Tag Archives: stillness

Friday Thoughts: Be Still

by Howard Hain

 

We don’t enter the Heart of Jesus to hide, we enter to encounter the totality of all creation all at once. God be praised.

Be Still, and know that I am God.

—Psalm 46:10

 


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at www.howardhain.com  

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

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Thoughts Upon The Cross: Speak Life

by Howard Hain

Sandro Botticelli, The Last Communion of Saint Jerome, early 1490s (detail)

Botticelli, “The Last Communion of Saint Jerome”, early 1490s, (detail), The Met


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Heal us.

In the form of bread.

Our tongues like cribs.

You come to rest.

A sacred place.

A mother watches.

A father can hardly believe.

Greatness simply conceived.

Silent.

Yes let us be.

Help us not to speak.

No words can be.

No thoughts except those that flee.

Yes.

Hold our tongues.

Into quiet place.

Stillness.

Let us wait.

Till hear You cry.

A hungry child.

Tucked in for night.

A drop of milk.

In reality blood.

In the form of wine.

The angels sing.

Holiness explodes.

Heaven down to earth.

Saints to and fro.

Blessings forth.

Grace abounds.

The sick are healed.

The blind can see.

The lonely find friends.

Children unwanted?

They finally reach home.

We look.

We see.

We wonder.

How could it be?

It’s Him!

It’s Him.

Right there.

The One nailed to the tree.

Alive again.

Within my mouth.

And at my right hand.

And to the left.

And straight ahead.

And there!

Yes, there too!

In that hopeless situation.

We thought all was lost.

But, no, it’s Him.

He really does care.

And He calls us over.

To Himself.

And yes.

Silence changes forms.

It’s again time to speak.

What else can we do?

The Eternal One.

The Son of Man.

The Conqueror of Strife.

Let us smile at one another.

Let us speak life.


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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435728

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Morning Thoughts: A Grain of Salt

 

winslow-homer-snap-the-whip-1872-the-met

Winslow Homer, “Snap the Whip”, 1872, (The Met)

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Lord, I don’t want to be witty, or smart, or cute.

I don’t want to be clever, or interesting, or different.

I don’t want to be important.

One of a kind.

I don’t want to want to be anything.

You were.

You are.

You will be.

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

———

A few days ago my daughter was eating a piece of toast for breakfast. It was a nice piece of toast, I prepared it my myself. Golden brown. A good amount of very good olive oil, from a little can my sister-in-law gifted us after a trip to Portugal. And I cracked some sea salt. Beautiful little crystals atop virgin oil upon a bed of grain and wheat, all held aloft by a bit of yeast.

She was eating away. Then I heard a shriek. It seems a little stink bug landed on the edge of her plate. Well, that was the end of breakfast.

Like a little dinosaur. I’m pretty sure they’re harmless. Apparently, they’re not from the United States. It seems they’ve recently made their way over from China. They’re immigrants, if you will. Or perhaps ‘missionaries’ is a better way to put it, at least from the stink bug’s perspective.

They’ve got a job after all, like the rest of us. I doubt they complain though. I also doubt that the first little guy to make his way across the great ocean to arrive at our shores had any idea he was discovering a whole new world. The Christopher Columbus of stink bugs. But there’s no statue. No holiday. No day off. No big sale at Macy’s honoring his (or her) accomplishment.

Nonetheless, his relative was in my home the other day and landed on my daughter’s plate, leaving me wondering if she had eaten enough, and also somewhat worried she wouldn’t have enough energy to make it through the first half of the day.

She did. The day went on. The bug was removed. As far as my daughter’s relationship with stink bugs specifically or with insects in general, we’ll just have to wait and see.

———

I don’t know why that little bug is on my mind. I guess I admire him. His obedience.

God created that little bug, both his kind and him individually. I am therefore to love him:

Love God in all His creation. Love all of God’s creation for His sake.

In love with a bug.

Hey, who knows?

———

I’m having fun. Life is wonderful. If only we could all just play. All day. No homework. No tests. No goals of earning admittance.

I laugh. I smile. I think again. My little girl. All children. It’s amazing what they say. What the Holy Spirit speaks through living innocence:

“I want to fall into the Sun…and go deep, deep, deep…and the clouds will tickle me…”

———

When parents speak of the little things they’re children say, I imagine most listeners take it with a grain of salt.

But parents know what they’ve heard, spoken or not.

Surely God knows.

After all, He’s a parent too.

And he wants us to play.

Stink bugs and all.


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11140

From the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Snap the Whip

Artist: Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine) Date: 1872
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“In the years after America’s brutal Civil War (1861-65), children—as embodiments of innocence and the promise of America’s future—became a popular artistic subject. Snap the Whip, one of Homer’s most beloved works, evoked nostalgia for the nation’s agrarian past as the population shifted to cities, and the little red schoolhouse faded from memory. Released from their lessons, the exuberant bare-footed boys engage in a spirited game of snap the whip, which required teamwork, strength, and calculation—all important skills for a reuniting country…”

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Friday Thoughts: On the Cutting Edge of Boredom

vincent-van-gogh-the-stone-bench-in-the-garden-at-saint-paul-hospital-1889

Vincent van Gogh, “The Stone Bench in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital” (1889)

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There is so much “excitement” in the world.

Politics. Sports. Entertainment.

Even in the simple act of kids going back to school there is so much hoopla.

We can’t just do things simply. Everything has to be planned, announced, delved into, broadcast into something “grand”, “life-changing”, “utterly profound.”

But the more we need to insist that something is the case, the less in reality it usually is. For excitement, like authority, is something that by its very nature announces itself—and it decreases in direct proportion to the need to have it proclaimed.

In other words, just because we make “a big deal” about everything doesn’t mean it is. In fact, it is normally quite the opposite.

———

I remember when a child’s birthday party was composed of eight or ten kids sitting around a kitchen table, wearing silly pointy hats, and eating a Duncan Hines cake made the day before by a stay-home mom.

Even catechism lessons seemed a whole lot more straight forward, and effective. For me they took place around that same kitchen table, with those same neighborhood friends, and were taught by that same mom who baked the birthday cake. Now, catechists are expected to act like game-show hosts. And preachers? We’ll they’re expected to be downright celebrities.

Well, there is an answer to all this triviality: The Bench. Whether it’s in the park, in front of your house, or even under one of those little bus-stop canopies on the side of the road.

Sit. Listen. Do nothing. Especially when you are tempted by “boredom”. For that’s exactly what boredom is, a temptation. A temptation to deny the existence of God. For if we are conscious of God’s presence we can never be bored. Every nook and cranny of every “meaningless” daily act and encounter has profound, truly profound significance, if we are conscious of God’s omnipresence and His perfect will.

Sit there peacefully, resting quietly on the cutting edge of boredom. You never know how much good God might do through you: what poor widow you may accompany, what orphan you might help find a home, what angel you may entertain, what authentic prayer you might offer up—now that God and not self-image is in control.

———

Truth flips things on their head. I think it is Saint Bernard who says something along these lines: If we really think about how radical a call the Christian life is, as compared to the way the rest of the world lives, we realize it’s almost the equivalent of us walking down the street on our hands.

If it isn’t Saint Bernard that I’m paraphrasing, well then it is one of God’s other saints, and that is all that matters. For in God’s Kingdom the only credit that is given comes from and returns to God, and God alone. All wisdom is His.

And there it is, there is the crux of it: We have become obsessed with being “original”, with being “special”, with being “one-of-a-kind”—which of course we all are, tremendously so in fact—that is until we stop and think about it, or even worse, try to achieve it through our own means.

Trying to be “original” is the end of all originality. Wanting to be “special” is the death of a truly special purpose.

Pure existence on the other hand can only result in true originality—and it is always special, no matter what Tom, Dick, or Harry it is taking place within.

———

When a human being is existing as God wills, the result is dynamic, truly exciting. And God never wills for us to believe and act as if we are God and He is not.

Put to death once and for all the need to self-promote, to self-proclaim, to self-worship.

Sit on a bench instead. Be still. Exist. You just may be surprised how cool you really are.


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Exhaustion

Jerzy Duda-Gracz

Jerzy Duda-Gracz, “Golgotha of Jasna Gora”, (ca. 2001)


 

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life…”

—John 6:27


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On a day such as this, our Lord, our God, our Savior Jesus the Christ was crucified.

It is hard to imagine just what He went through that long, hard day.

It is certainly a good exercise to meditate on Christ’s Passion. It bears great spiritual fruit.

This particular morning, exhaustion is on my mind.

I think of all those who are staggering out of bed. All those faces I shall soon see on the crowded bus, the claustrophobic subway car, the bitterly hot city street.

Of course those faces can also be seen in the suburbs and the country. Those faces are all over the place.

All those Josephs. All those Marys. All those Peters and Pauls. All those just like you and me, like yours and mine—all on their way to work—each carrying a cross made of wood, no matter what the job may entail or what the work may look like, no matter if the “work” performed results in “pay” or not.

Exhaustion. Being spent. Having been completely poured out. Nothing left but fumes.

And many whom I shall see this morning will return this evening to ungrateful companions: spouses, children, in-laws, neighbors…all those in their lives who they provide for, but who rarely think about the effort it takes to generate that provision—let alone, to say, “Thank you”.

Jesus kept walking.

Patience. Strength. Perseverance.

———

Lord, teach us. Show us. Show us Your blessed face.

Can we see You today in the tired, the taken for granted, the exhausted? Can we pour ourselves out on Your behalf? Can we serve those who serve others?

Can we be instruments of encouragement? Can we help the anonymous Jesus right next to us carry His Cross? And can we do all this in complete and perfect union with Jesus and all for the love of You, Lord God?

Father, can we continue to ask You questions such as these? Questions that bring us closer to You, and closer to the Passion of Your Dearly Beloved Son.

I love You, Jesus. Let me never take for granted Your crucifixion. Let me never take for granted Your exhaustive gift—a gift that took every bit of You and yet never runs out—a gift exclusively for me and at the very same time exclusively for each and every other member of mankind.

You, Lord God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit: Most Holy Trinity—are everywhere: on crowded buses, on claustrophobic subway cars, on bitterly hot city streets. You are all over the place. You are in so many who don’t even know that You are in them. Let me see You in them. And may that blessed encounter also be the moment in which he and she comes to recognize Your Divine Presence residing deep within.

You are God.

You died for each of us.

Your Passion continues.

On the Third Day, You rose again.

The Third Day is also today—this very day—this new and blessed day.

You are risen. You are risen, indeed!


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So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

—John 6:28-29


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—Howard Hain

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