Category Archives: Heart

Posts and writings related to my growing perspective of the “heart,” specifically in relation to Jesus’ beatitude, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

My Luke 10 Dilemma

For years I’ve struggled with how two gospels seemed to portray the same moment, the same exchange, in such radically different ways. Perhaps there is truth to some peoples’ assertions that each is a different encounter; perhaps truth to the idea that each author recalled the same exchange differently. My struggle has been with the radically different portrayal of the expert/teacher of the Law who asked Jesus about which commandment is the most important, found in Mark 12 and Luke 10.

In Mark, I have always and read that the teacher is portrayed fairly positively. He asks Jesus, Jesus responds, he affirms Jesus’ answer, and Jesus then gives him a positive word:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mk 12:28-34a)

In this telling, the expert saw that Jesus gave a good answer. This seems to inspire him to ask the question burning in his heart (akin to the Samaritan’s woman question about worship in John 4), one he would ask of God if he could. And Jesus answers, and answers well. The expert sees the wisdom, agrees with Jesus, and Jesus speaks a word of affirmation we might all long to hear: “you are not far from the kingdom of God.”

I think these are words we long to hear, like another affirmation Jesus shares elsewhere – “well done, good and faithful servant.” A divine affirmation!

But in the gospel of Luke, I’ve always read/understood the character of the legal expert in a very different way. In this, he stands up to “test” Jesus. Jesus turns it around on him, and while he can answer the question himself, when Jesus affirms him, he seeks to “justify” himself; to prove himself right. In reply, Jesus shares the amazing story of the “good Samaritan”:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he[Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

(29) But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers…” (Luke 10:25-30a…)

After the story, Jesus asks the expert, “who was a neighbor to the man in distress?” And, of course, the expert responds, “the one who showed mercy.” To which we read Jesus’ exhortation, “go and do likewise.” In short, Jesus shares a story that tells the man “don’t worry about who is your neighbor; go and be a neighbor to others.”

As I prefaced, I generally have read this version from Luke as portraying the legal expert negatively. He was, as were others, trying to catch Jesus up in saying something inappropriate; in violating the Mosaic law, or their existing traditions. When Jesus affirms he does know what he should do, he wants to trap Jesus in sharing that his neighbor would be his fellow Israelites; he wants to “justify” his existing behavior; he wants to prove he is already righteous… because how could Jesus respond otherwise?

And yet, Jesus does respond otherwise. But, when I read Jesus’ response, there is no critique. There is no condemnation upon this questioner as he sometimes places on others who challenge or test him. No sense of exasperation in his response. He answers the question with a telling story, and then exhorts his listener to go and do likewise.

My friend Kevin made a comment in his podcast (LoFi Lectionary) about this story that put me in to researching the Greek word used in v. 29 and translated as “justify”: dikaios (dik’-ah-yos). It can be translated as “just, righteous, impartial” and often is used for “innocent.” It refers to being approved by God, one who observes divine and human laws.

So, it could be read as I have generally read it – that this was another self-righteous Pharisee who wanted to be affirmed that he was holy. BUT… it could be read another way.

I think it could be read, though, that he desired to be righteous; that he wanted to be right with God. Retranslated as such, v. 29 might read:

But he wanted to be right with God, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Doesn’t that change the exchange? Suddenly it is no longer another nefarious Pharisee, but it is someone more like Nicodemus. Someone rooted in a tradition, but truly desiring to know and follow God. And Jesus’ response makes more sense: there is no critique, because none is needed. Jesus answers the question, with a radical and telling story, because here is someone who wants to be right with God, who truly is seeking. And when this one can identify who was a neighbor, Jesus encourages him to go forth and do likewise.

Maybe this reading is wrongly influenced by my own perspective. Maybe I’m reading Scripture, of late, with Pollyanna’s glasses. Perhaps it is because I want to see the good in people – and am tired of the spiritual people of Jesus’ day always being seen only in negative terms – that this slight variation in how a single Greek verb is translated has seemed so insightful to me.

But I find greater hope in the narrative this way. The story of the “good Samaritan” has always been read as intended to be challenging; to present to us the idea that goodness can come from unexpected places and people.

If I’m honest, I am one of those unexpected people. I know myself, my heart, my life; I know to some degree the darkness I’m capable of… and yet, I often find, through my (always growing) faith, sometimes I do good, instead. Sometimes I am patient with the kids rather than just short-tempered; sometimes I am gracious to others instead of just defensive; sometimes I am generous instead of selfish.

And perhaps, too, the expert is one of those unexpected people. Perhaps he, too, contained the seed of goodness – a true, heart felt desire for holiness with God. Perhaps there was hope, even for him. I prefer the narrative this way over just another self-righteous holy man trying to challenge Jesus…

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A new word

I just read/learned a new word today, and it connects with some stories to tell.

In translating Psalm 63:1 – “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul shirts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” – into Welsh, William Morgan

“used a passionate and evocative word… hiraeth. (To pronounce the word, imaging adding the sound at the middle of ‘python’ – without the p and on – to the English word here: the result would be something like “here-ayth.”)… which might literally be rendered as “my body is homesick for you.” …Hiraeth is a powerful and emotionally dense word in Welsh… Hiraeth speaks to the heart’s longing for its one true home.” (The God Soaked Life, p. 81)

Not too long ago, my last entry on this blog was about a dream I had with a deep sense of loss. In a conversation with friends Cecil and Sandra Lackore about this sense of loss, Cecil wisely shared that home is where we choose to make it, with one another. That was inspiring; enlightening. My sense of home is being with with Lynn (and the children, I suppose!). When I’m away – when I spend long hours apart or, worse yet, travel, I feel disconnected. I feel an inner longing for home that is not a desire to sit in my LaZBoy or watch what’s next in my Netflix queue. It’s to be in proximity with those I love, and with whom I make my home.

Back in 2009 I was attending the third session of the Two Year Academy for Spiritual Formation, sometime within the first 12 weeks of Kate’s joining our home. That particular time away I felt a stronger sense of loss and absence – a stronger sense of hiraeth – than ever before. Because my family had grown, my sense of home had suddenly expanded, and so its absence seemed that much stronger.

I’ve used the same concept before to speak about our heart’s longing, our inner desire, for God. I’ve quoted and misquoted Augustine; “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.” But somehow tonight, as I read this word – hiraeth – and thought of my longing to be with my family even while I am engaged in meaningful conversation and relationship with others, it seemed to click in a new way. Tonight, this concept went beyond making sense in my head, and spoke to my heart.

Think of it this way:

My own longing for home (with my family) is present even in the midst of other things that are good; but my sense of hiraeth suggests that there is a hint, a promise, that things could be better. Visiting this camp might be better, if I had the evening to share and debrief with my children after they explored the Maine woods. Meeting with my colleagues might be better, if I could take an evening walk debriefing it with Lynn, or paint a ceiling tile with Kate, or drop Will in the freezing lake. Experiencing the shops and lighthouses of Maine for the first time might be better, if I were sharing the experience with my family; with those who fulfill, for me, that sense of “home.”

My life is good; but there is a hint, a promise, that things could be better. Walking this life might be better, if I chose to spend it with God more than I do. There is always, somewhere in the back of the moment, some sense of this – this hiraeth – this deep, heart deep longing for “home” with God.

The Porcupine Who Howled At The Moon

The Porcupine Who Howled At The Moon (1)

Once upon a time there was a porcupine named Joggi. While Joggi was aware of the great mystery of life that beat within his small chest, he did not think his name – or he, himself – really mattered. He had once had a friend, but their friendship had ended sadly, and that’s a story for another time. (2)

Ever since he had lost his friend, Joggi had grown afraid.

Joggi came out at night, for porcupines are nocturnal, as I’m sure you know. On most nights, after the sun set Joggi would come out of his hole under a tree and root around in the small brush and bushes, snorting and snuffling and looking for something good to eat.

But some nights, as Joggi made his way out, there would be a great big full moon, that hurt his eyes and made him worry that owls would see him. On nights like these, he would back his way back into his hole, bury his head in his front paws, close his eyes, and wait for the moon to set. For Joggi was anxious and afraid of the moon.

On other nights, Joggi would be out snuffling and snorting and looking for food when a breeze would begin to rustle the leaves. If the breeze began to grow, Joggi would back himself into his little hole, bury his head in his front paws, close his eyes and wait. For Joggi was anxious and afraid of the wind.

Other nights, Joggi would look up from his snuffling and snorting and watch the clouds nervously. If flashes of light and thunderous booms filled the sky, Joggi would back himself into his little hole, bury his head in his front paws, close his eyes, and wait. For Joggi was anxious and afraid of lightning and thunder.

Joggi had not always been quite so afraid, and most nights he still made his way around the brush of the forest floor. But even Joggi notices that more and more, he was hiding in his hole, waiting.

And one night, as Joggi buried his head in his front paws, closing his eyes to wait out the garish light of the full moon, he heard something he hadn’t heard before: a long howl. He opened his eyes, and lifted his head, and peeking through the entrance of his hole he saw a great silver wolf off in the distance, staring at the moon.

The wolf howled again, and his tail flopped from one side to another. He tossed his head, and this time, when he howled at the moon, Joggi had the distinct impression he was greeting the moon as an old friend. Then the wolf hopped up, and briskly dashed off into the forest, playing with the moon.

Joggi buried his head back in his paws, closed his eyes, and waited; for Joggi was anxious and afraid of the moon.

On another night, as the wind howled around the entrance to his hole, Joggi heard another curious sound, like a low growl. Opening his eyes and lifting his head from his paws, he peeked through the entrance of his hole and, once again, he saw a great silver wolf off in the distance.

The wolf squared his feet in the soft turf of the forest, lifted his face, and looked directly into the wind. A soft growl rumbled from his throat, but it wasn’t angry. The wolf’s tail twitched left then right then left, and the growl switched to a quick bark. Then he tossed his head, and briskly dashed off into the forest, playing with the wind.

Joggi buried his head back in his paws, closed his eyes, and waited; for Joggi was anxious and afraid of the wind.

As you can imagine, another night, Joggi saw the wolf again. It was a dark and stormy night, lightning flashed in the sky and thunder echoed through the tops of the trees. Joggi lay in his hole, his head buried in his paws, his eyes closed, when he heard a playful sound in the midst of th storm. Opening his eyes and lifting his head from his paws, Joggi peeked through the entrance of his hole and, once again, saw the great silver wolf.

As lightning flashed in the sky above, the wolf hopped about, his tail twitching. When the thunder rolled, he hopped and barked. He turned left and right, hopping and barking, and soon Joggi saw that he dashed off into the forest, playing with the lightning and thunder.

Joggi laid his head down on his paws, but this time, he kept his eyes open. He waited. This time, he watched as the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled. Joggi was anxious and afraid of the lightning and thunder, but this time he also thought about the playful wolf.

And so it was one night, as Joggi emerged from his hole to snuffle and snort after the sun had set, the he saw the great, garish moon rising over head. As he began to back into his hole, he remembered the great silver wolf, howling to greet the moon. He stopped, and sat himself down, and looked at the moon.

Joggi let out his best howl, but he was not a wolf, and it sounded more like a sqwak. So he thought a moment, and looking at the moon he took a deep breath and called out, “hello, Moon!” And Joggi waited, and the shadows stayed shadows and he saw no owls. And Joggi called out again, more bravely, “hello, Moon!” and the great frightening moon wasn’t so frightening. And standing and walking out under the moon’s light, Joggi found that there was joy in the moon.

And a few nights later, as he snuffled and snorted his way through a tasty blueberry bush, Joggi felt the branches shift and sway with a growing wind. As he walked toward his hole, he remembered the great silver wolf. So Joggi stopped, and he turned toward the wind, his face close to the mossy ground. He planted his feet firmly in the soft turf, and he raised his head to greet the wind. And the wind touched his nose, and it ruffled through his quills, and Joggi smiled. For Joggi found that there was joy in the wind.

Some time later, clouds filled the night sky over Joggi as he made his way through fallen leaves. And instead of returning to his hole to hide and wait, Joggi looked up at the growing storm. He waited, a little tense, until the first flash of lightning. He jumped a bit, and shook his quills, and they rattled and rumbled their own echo of the rumble in the sky above. And Joggi found that there was joy in the lightning and thunder.

And so it was that the porcupine who howled at the moon grew to be less afraid, as he remembered the way of the great silver wolf.

But that’s not the end of the story. For later, on a night when the wind blew strong under a full moon, Joggi emerged out of his hole. That night he planted his feet, his face in the wind, and looked up at the moon. As Joggi cried out his greeting, “hello, Moon!” he heard a faint echo, “hello, moon.”

Joggi looked around, and saw not too far away little Archie the Hedgehog. Archie was seldom seen; Joggi could not remember the last time he had seen the timid little animal. But there Archie was, a small mirror to Joggi, his paws planted firmly in the turf, his eyes to the moon and his nose touched by the wind, smiling.

And in the shadows of the forest, a great silver wolf, his eyes blazing with light, watched them both, and smiled.


(1) with gratitude to, and inspiration from, Martin Bell.
(2) “The Porcupine Whose Name DIdn’t Matter,” p. 113 of The Way of the Wolf by Martin Bell.


c.f.
1 Timothy 4:12, “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”
Titus 2:7 “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”
Matthew 5:13-16

     “Without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, neighbors, coworkers. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, important ways. People who teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the dailiness of life. We never tell them. I don’t know why, but we don’t.
“And, of course, we fill that role ourselves. There are those who depend in us, watch us, learn from us, take from us. And we never know.
“You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think.”

-Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

A Dim Glimpse of God’s Love and Grace

Through the providential collusion of streams of my life, I find myself visiting London a few days prior to taking a week-long course on the spirituality and theology of the Wesleys; meanwhile, at the same time I am joining with others in “141 Days of Wesley” to read through all of Wesley’s sermons. The following is an insight that came to me during our experience of a Wesleyan “love feast” on the evening of Wednesday, August 22, at Cliff College.

“God is love. Can you share: what does this mean to you?

This is the question that was posed. And immediately upon hearing it, I began to think…

“well, that’s a great question, isn’t it? to contemplate the great mystery, the divine, the ineffable nature of God and divine love. At best, anything I might say or articulate would simply demonstrate the truth of Paul’s words:…for I only see dimly… I only see in part… (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12)I doubt that I have anything particularly worthwhile to contribute…”

But as the facilitator of the evening’s love feast repeated the question – “what does “God is love” mean for you?” – a particular image came to mind, and with it an inspirational insight not only into the love of God, but my present spiritual journey

This specific image came to mind: Just a few days before I set off on this journey, my little Kate – who has just begun preschool early because she is experiencing a bit of delay in speech – was beginning to say a new thing. Generally, on her own, it came out as “I va-you,” and, sometimes, “I va-you, daddy!” (her emphasis on the daddy!) As I sat contemplating “God is love,” this image popped into my head.

And suddenly, as though God sat beside me and whispered a comment into my ear, this image connected with some of my theological rumination from earlier in the day.

You see, we had begun just that morning to reflect on the theology and spirituality of John Wesley. For two days we have considered the historical perspective, now we were deep into Bible and theology. And as many will no doubt know, key to Wesleyan theology is his articulations of the work of the Holy Spirit via preventing, justifying, and sanctifying grace.

As we worked and discussed our way through these three foundational doctrines and their relationship to the journey of faith, I experienced both a sense of assurance, and a sense of conviction:

Assured… because I do know the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ. Like Wesley, I can even point to a time when it settled on me in a powerful way. In the spring of 2001, as I drove from my parsonage to my wife’s, listening to a sermon by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, I truly felt the same “warm” heart that Wesley described of his Aldersgate experience. That day, when asked “how are you?” I was able with faith and truth to respond, “forgiven and free!” And since that day, though I may experience the internal witness to different degrees, still I hold to that assurance of knowing forgiveness in Christ.
Convicted… because I do not yet know that “holiness” or “purity” of heart described as the result of the work of the Spirit’s sanctifying grace. I still struggle with various elements of sin that seem insurmountable obstacles to truly knowing the witness of God’s Spirit within my own; more often than I care to admit, in place of the fruits of the Spirit I still know the fruits of my “natural state”: impatience, frustration, anger, instead of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control…. To me, the result of sanctifying grace is the very longing I began this blog somewhat focused upon: purity of heart, knowing and experiencing the elimination of sin within. And I remain far afield from that goal!

Earlier that day, I had come to reflect that it is this process of Christian perfection within which I still struggle, and within which my doubts as to the sincerity or integrity of my Christian faith arise…

And then came this image of my daughter, trying but stumbling to express herself. And all the while, as she does so, I knew that she would get there; I knew, despite her fits and starts, one day she’d be able to say it. And still, when she finally does fully say what she has been trying to express – “I love you, daddy!” – still I felt a deep sense of joy. And every time she says it, my heart lights up. “I love you, daddy!”

And there it was, in the image of her trying but stumbling toward expressing something within her own heart, that suddenly I understood – albeit as though looking through a dark mirror or window – I experience – although just in part – what it means that “God is love.” For not only does God desire holiness in my heart and life – and not only does the word of God promise that such is possible! – but God knows, despite my struggle; despite my fits and starts; God knows, I will get there. And the joy and love I know in little Kate’s struggle and eventual success is just a part of what which God knows as I struggle forward in my own journey toward holiness of heart and life..

Speaking Well

[Abba Megethius] also said, ‘Originally, when we met together we spoke of edifying things, encouraging one another and we were “like the angels”; we ascended up to the heavens. But now when we come together, we only drag one another down by gossiping, and so we go down to hell.”

I have, for some time – and quite unsuccessfully – been reading through a copy of The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, a collection of the legends about and teachings of the ancient Abbas and Ammas, hermits and monks from the early centuries of the Christian church. Many of the stories are edifying, many are downright weird, and all give me something to chew over.

The story above is one bit from what I read today, and it seems to particularly speak to my heart this weekend.

This week I began an INSPIRE network accountability group with a couple other young, mission-minded clergy (if interested, contact me). Using the “Way of Life” as our guide, we intend to gather regularly to share with one another about our life in Christ and our spiritual growth, encouraging and challenging one another. I’m hopeful for the group, and look forward to how we can motivate one another to better follow Christ.

So seldom in regular conversation do we have the opportunity to talk of deep things; the matters of one’s spirit. We linger over vocation or church-life, but rarely if ever inquire or hold one another accountable for our spiritual walk. We ask about worship attendance, but don’t go deeply into how we balance piety and mercy. We talk about how our families are, but tread lightly or not at all around one’s relationship with Christ.

I don’t think our talk is “unwholesome,” so to speak, but I think our lack of depth and tendency toward the trivial misses an important exhortation from the Apostle Paul:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

I am grateful and excited to be among a small group of peers whose intention is to speak of “edifying things, encouraging one another” that we may serve in some small way as assistants to the work Christ is doing within and among us. I pray that we may not succumb to the temptation to gossip or trivial talk.

Even without such a group, I would hope that as a Christian my talk would be in the direction of that which is wholesome, speech that coincides with the work of God to build others up, words that are helpful to others.

How do we seek to speak well?

I don’t remember where I first heard it, but I was reminded this week of a suggestion for sharing one’s thoughts or opinion. Before saying anything, check to see that what you have to say fulfills at least two of the following:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it necessary?

If what you have to say doesn’t meet at least two of the three, perhaps it is best left unsaid. That’s not a bad rule of thumb.

May the Lord inspire us all, that we may use our speech well, building each other up until we are more like Christ.

Breathe On Me…

Breathe on me breath of God, until my heart is pure;
Until with you I will one will, to do and to endure.

Yesterday morning, during our last eucharist service for the week, we sang the hymn “Breathe on Me Breath of God.” The second verse (above) really struck me. Sometimes there is such great theology in our hymns; and herein is some inspiring practical and experiential theology. A few observations from the verse:

1) The entire hymn is an invitation to – or request of – God. Very likely, and in a liturgical sense, the request is addressed to the Holy Spirit, as “breath” in its original Hebrew sense is also “spirit” (e.g. Genesis 1: In the beginning… the “breath” of God was hovering over the waters…)

In this particular verse, the request is for God/Spirit to bring about purity of heart in the singer. As I’ve explored in fits and starts elsewhere in this blog, it is the work and presence of God’s Holy Spirit that brings about interior transformation and purifies the heart!

2) The link between purity of heart and singleness of will – “with you I will one will” – seems an almost direct reference to Soren Kierkegaard’s notion that purity of heart is to “will one thing.” Again, as I’ve bounced around on before on this blog, to will one thing – specifically Jesus Christ – seems to be equivalent to Christ’s encouragement toward “purity of heart.”

3) I was – am – particularly intrigued by the closing phrase, “to do and to endure.” Granted, the words may have originally been chosen primarily because of the rhyme… And yet, these two verbs, linked to “pure heart” are insightful. This notion is still working its way around my mind and heart, but a few initial reactions:

To do – Do seems the most basic of action verbs, like “to be.” In the context of the line, it evokes for me an image of a life constantly lived in communion with God. To live with a God-parallel will; to act and follow in all those means that God has given; to live and love after the example set by Jesus of Nazareth… “To do” evokes for me an active life, where purity of heart is not just known to the possessor, but to all who are witness of that one’s life…

To endure – I really hear this as equivalent to “to persevere.” It could, of course, be understood in its other sense, as a reminder that to live as Christ calls us to will naturally result in some degree of persecution or distress that needs to be endured. As a call to perseverance, however, “to endure” is a reminder that God’s transformation of us (from within) is neither an easy nor instantaneous event. (Perhaps nothing good ever is.) Rather, we have to endure/persevere, in the assurance that God is working to transform / purify our heart…

My ultimate yearning, and search, for purity of heart cannot neglect my “real” life and action in this world. Indeed, the call to be more Christlike is and must be in the contexts I live within.

Nor have I imagined it elsewise! When I contemplate purity of heart, I imagine myself living more wholly (and holy!) in my present. Able to be more patient, loving, kind, generous…*

True purity of heart must be lived. A hear that “wills one will” with God is one that loves – in word and deed, in affect and effect, in stillness and action – steadfastly. Any contemplative life that I may experience is only holy insofar as it wholly influences my day to day living in this world.

*I’m reminded here of a story that was shared this past week. Later in his life St. Francis, after having become disillusioned with the monastic community that he himself had founded and had for a while been voted out of leadership of, was describing “pure joy” to a follower. After several negations (e.g. “were we to convert all pagans the world over, that would not be pure joy”) he was asked to describe what is pure joy. He shared: “when I have been on a long journey, and my sandals are worn and feet are in pain; when trudging through the mud and ice my robe has become threadbare; when the icicles forming on the hem of my robe are cutting into my leg; and I finally reach the door to one of our Franciscan communities in the middle of the night and, knocking, have to rouse the porter, who opens the porthole but refuses to let me in; when I identify myself as Francis and he tells me that I must be insane, and can move down the road to the next community; when that happens, and I can be patient and kind with the porter, that will be pure joy.” (He was describing an actual event that he had experienced.)

Vampires & Inner Prayer (a dream)

What does it suggest about your spiritual journey when things start entering your dreams?

Tuesday morning, before I left home for the Academy, I woke up from a dream. For a bit of context: 1) the day before I had finished the last episode of the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I had been watching while I walked/jogged on the treadmill over the last year, and 2) I have often, in the past, dreamnt about slaying vampires (in fact, this has been a recurrent dreams for years before I ever watched Buffy).

So here’s Tuesday morning’s dream:

We’re inside Buffy’s home, in the kitchen. There is a horde of vampires descending on the house, more than I could ever possibly slay by myself. Willow Rosenberg is in the kitchen with me, and we look at each other, and realize (without speaking) the way to battle the demons. We both begin saying the Jesus Prayer over and over… in full assurance it is all that is needed… and I wake up.

Willow’s position in the dream is interesting to me. By the end of the series, she has progressed from a meek geek to a powerful worker of magic (i.e. witch). In season 6 she became evil, but was brought back by her friends. So she knows what evil can do, and throughout season 7 is afraid of using powers that might lead to evil; but in the last episode, when it matters, she draws on powers of good to help defeat the bad guy.

Perhaps the house in this case is a reflection of my heart, with Willow as a recognition that we might know evil, or even have done it in the past, but it doesn’t have to be the way of the heart. The vampiric horde could stand for all the temptations, evils, etc that lay in wait outside, ready to invade…

…and the prayer is a means by which we can secure the heart.

Just at thought, anyway.