What Langley Knows

What Langley knows

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Jeremiah 33:3

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Last year at our oldest granddaughter’s high school graduation, a scripture verse was read as the graduate walked across the stage to receive his or her diploma. The verse had been chosen by the student’s high school advisor. This was read as Langley received her diploma. What an amazing verse to hold onto for the rest of her life.

We only need to call to God, and God will answer, and God will tell us unimaginable things that we need to know. Calling on God can mean praying for God’s presence, but it also can mean sitting in silence and waiting for God’s presence inside and outside of us to be manifested. It can mean being open to seeing God, Christ, in others, especially those in need. It can mean seeing God in all of creation and learning how to protect it and care for it. It can mean being open to receiving the love of Christ from another. I have mentioned only a few of the many ways that God asks us to make that call.

The second part, the answer, comes in so many different ways and means as well. If we expect to hear a voice or receive a sign a few minutes after we make our dial up to God, we may be disappointed. The access and connections to God are beyond our comprehension. Answers come at the most unexpected times and often are presented by the most unexpected people. Sometimes answers even come from those we barely know and even people we consider our adversaries. Sometimes our bodies give us the answer with more or less energy for a calling. Sometimes the answers only come years later. Our only job is to be open and receptive to an answer.

How do we know the answer? Jeremiah tells us we will receive knowledge we never expected to know. The 12 step promises can be helpful in realizing the answer. “We will know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” (Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous, pp. 83-84.)

Feeling and knowing the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is another means of realizing we have received an answer. We become aware that we are living in “love, joy peace, forbearance, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I know I am not telling Langley anything she does not already know.

This verse indeed was already written on her heart.

Joanna joannaseibert.com

Hibbs: Jesus Prayer

Hibbs: Jesus Prayer

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner.”

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Last summer we were at Camp Allen in Texas for the first time at a Community of Hope International with Mary Earle as the keynote speaker. As I look over her books I find this newly published 20th anniversary edition of An Altar in Your Heart, Meditations on the Jesus Prayer by Bishop Robert Hibbs with a Foreword by Mary Earle. The Jesus Prayer has been my mantra in the early morning and at evening as I go to sleep. I pray the prayer during any time of anxiety or fear or temptation during the day or night, especially during medical tests for myself and my family. It is my feeble attempt at praying without ceasing.

I have known Bishop Hibbs for years through work with the Episcopal Recovery Community, but never knew about his work on the Jesus Prayer. As I share with Mary my connections with Bishop Hibbs, I find out he died a year ago in April, and Mary preached the homily at his service. I want to thank and honor him for the support he gave me and so many others in recovery by sharing this book with you. Also included is an audio CD of his lectures at a retreat producing the book, which the Cajuns would call a lagniappe, a little something extra. For years Bob Hibbs was the major voice for recovery in the Episcopal House of Bishops.

Saying the Jesus Prayer is like using a prayer rope or beads in our heads. Bishop Hibbs relates the story of Cardinal Mindzenty and Father Eschmann, who survived torture and solitary imprisonment by staying connected to God with the Jesus Prayer.

The first words of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” remind us of both Jesus’ divinity and his humanity which Hibbs believes is an important constant message in keeping us in relationship with Jesus. These first words of the prayer with Jesus’ name express Easter, the Alleluia part of the prayer. The last phrase about mercy expresses Good Friday. Sister Carol Perry at this same conference reminds us that in this request for mercy, we are making the choice to ask for God’s mercy in our lives rather than God’s justice for how we have lived our lives. Hibbs believes we always live in the tension between being in Easter and always connected to Good Friday.

Bishop Hibbs reminds us that this is an oral prayer to be said out loud as much as possible especially as we begin to make the Jesus Prayer a part of our being. He cautions us not to be discouraged as we become distracted while we say it. We are gently to return to the prayer without judgment on ourselves. We might consider treating distractions similar to those we encounter in centering prayer. We might see them as barges moving down the Mississippi or any favorite river. We are to let them pass on down without interacting with them.

Eventually the prayer develops a rhythm in our lives and becomes a gift from God closely related to the beating of our heart, a constant, habitual recollection or awareness of God’s presence. Hibbs also reminds us that when we pray the Jesus prayer, we are attempting to connect to Jesus, God, the Trinity above and beyond us but also to the Christ in our neighbor and in ourselves.

For people in 12 step recovery this is where the steps intersect with the Jesus Prayer as we “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God.” (Step 11, Chapter 5, “How it Works,” Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 85, 2016)

Sometimes I modify the prayer to be similar to what is called Agnus Dei, the fraction anthem said or sung after breaking the bread in the Eucharist. “Lord God, Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.”

When we meet with someone for spiritual direction or with spiritual friends, we give them our utmost attention, but if we also have the Jesus Prayer running through our mind and body, we can also be trying to stay connected to the Spirit speaking to the Christ in both of us.

Joanna joannaseibert.com

De Mello: Selfish

De Mello: Selfish

“Part of waking up is that you live your life as you see fit. And understand: That is not selfish. The selfish thing is to demand that someone else live their life as YOU see fit. That’s selfish.”

Anthony de Mello, Awareness, Collins Fount 1990, Daily Words, Inwardoutward.org, June 22, 2015

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Anthony de Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest who also was a psychotherapist who died too young in 1987 but whose spiritual writings still speak clearly to us today. I think de Mello is trying to tell us that loving others means allowing, supporting them to be the person God created them to be. Self-love or selfishness is wanting others to be the person we want them to be. This is a constant struggle because “we are so wise and have such good ideas!” Sometimes we want others to live a certain way to live out a life along a path that we were not able to live. Other times it is a control issue thinking we know what is best.

We struggle with this form of selfishness with our children, our grandchildren, our students, our partners, our friends, almost any relationship. Of course, this also can be a hurdle to overcome in spiritual direction, wanting our spiritual friends to live a certain form of spirituality, especially the spiritual life that has worked for us. Spiritual direction is a two-way street. It is like teaching or any form of mentoring. If we are not learning from our spiritual friends as well as sharing with them, we become even more self-absorbed in our own knowledge and experience. We must constantly remember that it should be the Holy Spirit present with us in spiritual direction, guiding and teaching us as well as our spiritual friends.

My experience is that two things are helpful. First, trying to live the Serenity Prayer, knowing we can only change ourselves and not others. God is the one who makes the change. We are to sit back and wait for the Holy Spirit to bring about changes.

The second is awareness, awareness when we think we know what is best and start planning the agenda of others and not allowing them to become the person the Christ, the Spirit within is leading them to be. I am counting on the Holy Spirit to bring in de Mello holding up a big stop sign with SELFISH written all over it when I become aware of when I am doing this.

Next, we are to turn around and prayerfully and humbly ask God to transform that selfish energy directed at others into energy for the Christ within us to continue creating us to become the person God birthed us to be and to keep looking for and loving that Christ already in our neighbor.

Joanna joannaseibert.com