listening to the heart of God

“But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast; my soul is quieted within me.” (Psalm 131:2, BCP)

2013-09-03 11.13.17Babies know when Momma is holding them; Dad doesn’t sound or feel quite the same, and though Grandma and Auntie and Brother are lovely, no one is Momma except Momma.

From our very moment of creation–those little cells furiously dividing in a womb–there’s one voice, one heartbeat, one digestive system that calibrates reality for us.  When we are again near that same heartbeat, napping on top of Mom, or hear that same voice (even decades later!) the deepest, most primal part of us responds.  Some bit of ourselves, deeply coded with the nourishment (the life!) that this person provided for us, always knows Mom’s voice and body, the being that taught us by her simple presence and lifeblood what life and the world are.

God does exactly the same thing for us, but on an even deeper and more primal level.  The most profound calm, the Most-Anti-Anxious-State, the greatest security, and the truest reality arrives when we sit in the presence of God.  Yoga and meditation (and prayer) teach us to do this literally–to physically sit down, to face up to our racing minds (and hearts) and start digging in our heels, slowing down our minds, listening through distractions and listening into quietness.

One of my colleagues has a plaque on his office wall, “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.”  God is sitting next to you, where ever you are, whether you want him there or not–when we quiet down, we can start to notice his presence.

Part of the point of yoga and meditation and prayer is to help us recalibrate to that original orientation–sometimes it’s awkward and feels uncomfortable or even painful (physically, or socially, or psychologically) to slow down, to sit down, to quiet down.  Persistence in sitting quietly, in praying (or meditating or doing yoga), begins to loosen up our knotted up selves, and the searing shout of silence starts to feel more like a peaceful river of quiet.

God, his identifying heartbeat, his stirring voice, is not always the loudest or most insistent sound (often it is one of the quietest) in our lives, though it is the most profoundly sustaining.


For what God says to us in the quiet, a sermon preached by Sam Wells, “The Heart of God.

For what struck me about Psalm 131 last September, “Psalm 131 Mash Up” (isn’t it funny how certain poems speak to you at particular moments of the year?  And isn’t it funny how the same words evoke something so different in the same person a year hence?)

Bible Study Notes – Isaiah 43

Unable to withstand more judgment yesterday’s cold January evening, the intrepid Monday Night Women’s Bible Study broke rank and jumped to Isaiah 43, just for the evening.  So, now–more reflections on the same chapter as the last (entry), with much more brainpower behind it!

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you” (Is. 43:1)

“Do not fear, for I am with you” (Is. 43:5)

What does it mean to “fear” God?  Isn’t this discordant with God being all love and all goodness?  What do we have to fear in him?

If we’re–with God’s help!–seeking the good and have experienced just a taste of the goodness and perfection of God, then we’re growing in virtue, and, knowing what it is like to be in the presence of real good-ness, we really are (or would be) afraid to behave in a way that takes us away or separates us from the good, and true, and beautiful in life.  Our fear is of being separated from God–we are not afraid of anything else that might come upon us, because if God is with us in whatever trial or event or danger we experience, we have nothing to fear.  God is with us.  This promise he makes in verse 5 is described in v.2–see post below–and this God who promises to be with us no matter what we face is someone you really want on your side (see vs. 11-13).

This talk of “fear” led us to reflect on the difference between fear and anxiety: fear is born of an experience–if we’ve touched a hot stove burner, we are afraid when we are pushed from behind toward a stove that’s on.  Anxiety is from anticipating–dreading!–something that we have never experienced; it’s worry.  We’ll always have fear, it’s just a matter of what we choose and habituate ourselves to be afraid of; anxiety is not something we have to have.

God’s promise to be with us is elucidating in another way; one of our number shared how different she felt when she broke up with her college boyfriend of two years compared to when her father ended up in the hospital for a heart attack–in the case of her father’s illness, the extended family showed up quickly and en force, her immediate family was not alone, and though it was a scary time, they were all together in it, and it was beautiful, she said, because of the love that she felt.  On the other hand, when she and her boyfriend broke up, the despair was engulfing–exactly because she was alone, and the cause of the pain was a declaration of alone-ness.

The discussion of fear and of being alone reminded me of Daniel and his friends in the fiery furnace.  They tell the king, “[W]e have no need to present a defense to you in this matter.  If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18).  God is God, and he can save us–but even if he doesn’t, he’s still God.  Actually, here’s a sermon that says all of that much more articulately and beautifully. (The Rev. Dr. Sam Wells)