into my weary spirit. 

I invite you to consider what "lying fallow" might mean to you.  Where do you need to rest for a season so that you can tend to the fields that have already been planted?  Hold tight to the reassurance that God is good and God is with you through every season - even the fallow times. Thanks be to God! 

Advent Speed Bumps 2017

It has become an annual tradition of sorts to share what I affectionately call "Advent Speed Bumps" as a way of helping me/us to slow down from the often frantic pace of the holiday season.  Here are a few suggestions for this year...

Walk slowly on purpose - We often don't realize how fast we are walking from one thing to the next.  Even when we aren't in a rush, we rush out of habit. Next time you are rushing from here to there, purposefully slow your pace, breath deeply and remember the reason for the season.   

Take 10 minutes to eat one Christmas cookie - You may think that I have lost my mind with this one, but bear with me. We are so often eating in a rush - grabbing lunch, snack or treat on the go.  Why not slow down, take just one cookie, savor it and delight in the flavors of the season.  

Cell phone Sabbath - Turn off the phone.  Yep, just turn it off.  The cyber world will go on fine without you.  Start with just a few minutes and build up to a few hours.  Set your phone so you can receive emergency notifications if need be, but let the rest of it go for awhile.  Freedom from the constant pings can be a much needed breath of fresh air.  

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Giggles are like kisses on a mother's heart

One of my daughter's friends is staying with us several night's a week this year so that she can graduate from high school in the district she has been attending since kindergarten. It is fun having a "second daughter" for a few months! For Halloween they even dressed up like Daphne and Velma with Bear as their honorary Scooby Doo! Especially as we approach Thanksgiving, I give thanks for their lifelong friendship, their unwavering support of one another and their frequent fits of giggles. In a recent conversation with Abby's mom, she commented that hearing their laughter is like "kisses on my heart as a mother."  I couldn't agree more!  On days when the weight of the world can feel almost too heavy to bear, I pray that I may have ears to hear the God-given gift of giggles. Gracious God, may we receive the gift of your joy in our daily lives.  And in turn, we offer you the gift of our laughter like "kisses on a mother's heart." Thanks be to God! 

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Bare Bear

Five years ago we got a dog - a standard poodle that wouldn’t shed.  Bear became part of our family and we fell instantly in love.  Last year we noticed something strange - our non-shedding dog was shedding.  Slowly, his chocolate brown hair turned grey, turned brittle and started falling out by the handful. Bear was eventually diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Sebaceous Adenitis.  With treatment his hair initially grew back, but now our “non-shedding” dog is shedding again.  He doesn’t know that he looks like a mangy scraggamuffin. He is just happy to be loved and cared for.  I could learn a lot from our bare Bear.  When life doesn’t work out as I expect, I would do well to remember that I am loved and cared for.  On any given day, I may look or feel like a scraggamuffin, but God loves me anyway.  Thanks be to God! 

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Summer Speed Bumps

“Come all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Mt 11:28

 

Spiritual direction: Embrace spiritual self-care by meeting with a spiritual director.  Learn more and find listings of certified spiritual directors in East Ohio at eocumc.com/pastoralcare, nationally at fumsdrl.org (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders), or globally at sdiworld.org (Spiritual Directors International).

 

Color:  Bring your colored pencils, Bible and coloring books to a local park. Relax, pray and bask in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

Sleep:  Allow yourself a guilt-free, 20-minute nap smack dab in the middle of the day. Savor a moment of rest & renewal. 

 

Sing loudly:  Roll down the car windows, feel the breeze, and belt out your favorite tunes.  No need to stop singing at the stop lights – bring a smile to your fellow drivers as you make a joyful noise to the Lord! 

Everyday Easter Prayer

Gracious God, when Good Friday lingers in my heart,

   roll away the stone of my doubts and

   surprise me with angels in the garden. 

When headlines proclaim death, violence and loss,

   remind me to fear not. 

When grey skies hang heavy overhead,

   shine your Son-light on me. 

When medical worries overwhelm my body and mind,

   lighten my heart with hope. 

When bonds of anxiety weigh me down,

   lift me up. 

Like steam rising from my morning coffee,

   rise again in my daily life. 

Every day is Easter day.

   May I have eyes to see. Amen.  

Slow Down & Celebrate the Son-rise!

     Every January, I have a few friends who prayerfully select a word to serve as a spiritual touchstone through the year ahead.  This year I decided to give it a try, but rather than choosing a single word I felt drawn to a phrase - “Trust in the slow work of God” from a beloved prayer by Teillhard de Chardin.

     I chose these words, in part, because of a little health scare I had last fall. As I rearranged plans, cut back on activities and underwent medical tests, I tried to remember to slow down and “trust in the slow work of God.”  Fortunately, it ended up being much ado about nothing.  The doctor concluded that I was doing too much and the stress was affecting my health. When I commented on the irony that what I do for a living is help people slow down and find spiritual balance in their lives, I will never forget his response… “Often we teach what we most need to learn."

     Throughout Lent, I have been slowly learning how to “give up” the societal myth that we need to do more in order to prove our worth.  Instead, I seek to embrace the resurrection promise that everlasting life is not based on how much we do, but simply on who we are - beloved children of the living God.  That is enough.  You are enough.  I am enough.  This Easter, may we trust in the slow work of God and celebrate the Son-rise! 

Guest Contributor - Kristen Vincent

Beads of Healing:  Prayer, Trauma and Spiritual Wholeness

        My story is never alone. It always leads to others. I will be speaking with a group, telling my story of trauma, pain, and healing, and inevitably someone in the audience will then share some part of their story with me. That leads to connection, conversation, new insights, and hope. Sister Kathleen Flood calls this a process of forming a complete picture of God’s love: as people share pieces of their stories, over time we craft together a larger story of God’s grace. We realize we are not alone. Better yet, we understand that pain does not define us, nor does it have the last word. God’s love has the last word, always and everywhere. 

       I spent years - decades even - going to therapy to try to heal from my trauma, and while the therapy was critical to my healing, there was always something holding me back. I was never able to move beyond a place of fear. It wasn’t until I brought my pain to God that I understood the spiritual aspect of my trauma. I had questions and feelings that only God could address. Once that happened, I moved from a place of fear to peace.

       My hope is that Beads of Healing will help others see they are never alone with their story; their story does not define them. So too, I hope it helps people recognize that wholeness involves emotional, physical, and spiritual healing. If they can learn to speak their truth before God, heal their spirit, and experience God’s peace, then we will begin to hear their stories of peace. And Peace, indeed, will have the last word. 

Beads of Healing – 20% off

 Kristen has graciously offered readers of Whale Spouts a discount on her new book!  You can get 20% off by entering the coupon code KVBOH17 either on the Upper Room Books website or through her Etsy shop:

 https://www.etsy.com/shop/PrayerworksStudio?ref=si_shop