Archive for the ‘meditation’ Category

You’ve Got A Friend, A Spiritual Friend That Is…

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

We’re doing 5:30-6:00am Lenten Devotional meditation series at the church right now.

This morning’s devotional lesson talked about the importance of having and nurturing spiritual friendships.

We have different friendships for the different sides of our personalities. We have friends we go out with. We have friends we work out with. We have friends we keep up with online. We have friends we talk to about books. We have friends who knew us back in the day. We have friends we trust with certain secrets. But what the ancients called spiritual friends are different. Spiritual Friends are people who pay attention to the presence and movement of God in your life. Their friendship brings focus to your spiritual life. When you hear from them, their queries about how you’re doing come down to one thing, “How goes your soul? Is it well within? Are you any further along on your spiritual path?”

In a general way, all true friendships are spiritual in the sense that they involve our spiritual faculties — the emotions and the will. Obviously this is not what is meant by spiritual friendship in the ancients’ mind when they wrote about spiritual friendships. They called those friendships spiritual which are created, sustained and nurtured by the Holy Spirit. A friend is someone who helps me get by. But a spiritual friend is someone who goes deeper, and helps me get by to another place … a place closer to God. In all honesty, some seasons you don’t want to hear from your spiritual friend. But those are precisely the times when you need most to talk and share with your spiritual friend. It is when you don’t want to be around your spiritual friend is when you need to hear most from her. You know she will be honest. You depend upon her honesty. You know she sees.

In a spiritual friendship we share about our spiritual lives in a way that encourages each one’s growth in God. More importantly, it’s with a friend of your spirit that you feel comfortable enough to admit to feelings of spiritual emptiness, sadness, anger, or nothingness. And your spiritual friend listens without judgment. After all the key characteristic of a spiritual friend is her ability to engage in “holy listening.”

Those of us who are great talkers often make lousy listeners.

According to Kay Lindahl, founder of the Listening Center, “most of us spend about 45 % of our waking hours listening, yet we are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful about 75 percent of that time. Marketing studies indicate that the average attention span for adult is 22 seconds. When someone has finished speaking, we remember about half of what we heard. Within a few hours we can recall only about 20%. The number of adults who have had training in listening skills is less than 5 % of our population. Most of us listen just enough to prepare for what we want to say in response. Lindahl concludes, “Deep listening is a forgotten art.”

Think of who might be a possible spiritual friend for you. If no one immediately comes to mind, ask God to help you find a person who can help you grow spiritually. Write down in a journal what you might want and need in a spiritual friendship. Write down what qualities you think are important in a spiritual friend.

And now comes the hard part. Make an honest appraisal of yourself. Ask yourself: Are I capable of being a good spiritual friend to someone else? Are there aspects of my self that might need to change before I can be an authentic friend to another person’s intimate journey with God?

Name 3-4 friends that help you connect with God? Can you name 2? How about 1?

Dear God, I Hate You. Love RJW

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I can’t bear to watch the news these days.

GOP win in Massachusetts. (There goes health care reform).

Massive aftershock in Haiti.

Eight people in Virginia killed in a domestic dispute.

I know some of you will be appalled at my saying this: But I loathe much of what passes itself off as praise music these days. I’m not much in the mood for one of those little happy, sunshine ditties. God is good, yes. God is great, yes. Dance to the Lord. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Did you know that the largest single category of psalms is Psalms of Lament  (e.g., Psalm 142)?  Psalms of Disorientation. Psalms of Hurt and Hisappointment. Psalms of Grief and Outpouring of one’s pain. Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggeman, in an article entitled “The Costly Loss of Lament,” argues that by bypassing lament for praise we have become like “yes people” surrounding the one in charge, always speaking as we think we should so that we can stay close to power.  This loss, leads to a faith that is unable to deal with the real, messy, paradoxical reality of life.

Of course, behind every lament is hidden praise. I rail at you God because I believed in your goodness.  I scream in pain because in hope that you’re listening.  I threaten to walk away trusting that you will come after me.

Admit it: The real point of a psalm like Psalm 42 doesn’t sing well in a praise chorus. So, Psalm 42 isn’t a psalm that gets much song time in our churches.  Listen to some of it: “My tears have been my food day and night” “why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?”

I’m as guilty as the rest of leading the congregation in chants of “God IS good.” But looking around, sometimes God is so good to a few of us that God seems uncaring and cruel to the rest of us …

Don’t let me scare off some of my faithful readers with my unorthodox ramblings. (Experience has taught me that God can take criticism and honest inquiry; it’s humans who has no stomach for truth telling.)

I’ll just reach for one of those old long meter hymns folks usedta sing in the old church.  Talk about wrangling with the Lord. You gotta appreciate the honest public debate and dialogue with God we see evidenced in some of the music produced back in the day. “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee.” “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.”  “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

Girl, Put Your Records On (Part 2)

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

I need a new playlist for the mood I’m in.

It’s a quiet, moody, contemplative kinda mood that I’m in these days.  Would love to crawl in a safe, dark hole and stay there with my thumb in my mouth. But light is the only thing that’s keeping me alive. Feeling kinda weepy, but don’t have cause to outright cry. Sad and joyful in the same breath. Got some decisions to make. But they will require moody record playerme to revisit some old places in my mind to find the answers I’m after. Don’t want to go there, but I gotta go to get where I need to be. Don’t wanna have to do anything, but don’t want not to be needed.  Don’t wanna talk, but don’t wanna be alone.

Watchin’ God watchin’ me.

One of those times when I wish I were a poet.

Never fails. Something about the change of season, especially the dawn of autumn, that drives me to the cave.

In the meantime, I’m on the search for some mature, mellow, contemplative ballads. Got any suggestions?

Here’s what I’m listening to these days…

Barbara Streisand, “Everything Must Change”
Stevie Wonder, “A Place in the Sun”
Christopher Cross, “Sailing”
Bette Midler, “The Rose”
James Ingram and Patti Austin, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?”
India Arie, “Healing”
Curtis Mayfied, “It’s Alright”
Lala Hathaway and Joe Sample, “When The Word Turns Blue”
Otis Redding, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”
Nina Simone, “For All We Know”
Patti Austin, “Miss Otis Regrets”

And finally,….

Lizz Wright’s 2008 “The Orchard” is breaking my heart with its smooth, serene vibe. Wright defies easy categorization. She’s jazz, soul, blues, and everything else wrapped up with a ribbon on top. On The Orchard she’s folk singer extraordinaire with that rich, expressive tone of hers. I can piddle around the house all day drinking herbal tea in my pajamas listening to anything that comes from Lizz Wright’s vocal chords.

Like I said, I’m on the search for some contemplative ballads. What’s on your playlist these days?

It’s Not Too Late To Reinvent Yourself

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Sister President Johnetta

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m always looking for ways to spotlight African American women in their 50s, 60s, and beyond.  We are invisible to the media.  I (still) miss having seasoned women in my life and am determined to find black women role models and mentors who stare back at the camera with faces that say “I’m still here, and I still got lots more to say.”

In honor of women who are not afraid to reinvent themselves when the old way of being runs its course or no longer fits, I salute scholar, educator, anthropologist, public thinker, feminist activist, Dr. Johnetta B. Cole.

After years of serving as president of Spelman (1987-1997) and Bennett Colleges (2002-2007) and being an ardent advocate for women’s education, in March of this year Dr. Johnnetta Cole was appointed the new director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

The last time I saw Dr. Johnetta was in 2007 there at her last Baccalaureate service as president of Bennett College where she’d served admirably. She’d invited me to come out and speak at her last Bennett Baccaluareate ceremony. She was looking forward to retirement, slowing down, and enjoying the new romantic relationship she was in.  Evidently this phenomenal woman changed her mind. Just like she was supposed to be retiring when she’d stepped down years earlier as Spelman College’s famed Sister President. (She’d invited me to serve as Spelman’s Baccalaureate speaker her last year there as well). I could boast about being a speaker on both of these historic occasions, or I could peer closer and make out some sacred invitation being extended to me by God. The invitation to observe a woman on the brink of reinventing herself. I watched a woman stepping down from revered posts she has held and performed in admirably, freeing herself to move on to discover and create new challenges for herself. I’m pretty sure Dr. Johnetta didn’t know at the time what the future held for her, but she was old enough and confident enough to know when it’s time to call it quits and let your future  figure itself out within you.

Did I mention that Johnetta Cole is in her 70s? Google her and you’ll find her exact age.  (God, I hope my friend doesn’t mind my calling attention to her age?) But that’s the beauty of her story. In fact, that’s the whole point of this blogpost. A woman changing her mind, discovering new parts of herself, reinventing herself long past the age of lactation and lust (of the achy, breaky sort, that is). Reinventing herself and finding new things to do with her life after 60, the age when a woman is all but invisible and is expected to dodder and stay put in one place.  Women are, as we all know, judged by the body they are in. The younger, firmer, leaner her body, the more visible a woman is. The older, grayer, and thicker her body, the more invisible she becomes to everyone around her. Thankfully, there are some women who refuse to go gently into the night.

Of all the ‘rights women have sought, none is more difficult, or more vital, than the right to change and not have to do the same thing forever. This is not to say that some of what we have been doing will not still be worth doing at 50, 60, and beyond. But there’s something about women who find the courage to change course, begin anew, revinvent themselves that’s always fascinated me. Especially women whom life has counted out.

With ageing comes losses, there is no denying that truth. Loss of loved ones. Loss of vigor. Loss of health. Loss of certain activities. Loss of employment. But ageing is not all about loss. Ageing brings with it also new discoveries.  The kinds of discoveries that are only possible because other preoccupations are no longer there. New interests. New passions. New hobbies. New sides of yourself. New meaning for your life. New invitations. The truth is that we are a great deal more than our bodies, have always been more than our bodies, but it can take us most of a lifetime to learn that.

With the exterior losses that come with aging should come the good sense to let your interior life have more say about what you do and who you are.

I salute Dr. Johnetta B. Cole here on the blog today. She is a role model for many women like myself in the throes of middle age and still  contemplating all that it means to grow up and grow older.  Dr. Johnetta shows us how to stay visible, vibrant, and vital to the discussion. What use is there in growing older and having more answers to life’s questions, if no one’s beating a path to your door in search for the answers you hold?

“Our moral obligation is not, as society might lead us to believe, to ski at sixty and jog at seventy and bike at eighty,” writes Joan Chittister in The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. “No, our moral obligation is to stay as well as we can, to remain active, to avoid abusing our bodies, to do the things that interest us and to enrich the lives of those around us. Our spiritual obligation is to age well– so that others who meet us have the courage, the spiritual depth, to do the same.”