Category Archives: Quotes

An Interrupted Life

I was introduced to the life and writings of Etty Hillesum today.  She did not survive the Holocaust but she did learn to live her short life with God. 

On prayer she says, " Half an hour of meditation can set the tone for the whole day but its not so simple.  It has to be learnt." 

And, " Somewhere deep inside all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go."

I think it is that loneliness that calls us to a relationship with God. 

It was a good day.  Ad now at the end of a rainy day the sun is out and I will walk a bit and enjoy the peacefulness of the grounds and the trees that always take me closer to God.

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Our future



Our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need. If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.

– Henri J.M. Nouwen
Sabbatical Journey

I think, if one is willing to look, brokenness, loneliness and human need are found everywhere.  Well hidden in our affluent culture, but there nonetheless.  And these are the places God wants to enter and make whole.  These are the places he wants us to work in.

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More from In The Midst Of Chaos.

In chapter four titled, Taking Kids Seriously, the author talks of how children are not taken seriously as being persons with a spiritual and philosophical capacity. We do not pay them much heed. Children do not have much to contribute any longer to the economic well being of the family. They began to be viewed as spiritually and morally innocent so were sentimentalized. Children born to families that are economically well off are prized possessions and given an abundance of material possessions with little thought to the well being of children in less fortunate circumstances. In spite of the fact that children are prized, it seems to be preferred that they are kept in their own circles, farther away from the adult realm of reality, losing contact with the wider group of non-family adults.

Today, the author says that the sentimental view of children is changing to one of the “knowing child” – to a view where the child must be taken seriously. She says:

What is required now is not just a shift in our understanding of children. Rather, we must consider how our new regard for their complexity is expressed as we practice our faith within the daily rounds of family life. Taking children seriously entails not just what we believe or how we think about children; it also involves new ways of including them in the shared life of faith. Children are active agents and participants in the practices of faith, even if they bring their own perspectives, capacities, and insights. Now we must figure out what this means for our lives together. p.65

Recognizing children as knowing spiritual and moral beings has consequence for how we treat and interact with children economically, psychologically and socially. Chidren need greater participation in the family economy and welfare, but we have only begun to scratch the surface of what engaging children more actively in this realm might entail. p74

If adults diminish children as active participants in religious practice, we both reduce the vitality of our own life of faith and overlook the human complexity children already possess. If we want to experience the daily care of children as a spiritual practice, then we must take kids and their faith seriously. p76

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More from the book  In The Midst of Chaos

"Attending" is the sum of those acts by which we genuinely give ourselves to another by the many small acts that we do.  We watch out for, we notice another’s needs, we move to protect, we scan the horizon, so to speak, for danger to the ones we love.  Parents do this all the time for their children.

Attending to children not only changes the children, shaping their lives, it also shapes the lives of the adults who are giving their attention in care for their children.  Mothers ( and fathers too) learn virtues such as humility and patience, compassion, trust, etc. in the act of caring for their children.

I can attest to this.  I thought I was a very patient person.  Then my children’s needs and frustrations blew that notion out of the water.  I felt that I was back at square one learning patience all over again from scratch as I learned to deal with temper tantrums, homework, chores and the million little things that make life with children an adventure.  My attending to them grew parts of me that I didn’t know needed to grow. 

The author says:

Attentive love is part instinct, part effort, and part gift.  It builds on early, almost involuntary responses, as when a mother’s milk comes in on hearing a baby’s cry.  But it also involves hard work and constant discernment of what to look for, what to ward off, and how to scan the horizon for dangers. Yet for all this, understanding the other is never predictable or controllable.  One cannot command attention by sheer will power or muscular concentration.  Attention evolves out of joy, as Weil says, and its fruits come as a grace.  p.53,54

To close the chapter the author speaks of "pondering" as a way of seeking "renewal of faith within the ordinary boundaries of a day that is received as God’s gift."  Faith is what we do within our "normal time", not something we do in time set aside outside of our regular acts of living.  All the activities of living within a family "train our eyes to see God amid change and time" and are "formative of faith."

I really liked this chapter.  I guess you can tell by the two posts that I have taken to review it.  It reminds me a lot of Brother Lawrence’s way of practicing the presence of God as he went about his regular routines.

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More from In The Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Pondering – To think about something carefully over a period of time. To weigh things in your mind.

Mothers ponder.

We are not told details of Jesus’ early life through the eyes of Mary but we are told that she pondered the mystery and wonder of Jesus’ birth. Again, when she and Joseph must retrace their steps to Jerusalem to find their missing son, she must come to terms with an extraordinary child who has spent three days debating scripture with wise men at the temple and who then in obedience returns to grow to adulthood in her house. These were things that needed to be thought out. As the author states:

Here in the small word ponder is an image of a mother in turbulent spiritual waters, wading through the emotional swings of care, who…feels “stunned by wonder and stung by worry. (p. 47)

The author commends Luke for not trying to put words into Mary’s mouth. This was not a case of Mary being passively silent, just that there was too much to put it all into words. Instead Mary stored up the feelings and memories of these events, mused on their meaning, weighed the immensity of the events in her mind and sought a deeper understanding of them.

I like this bit:

Keeping thoughts in one’s heart means keeping them at the core of one’s being. Wisdom is located at the juncture of physical desire and mental aspiration – not when one transcends the body and world, as modern scientific rationalism and some Christians assume. Pondering connects thought and action. (p.48)

A bit further on she also observes:

Mary becomes one of the first theologians of the Christian tradition, turning over and over in her mind just who this child is and what God has to do with it. She does so in the very midst of her mothering – not when she moves away from it all. (p.49)

Essential to the way that mothers think and ponder is the way that mothers care for their children with “attentive love”. Parents attend to the needs of their child with a kind of “patient hovering” keeping the needs of the child at the forefront of their consciousness as they go about life.

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More from In The Midst Of Chaos

One of the issues the author addresses is our increasingly busy lifestyles and the inevitable busyness that children bring to our lives.  Some of her thoughts on how we use our time:

Sometimes managing the details of work and family life feels like putting together a thousand-piece interlocking jigsaw puzzle….

Most parents today – single, married, divorced, women and men – work and care for kids….they do not live out their faith through one primary vocation…as might have been the case for their own parents. They pursue dual, triple, even multiple vocations, in venues more sharply divided from one another – the work-place and the home front – than during any other era in human history.

Our efforts to handle multiple vocations of work and family often force us to confront the terrible tyranny of time.

She goes on to say that we make changes in our life-styles to accommodate the fact that we are trying to “squeeze more in” to our lies in order to keep up with demands on our time. Then she goes on:

A chaotic family life can be a faithful life. But unrelenting, brain-numbing activity is not good for anyone. We have to be extremely careful about calling this spiritual.

…Some of our busyness is just that: a deadening busyness that distracts and destroys the capacity for joy and awe…

Rather than glorify all this running around as somehow spiritual and sanctified, it makes sense to question the pace at which we live and to consider how to slow down. We can and should change a life that is debilitating, scheduling less, facing our unhealthy addiction to an inhumane routine, and sustaining practices that help us discern how to say no to experiences and stuff that our culture says are essential for children….

Adhering strictly to strategies of simplification can impede the tumultuous richness of life by trying to clean it all up. Sometimes, realistically, it is impossible to simplify life with children. Instead we must find ways not to flee or control time but to live graciously within its entanglement.

From In The Midst Of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller- McLemore Chpt. 3

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Transfiguration Sunday

A quote from the book by Edith M. Humphrey, Ecstasy and Intimacy: Where the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit, p. 89

In Luke 9:28-36, we watch another rabbi taking his inner group of disciples to a holy place to pray. They call him “Master” but through this event he will be revealed as greater than any mystical rabbi, indeed, greater than both the law-giver and the prophets….Their master enters into significant communion with Moses and Elijah, both of whom had, in their lifetimes, powerful revelations of God’s power, and poignant moments of intimacy. Moses, we remember, spoke with God “mouth to mouth”; Elijah was visited by God’s still, small voice in a time of despair. These two great servants of God talk with Jesus about his death to come, in terms that clearly recall God’s delivering power in past times – Jesus is being strengthened in order to accomplish his “departure” (literally his “Exodus”, 9:31) his redemption of the people, in Jerusalem. The disciples, though they do not understand all this, are themselves embraced by the glory of the scene. Though they are afraid, the cloud of glory, the numinous presence of God, envelopes them, too, and they are left with the sound of the Father’s voice ringing in their ears: “This is my beloved Son, my chosen, listen to him!”

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