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Posts tagged ‘Meister Eckhart’


If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart

This was a week filled to the brim with activity. Besides the day’s work, each evening held an event. I love my quiet evenings at home, so I was bracing myself for exhaustion.  When Friday finally arrived with a free evening, my eyes couldn’t stay open much past 10 p.m., but there was something else there, which had woven through the week like a golden thread.

Gratitude. The word had come to me on Monday morning, announcing itself as this week’s blog topic. Topics don’t often arrive that way, but I tucked it into my heart. It became like a telescope to view each day’s events through.

I was invited to my Habitat friend Fana’s brand new house for supper on Monday evening, along with many others who she and her husband and family wanted to thank. I had student led interviews coming up on Thursday night, and had a million and one things to do, but who can resist authentic Ethiopian food with friends? She and her husband Rediet thanked everyone from their hearts before the meal. Rediet said a prayer of thanks in his language, and I didn’t need to know the literal words to understand the prayer. His gratitude touched my heart and reminded me of the bigger picture – that God is somehow holding all of us amid all our difficulties, even when we don’t understand, bringing gifts that keep us steeped in love and blessing.

Tuesday evening’s activity was singing at Lion’s Manor with my friend Marilyn. One of the residents who always comes to sing is Jackie. Jackie has Altzeimers. She loves to talk and contribute. Her thoughts are not always coherent, but there is one thing about her that is always clear. She is always grateful. She thanks us every time we come, not once but continually. She is always making positive comments and like a self-appointed manager, she walks us to the elevator and thanks us one last time for coming and wishes us well. I always think that she must have practiced gratitude throughout her life for it to be such a lasting habit. No matter how I’m feeling, she never fails to encourage me.

On Wednesday night, Lyle and I went to our usual Bible study. Even after the study was over, most of us stayed past 10 p.m., talking about life and weaving God’s

Photo by Joel Penner

meaning into the situations of our lives. When friend Cal reminded me he was praying for me as I was leaving, I told him how helpful it had been to be around such rich conversation tonight. Like looking at the depths of an ocean, I was reminded that life is much more than my worries and tasks. I felt gratitude despite myself: gratitude that God is with us no matter what the storms are pounding. God has provided me with a faith community that shores me up again and again.

A 12 hour day lay ahead of me on Thursday, but like usual, all went well despite my worries as I talked to my students’  parents. Afterwards, tucked into one of the returned report card envelopes, was a note from a parent saying a simple thank you. She had no idea how much her small act of gratitude meant to me.

Lyle and I pray together before work twice a week. It isn’t anything fancy. It was my turn to pray on Friday morning and I began by saying, “God thank you for all the ways you carried us this week.” I was so tired that I could have prayed many complaints, but this small prayer of gratitude once again brought me to myself.

I want to be like Jackie, Rediet and Fana, and exercise the muscle of gratitude. I want to practice it so much that it becomes the default setting to my heart.

“Why is everyone hungry for more?

“More, more,” they say. “More, more.”

I have God’s more-than-enough,

More joy in one ordinary day

Than they get in all their shopping sprees.

At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,

For you, God, have put my life back together.”

-Psalm 4:6-8 (Message translation)

Nothing is Impossible

This week, I joined my friends Marilyn and Eldon to go to a local senior’s home again to do some singing. Lugging guitars, jingle bells, triangles and rhythm sticks, we sang our hearts out to Christmas tunes with a few Beatles favorites mixed in. “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Octopus’ Garden” is a perfect Christmas mix, don’t you agree?

Like always, this time is like no other during my week. All my seemingly important Christmas plans and lists drop away as we enter another time zone, one with people who no longer have a schedule and are the vulnerable ones in our society. These people are unfailingly a gift to me as they remind me of what is truly important.

It’s their utter fragility that is a gift to me, opening up a holy space. They have become emptied of many of the

"Wavy Translucency" by Joel Penner

things that formerly identified them. Yvonne seemed stirred by the conversation to say things, but then didn’t have access to words or thoughts long enough to express herself.  Craig, a young man struck by Multiple Sclerosis, was unable to join us due to a mysterious lung infection. Eldon dropped in to see him before we left, and our hearts went out to him in his difficulties. Sue, usually an anxious woman, beamed as we sang and clapped with enthusiasm during and after each song.

All sit with us, prisoner to their various ailments, resting in their wheelchairs or with their walkers. Whether it’s their minds, bodies, spirits or all three that have been struck by limitation, they have nevertheless joined us for an hour of singing, and I can’t help but love them. The music brings us all out of ourselves, lightening our spirits and binding us together in love, no matter what our predicaments.

After the singing, we wheel or walk these folks back for their evening snack. Rose, a kind woman, was a newcomer to the home that week.  As we got ready to go back, Rose felt lost. “I don’t know the way back to my room,” she confessed to me. I took her wrinkled hand and said, “Don’t worry, take my hand and we’ll figure it out together.” We didn’t say much as we walked down the hall at a snail’s pace, searching for home, but my heart stirred as I was struck by how real God felt in these moments. It’s a great metaphor –  slowed down by life’s predicaments but still walking together, searching for home.

I woke up at 3 a.m. that night with a headache, and couldn’t get back to a deep sleep. With the school Christmas concert and a Wednesday night presentation ahead of me that day, I desperately needed sleep, but it was not to be. Strangely though, as I lay awake, the holy moments seemed to continue with me. I felt love and gratitude for people in my life who show God to me every week. Lyle and Joel, my soul-friends at Watershed, co-workers who kept encouraging each other during the concert prep, and my parents who pray for me every week without fail. All these people point me towards my home base. These people all rested in my heart, like a backdrop canvas of proof that despite my own limitations and propensity to anxiety, God is abundant in our world.

For our Watershed Sunday service this week, we are thinking about Mary, the woman who bore Jesus. As the story goes, she was just a teen-ager, a nobody, when the angel told her she would be the bearer of the Son of God; a miracle. She was one of the underprivileged of the world. Wondering how on earth this could happen, she was told by the angel, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Instead of resisting and coming up with a million excuses why she couldn’t do this, she simply put her doubts aside and said, “Here I am”. Her simple and open-hearted trust in God continues to be an example to millions of people each year.

During my sleepless night, I had a vision of love for the people around me, yet when I got up that morning, I remembered that living out this love is not always as easy. The “holy glow” of visions can lose its sheen when we trip with clay feet into our days. We bump into each other’s weaknesses all the time – is God’s birth in our world even possible? The seniors and I might well say with Mary, ”How is love supposed to come alive amidst all this limitation and emptiness and pain?”

Meister Eckhart, a famous German theologian, philosopher and mystic, born in 1260, reminds us: “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God some 1400 years ago and I don’t give birth to the son of God in my person, in my time and in my culture?

God always reminds us that nothing is impossible with God. Life may harden our hearts, but God can break through any barrier we put up. I know this is true because it keeps happening to me, week after week. In so many ways, God keeps taking my hand, bringing me back home. The only requirement is our open eyes and a willingness to admit we’re lost without God.

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