Tears flow from my eyes as I think of all the heaviness that has surrounded me this week, all the pain, sorrow and despair. The injustice I’ve seen and heard of. I think of all the love I want to give to people, to fill people with that will never be enough because we live in a reckless, cruel world where we can so easily fall into anger and resentment and bitterness because it all seems so hopeless and unfair.
From newspaper articles headlining how the majority of students these days are stressed out and worry about the future http://www.calgaryherald.com/health/Majority+students+feel+anxious+worry+about+future+Canadian+survey/7954370/story.html, to Sunday afternoon dinner around the table and statistics bring brought forward of how many suicides have been happening in Canada this year, to meetings with friends who are having really hard times, to phone calls to loved one who cannot speak because their tears are too consuming to speak any words, to co-workers struggling, to links on Facebook about children walking on the street in the cold with torn up cloths http://rynomi.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/a-boy-on-the-street/, and of to violence in schools and bullying http://www.upworthy.com/bullies-called-him-pork-chop-he-took-that-pain-with-him-and-then-cooked-it-into. It’s been screaming in my face the past while how broken and hurting our world around us is and how I long for healing.
For the last few months I have been thinking about happiness and what it means. I started doing morning pages randomly one morning, as I had heard about these morning pages and thought it might be helpful for me to try it. The first day I wrote I complained for 2 pages about how I was tired, didn’t want to get out of bed, how my back hurt, how my arm was already stiff from writing and why was I doing these stupid morning pages. Then I caught myself and asked “Alysa! Why are you so negative?! Stop it!” I continued to write and I said “I miss God. I give him to others but I never ask for him for myself. I never ask him to help me. Do I not believe he can help me? Give me the desires of my heart, too? What am I so afraid of? Why can’t I be happy? Man. Money. More. Will not make me happy. Mystery. Moments. God. Will.
I started to think about happiness and wondered if that was really what I wanted? Is that really what was missing in my life? Happiness?
I went to a play with a friend one day and one of the lines in the play was something like “you want to be happy? Then know what you want.” I was caught a bit off guard, feeling like he was directing those lines right at me. I wanted to tell him to shut up but then I started to think about it more. I don’t know if he was right, but it certainly got me thinking. Do I know what I want? What would make me happy? Harmony at work, a new house, money in my bank account, etc. Things kept popping into my thoughts of material, temporal, meaningless things of what I “thought” would make me happy right now. Then I caught myself and was like no, no, no Alysa. No. that’s all wrong. What do you want? In the big picture of your life, what do you want?! What have you always wanted? to bring people joy. Ok. Thank you. Yes. And how can you do that every day and how will it make you feel?
I’ve realized that happiness is surface. Happiness can be taken away from you because we live in a selfish, inconsiderate world where most people will not be thinking of what struggles you may be going through rather only how you can help them with theirs. But I’ve realized that there is a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is temporal, physical, on the surface but JOY goes much deeper. Joy lives in a place that no one can reach. It can never be taken away from you. You can ignore it for a while, pretend that it isn’t there, but is will never leave you. Joy is what comes out of you when you laugh; joy is what comes out of you when you sing; joy is what comes out of you when you delight in someone you love; joy is what comes out of you when there are just no words to explain why you feel the way you do but you just cannot stop smiling. Joy is helping someone out who has too many things to do. Joy is making someone else laugh. Joy is calling someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Joy is eternal and it is life-giving. It lives in the same place as love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are the fruits of the spirit and where the spirit of the Lord is – there is freedom.(2 Cor 3:17) And they cannot ever be taken away from you. God can never be taken away from you. His spirit is always dwelling in us.
Paulo Coelho wrote in his book By the River Pieda I Sat Down and Wept that a lot of the time when we are following our dreams – our missions in life it will mean that we will dwell through a lot of suffering. “I do not promise you happiness in this world.”
He wrote “ It’s easy to suffer because you love a person, or the world, or your son. That’s the kind of suffering that you accept as part of life; it’s a noble, grand sort of suffering. It’s easy to suffer for a cause or a missions; this ennobles the heart of a person suffering.”
God created me with an empathetic heart. I feel the pain of others when they go through hard times and I want to be able to help them. It grieves me that I cannot give enough to help them. I cannot explain why I know that God is bigger than all the pain, that he is a healing, loving God. I don’t know how to prove that to people or explain it in words that they will understand. But I can love them. Mother Teresa said that “where there is Love, there is God.” and the person who wrote Les Miserables wrote the most wonderful line at the end. “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I want to be the face of God to people. And this is going to bring me a lot of suffering and hurt because I cannot help them unless they choose to see God first. I can’t help them but God can and they have to let him.
A dear friend wrote to me about a book he was reading. He shared: The author talks about the prayer “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He talks about Jesus’ ministry as it elates to that prayer. Jesus announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand - even here. The author of the book says that at the beginning, human beings were given dominion over the earth. God’s intention was that Adam and Eve would gradually turn the whole of the earth into Eden. He gave them dominion over all of it. It was a gift. But of course we know how the story went. They gave it up when tempted by the serpent. They traded their dominion for knowledge. So now, the Serpent has dominion over the earth. Bt it’s not the way it was meant to be. So, Jesus comes and shows us how to exercise dominion over the earth. He heals the sick, challenges the social and religious order. He brings heaven to earth. He is in touch with his Father and the Holy Spirit, and through that connection, and through his death - willingness to give his life up for humankind, for love - makes God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. (Some of this is my extrapolating beyond the book, but …) So, when the author encounters brokenness, sickness, etc. in another person, he sees that person in God’s Kingdom - the Kingdom of Heaven - and prays for what that person is to be in the land of the Kingdom of Heaven to be realized in the present reality of earth, and people are healed.
That’s what I want to do. That’s why I believe in beauty in brokenness and joy in sadness. That and there are no words for it.
It has already been a very long year - full of fear, hurt and darkness. First it started off with months of nothing but the unknown. It became a time to bless and realize what a blessing it was to bless. Then it became a fearful hurtful time with heartache and huge decisions colliding into my sphere all at once. It threw me for loop but I followed the Spirit and went on a journey that I knew would be hard.
Over the past 6 months I’ve tried to cultivate and develop my mind - ignoring my spirit - the deep calling out. I shut it up telling it that it doesn’t have words and that I needed to find them first before it could speak out again. I realized that when I asked big questions about faith and God that I didn’t have a lot of answers and that wasn’t good. I needed to find them. I began to read books and more of the Bible but the only word that stood out to me was SPIRIT. I need to look up how many times spirit is written in the Bible because it kept coming up in every passage I would read. But I ignored it - saying it didn’t have words to express itself so it should SHUT UP.
This summer I was trying really hard to figure out is why emotions well up in me so presently and fully; why I am always so near to tears or choked up, or fearful or heavy. And how, at the same time, I can be light. I think it is somehow because I know the grace of God, I know the love of God and it is all that matters to me. It wells up from the deep resounding as JOY, PEACE, LOVE. But I become so fearful and it hurts because I feel like I can’t express that to anyone and help them to see. I don’t have the damn words for it.
A dear friend of mine and I went for a hike this summer in Victoria. As we were sitting up on the mountain looking out to the ocean, we started talking about God and about our hearts. She is deeply hurt by her family. I tried to express to her how much God loves her, how much he longs to heal her heart if only she would ask. But she wouldn’t hear it. She just couldn’t. She said to me that she didn’t think that God could do that for her.
I wrote to another friend expressing my grief in this experience and how much it pained me and how angry and annoyed I was with myself because I can’t seem to have the words when I need them. She replied, “I pray that Abba would train you in words, as it is a desire of your heart to be able to communicate more adequately. But I also pray that you would learn the peace and beauty of your INABILITY to put it into words! It’s like someone watching a dance expression and then writing an essay to communicate it more clearly! Sorry, but that is cheap in comparison. Some things are spirit. Are Deep calling only to DEEP. They are not meant for words. Maybe that is the tension for an Alysa, for a Mercy. That you feel so deep down deep, and you want to DO something about it…fix it….heal it….speak to it….when you are meant to feel it, pray for it, leave it to Abba? I don’t know! Hmmm, but whatever it is, whatever it looks like, it is VERY GOOD!!!”
I took those words to heart but I don’t think I understood them at the time. Not until some other things came full circle.
In Edmonton, the dear friend I went for a hike with came up to me while I was laying on the floor in our warm-up for our show and said, “Read my latest blog post.” I went on my handy-dandy iPhone to her Tumblr page and read: A girl steps off the bus into the inky night. As she begins the long walk home, she is compelled to look at the moon. It is luminescent and full. And it seems to have a face in the center It seems to her that the man who created the moon, is beaming down at her.
Music fills her ears and begins to swell with an similarity that matches her aching heart. From somewhere deep inside her, a voice speaks to the moon, desperately; with conviction. “I won’t give up, I will keep trying, I will keep trying.” Tears roll down her face as she looks up at the moon with little more in her heart than a wavering faith and hope.
The melody changes to a gentle, simple piano line and suddenly she hears it. She Hears it. She Hears it for the first time in her life. “Listen to me,” the music says, “I am here and I have always been here and as long as you Hear the music in your ears and in your heart, I will be with you always, no matter what”.
The air washes around her, stripping her down. Stripping her bare, inside and out. “I won’t give up, I will keep trying”, she repeated and she knew that she would. She won’t give up on seeking her personal legend, won’t give up on her incredibly pained family. Will keep trying to see, hear, and feel the man who created the moon, will keep trying to join him with her in the healing of her heart and hopefully many other hearts.
An incredible moment had occurred that night, with little more than the crickets, a jack rabbit and her own big heart to experience it. But she felt it echo and resonate and she knew things were different. It would never be perfect, her life. But as long as she keeps trying, keeps seeking, never gives up; it will be a life worth living.”
Tears filled my eyes and my heart swelled. I walked over to where my friend was laying on the bed and laid beside her. I hugged her and began to rub her back as she listened to her music. Then I wrote on her back with my finger I [HEART] U. A few seconds later she turned around to me and looked into my eyes and said “I love you, too.” Her eyes welled up with tears and she said, “Alysa, you show me God.” We starred at each other for a few minutes, tears in our eyes.
A week or so later, I received a letter in the mail from someone I met on the the tour. It read: “At church the other day, a quote was displayed that read: “Sometimes you need to watch somebody love something so that you can love it yourself.” -Donald Miller. I like that a lot, and it got me thinking about you. I think something that I really like in you is the love you have for God. A part of me is really attracted to that because I treat it like an example for myself. Sometimes it’s frustrating because it’s like “Why can’t I love my faith like that?!” — But that led to another thought. My faith has always felt like an investigation, a discovery. I think I’m okay with that, I love exploring around in my faith! But, you know when you are trying to tell someone a funny story and sometimes people go “Oh, you tell it better, you tell it.” That’s how I feel about you and your faith! It’s like, if I were trying to communicate to someone why I like God, I would say “Look at Alysa, look at the kindness, look how it makes her feel. That’s why I like God.”
And again, when I wrote to a mentor last week he shared: “I love your eyes, Alys. I love the sight you have, a sight connected straight into the centre of your heart. I love when you put it to words - spirit made transparent. Do you know how rare that is, Alys? When I read your sadnesses, it feels like song. It really does. I believe with all my heart that you are being transformed in ways that will lead you closer and closer to the heart and mind of God. I know this, Alys. I know it sometimes must sound like I say the same thing over and over again, but I feel such kinship with the state of your spirit - that part that seeks to be more and more open and loving and more.”
All these words and affirmations and encouragements affected me, moved me, but they didn’t really sink in and I didn’t understand them completely until the day after the whole She Has a Name Tour ended. I went to church with a friend that Sunday morning and I spent the whole service crying. My tears were partly missing Evelyn and Sienna, but mostly they were from a reawakening of my spirit. I never grew up with the Holy Spirit talked about. He was never preached about or anything like that, but I think deep down I’ve always known him. Now the spirit dwells so prominently in me that I’d say the spirit is all that I truly am. My joy. My sorrow. My laughter. My tears. My gumptions. My intuition. My fears. My impulses. My heart. My sighs. My gut feelings. My everything is Spirit. God’s very own spirit and in the Bible it talked about the Spirit having 7 horns and 7 eyes. The Spirit is so powerful and sees everything. He knows us best and he calls to us to remind us of our worth, our light, our wholeness which all comes from the grace of God. This summer was so hard on my spirit. However, with help from friends and church, it was re-enlivened. I understood that I don’t need words to express the spirit. He makes himself know in my actions. If I let him be he shows himself. That morning he was my tears. I let them flow.
I wrote on my blog this summer: The past few weeks have been hard for me and I am doing a lot of questioning right now. I think that I am constantly asked to be very strong - perhaps stronger than I actually am, and I can only be so strong for so long. Being positive, joyful, loving, kind, patient, understanding, generous, forgiving can be very hard to sustain. It requires a lot of energy and it is an act of will. Before long I seem to collapse underneath it all and because I am just starting to understand this responsibility that I have on myself I still become a bit lost under the weight of it. After continually saying “I trust you, God” there comes a time when emotions well up within me and I want to be angry with God, yell at God, fight with God, ignore God because He isn’t giving me what I want. I want certain answers and directions. I think I have a good picture of what I want my life to look like but God has an entirely different idea and sometimes I just wish He’d see it my way or at least give me a better idea of why He is leading me down what seems to be such a horrible path of hurt, frustration and uncertainty. In this rebellion, I end up running from Him and choosing my own way, thinking I know what’s better for me and my life. But you know what? I am not happy.
Yet one of the great gifts that God has blessed me with is the ability to see His beauty everywhere, in the smallest of things. He has blessed me with eyes to see how generous He is even in the midst of my kicking and screaming at Him. It’s really humbling. As much as I would like to ignore His voice in my day to day life and do my own thing, my heart — [MY SPIRIT!] won’t let me.
I was walking down the street in Vancouver with some friends. I passed a homeless man sitting on a bench and he asked me a question. I thought for sure he was asking for change and my response was about to be “I’m sorry, I don’t,” and keep walking. But as I repeated what he had said in my head again it was really: “Miss, could you buy me a burger?” I looked up and there he was sitting in front of a DQ. I said “Yes, of course!” We walked in and he wanted a chicken burger and so I got him the combo. My friend John struck up a conversation with him and found out his name was Russ. Russ could hardly stand and needed to sit down. I watched John converse with him and I was moved to tears. I wished I could engage more with Russ and ask him questions and talk with him. I’ve been frustrated with myself and my lack of words and questions. But I just took him in. Russ had the most beautiful blue eyes. The order came through and I passed it to him. He said thank you and told me I was beautiful.
It kinda hurt to hear that. What I did for Russ was so small in comparison to what he gave me. For when I feel inside like an awful, ugly person someone is able to call me beautiful. It was a beautiful act, and I’m not trying to boast. I feel very undeserving of this gift but I know that God wanted to bless and affirm my heart and my spirit. These are the gifts and the voice of God that take faith to see.
This summer I felt very dark, dirty, ugly and beaten — running on the spot for something I thought I needed because what I had I thought wasn’t enough. Something in me always wants me to be more, give more, be better, try harder, but what I have is OK. It doesn’t need to be more, it just needs to be allowed to BE.
This morning I was sitting in the sun reading a message by Fredrick Buechner from his book The Magnificent Defeat. In it I read:
Message in the Stars
If God really exists, why in Heaven’s names does God not prove that he exists instead of leaving us here in our terrible uncertainty? Why does he not show his face so that at last a despairing world can have hope? At one time or another, everyone asks such a question. In some objectifiably verifiable and convincing way, we want God himself to demonstrate his own existence. Deep in our hearts, I suspect that his is what all of us want, unbelievers no less than believers. And I have wondered sometimes what would happen if God were to do just that. What would happen if God did set about demonstrating his existence in some dramatic and irrefutable way?
Suppose, for instance, that God were to take the great dim river of the Milky way as we see it from down here flowing across the night sky and were to brighten it up a little and then rearrange it so that all of a sudden one night the world would step outside and look up at the heavens and see not the usual haphazard of stars but, written out in letters light years tall, the sentence: I REALLY EXIST, or GOD IS. If I were going to try to write a story or a play about such an event, I would start, of course, with the first night that this great theological headline appeared there in the stars, with suns and moons to dot the i’s and the tails of comets to cross the t’s. And I would try to show some of the ways that I can imagine people might respond to it. I would show some of them sinking to their knees, not because they are especially religious people but just because it might seem somehow the only natural thing to do under the circumstances. They would perhaps do it without even thinking about it, just crumpling down to their knees there in the tall grass out behind the garage. Some of them I would show running back into their houses in terror – guilty ones in terror of judgment, sophisticated ones in terror at the stark and terrible simplicity of it – just GOD IS written up there in the fire just the sheer and awesome vastness of the Unknown suddenly making itself known.
There would be a good many tears of regret, I suspect – people thinking that if only they had known it before, what different lives they might have had. And in many a person the sudden, wild upsurge of hope – the sick old man lying in bed where he cannot sleep and looking through his bedroom window. On the table his clock ticktocks his time away, but there in the sky he sees proof at last of a reality beyond time. And I would want to touch at least on the peculiar astonishment of preachers and theologians who spend so much of their lives talking about God that unless they are very careful, God starts to lose all reality for them and to become just a subject for metaphysical speculation. For them too there would be this great affirmation in the night, and they would discover that they had been right after all, more right than perhaps they have every quite been able to believe, and they would marvel at the strangeness of it.
What I would be trying to suggest in my story would be that the initial impact of God’s supplying the world with this kind of objective proof of his existence would be extraordinary. But as my story ended, I am afraid that in honesty I would have to suggest something else.
Several years would go by and God’s proof of himself would still be blazing away every night for all to read. In order to convince people that the message was not just some million-to-one freak of nature, I would be tempted to have God keep on rewriting it in different languages, sometimes accompanying it with bursts of pure color or with music so celestial that finally the last hardened skeptic would be convinced that God must indeed exist after all. Then the way that I would have to end it might be this. I would have a child look up at the sky some night, just a plain, garden-variety child with perhaps a wad of bubble gum in his cheek. If this were to be a movie, I would have a close-up here of just the child’s eyes with the stars reflected in them, and I would have him spell out the message syllable by syllable. And deep in the heaves there would be the usual strains of sublime music. And then I would have the child turn to his father, or maybe, with the crazy courage of childhood, I would have him turn to God himself, and the words that I would have speak would be “So what if God exists?” he would say. “What difference does that make?” And in the twinkling of an eye the message would fade away for good and the celestial music would be heard no more, or maybe they would continue for centuries to come, but it would no longer make any difference.
We all want to be certain, we all want proof, but the kind of proof that we tend to want – scientifically or philosophically demonstrable that would silence all doubts once and for all – would not in the long run, I think, answer the fearful depths of our need at all. For what we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists, not just that beyond the steely brightness of the stars there is a cosmic intelligence of some kind that keeps the whole show going, but that there is a God right there in the thick of our day-to-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but who in one way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world. It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but, whether we use religious language for it or not, the experience of God’s presence. That is the miracle that we are really after. And that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.
I believe that we know much more about God than we admit that we know, than perhaps we altogether know that we know. God speaks to us, I would say, much more often than we realize or than we choose to realize. Before the sun sets every evening, he speaks to each of us in an intensely personal and unmistakable way. His message is not written out in starlight, which in the long run would make no difference; rather, it is written out for each of us in the humdrum, helter-skelter events of each day; it is a message that in the long run might just make all the difference.
Who knows that he will say to me today or to you today in the midst of what kind of unlikely moment he will choose to say it. Not knowing is what makes today a hold mystery as every day is a holy mystery. But I believe that there are some things that by and large God is always saying to each of us. Each of us carries around inside himself, I believe, a certain emptiness – a sense that something is missing, a restlessness, a deep feeling that somehow all is not right inside his skin. Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away. In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through our missing him.
Our days are full of nonsense, and yet not, because it is precisely into the nonsense of our days that God speaks to us words of great significance – not words that are written in the stars but words that are written into the raw stuff and nonsense of our days, which are not nonsense just because God speaks into the midst of them. And the words he says, to each of us differently, are be brave … be merciful … feed my lambs …press toward the goal.
The words that God speaks to us in our lives are the real miracles. They are not miracles that create faith as we might think that a message in the stars would create faith, but they are miracles that it takes faith to see – faith in the sense of openness, faith in the sense of willingness to wait, to watch, to listen, for the incredible presence of God here in the world among us.
I was struck by this. The past few weeks have been hard for me and I am doing a lot of questioning right now. I think that I am constantly asked to be very strong - perhaps stronger than I actually am, and I can only be so strong for so long. Being positive, joyful, loving, kind, patient, understanding, generous, forgiving can be very hard to sustain. It requires a lot of energy and it is an act of will. Before long I seem to collapse underneath it all and because I am just starting to understand this responsibility that I have on myself I still become a bit lost under the weight of it. After continually saying “I trust you, God” there comes a time when emotions well up within me and I want to be angry with God, yell at God, fight with God, ignore God because He isn’t giving me what I want. I want certain answers and directions. I think I have a good picture of what I want my life to look like but God has an entirely different idea and sometimes I just wish He’d see it my way or at least give me a better idea of why He is leading me down what seems to be such a horrible path of hurt, frustration and uncertainty. In this rebellion, I end up running from Him and choosing my own way, thinking I know what’s better for me and my life. But you know what? I am not happy.
Yet one of the great gifts that God has blessed me with is the ability to see His beauty everywhere, in the smallest of things. He has blessed me with eyes to see how generous He is even in the midst of my kicking and screaming at Him. It’s really humbling. As much as I would like to ignore His voice in my day to day life and do my own thing, my heart won’t let me.
I was walking down the street in Vancouver today with some friends. I passed a homeless man sitting on a bench and he asked me a question. I thought for sure he was asking for change and my response was about to be “I’m sorry, I don’t,” and keep walking. But as I repeated what he had said in my head again it was really: “Miss, could you buy me a burger?” I looked up and there he was sitting in front of a DQ. After a brief moment of “wow,” I said “Yes, of course!” We walked in and he wanted a chicken burger and so I got him the combo. My friend John struck up a conversation with him and found out his name was Russ. Russ could hardly stand and needed to sit down. I watched John converse with him and I was moved to tears. I wished I could engage more with Russ and ask him questions and talk with him. I’ve been frustrated with myself and my lack of words and questions. But I just took him in. Russ had the most beautiful blue eyes. The order came through and I passed it to him. He said thank you and told me I was beautiful.
It kinda hurt to hear that. What I did for Russ was so small in comparison to what he gave me. For when I feel inside like an awful, ugly person someone is able to call me beautiful. It was a beautiful act, and I’m not trying to boast. I feel very undeserving of this gift but I know that God wanted to bless and affirm my heart. These are the gifts and the voice of God that take faith to see.
I just finished a book by Paulo Coelho called The Alchemist. It is about a boy who goes out on a journey in search of his dreams and his treasure – which is something he is destined to find if he follows his dreams. Along the way he meets someone called the alchemist and the alchemist joins him on his journey and teaches him important lessons. Part of his journey is a long journey through the desert where he realizes he needs to start to listen to his heart and what that might mean.
“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey. You need to learn only one more thing.” said the alchemist.
“What is it that I still need to know?” the boy asked.
“Wise men understand that this natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of his wisdom. That’s what I mean by action. […] You are in the desert. So immerse yourself in it. The desert will give you an understanding of the world; in fact, anything on the face of the earth will do that. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”
“How do I immerse myself in the desert?”
“Listen to your heart. It knows all things.”
As they moved along, the boy tried to listen to his heart.
It was not easy to do; in earlier times, his heart had always been ready to tell its story, but lately that wasn’t true. There had been times when his heart spent hours telling of its sadness, and at other times it became so emotional over the desert sunrise that the boy had to hide his tears. His heart beat faster when it spoke to the boy of treasure, and more slowly when the boy stared entranced at the endless horizons of the desert. But his heart was never quiet, even when the boy and the alchemist had fallen into silence.
“Why do we have to listen to our hearts?” to boy asked, when they had made camp that day.
“Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”
“But my heart is agitated,” the boy said. “It has its dreams, it get emotional, and it’s become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I’m thinking about her.”
“Well, that’s good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it says.”
During the next three days, the two travelers passed by a number of armed tribesmen, and saw other on the horizon. The boy’s heart began to speak of fear. It told him stories he had heard, stories of men who sought to find their treasure and never succeeded. Sometimes it frightened the boy with the idea that he might not find his treasure, or that he might die there in the desert. At other times, it told the boy that it was satisfied: it had found love and riches.
“My heart is a traitor,” the boy said to the alchemist when they had paused to rest the horses. “It doesn’t want me to go on.”
“That makes sense,” the alchemist answered. “Naturally it’s afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.”
“Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?”
“Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to hear what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you’re thinking about life and about the world.”
“You mean I should listen, even if it’s treasonous?”
“Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you’ll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them,
You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what is has to say. That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.”
The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert. He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was. He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon, his heart told him that it was happy. “Even though I complain sometimes,” it said, “it’s because I’m the heart of a person, and people’s hearts are that way. People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly.”
“My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist on night as the looked up at the moonless sky.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
“Every second of the search is and encounter with God,” the boy told his heart. “When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve know that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossibly for a shepherd to achieve.”
So his heart was quiet for an entire afternoon. That night the boy slept deeply, and, when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things. It said that all people who are happy have God within them. And that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, as the alchemist had said. Because a grain of sand is a moment of creation, and the universe has taken millions of years to create it. “Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, people’s hearts, selfdom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them—the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.
“So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.”
“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist.
“Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”
From then on, the boy understood his heart. He asked it, please, never to stop speaking to him. He asked that, when he wandered far from his dreams, his heart press him and sound the alarm. The boy swore that, every time he heard the alarm, he would heed its message.
A friend wrote to me once and said “I think the most important Jesus is the one that lives in your heart. Not the historical Jesus or even the biblical Jesus. Because your heart keeps pumping, renewing, healing and growing. It’s a living thing. So this Jesus might be a living thing as well.”
I want to listen to my heart because Jesus dwells there. I want to listen because it shows me more beauty than anything else. It shows me that faith has the greatest eyes and that God is speaking to me in the little moments that take your breath away and even the ones that don’t. And sometimes it needs to complain, too. And that’s ok.
When we were in Montreal Sienna came into my room one day before we were heading out to go for a walk. I was just sitting at my desk probably pondering a heaviness I was feeling in my heart and body and she asked me if I was okay. I told her that I wasn’t feeling the best and that I didn’t really know what was wrong. Yet, as it is with good friends, I began to spill out my feelings, knowing it might not make any sense but more importantly knowing that someone was listening. I said I was lonely and upset and that it was probably affecting my body because my body was aching and sore. She asked if there was anything she could do to make me feel better. I asked if she’d pray for me. She said of course she would. She sat by my side and held my hand. As the words started spilling from her ever-so-present spirit, I burst into tears. I realized then that I miss and am lonely for my faith community. I miss my family and friends who love God and who show me the love of God by praying with me and loving on me their love along with God’s love.
I cry almost every time I take a breath to really pray. Prayer is one of the greatest gifts there is. And to pray with someone is even greater.
Looking back, I can see a clear journey through my life of prayer. As a young child I loved prayer before bed. My mom and dad taught us a dutch lullaby and it was always fun to sing with which ever one was tucking me in. The last lyrics being God Bless...and we’d go through our entire family and extended family. Sometime throwing in our best friends and their families! In my youth, I remember not taking prayer very seriously. It was always much too serious, much too boring and much, much too long. I recall joking around with my siblings throughout prayer at the dinner table. We were supposed to close our eyes and hold hands as my mom or my dad prayed over the meal. We’d either be making faces with each other, squeezing each others hands so hard, or trying to keep ourselves from laughing. Or in church, when it was even longer, I remember leaning forward and either falling asleep or (and now this is embarrassing to admit) drooling on purpose, trying to aim my spit into one of the squares in the carpet. Not my proudest of memories.
I moved from my home to Rosebud and there I meet my dearest friend Cassia. I began to observe deep reverence in her being; a deep connection to God that I hadn’t known. I observed a depth, a weight, a solidness in her that I didn’t understand but admired. I wished to know what she knew; to stand as she stood. I remember sitting by the river in Rosebud with a dear friend from Germany who always brought prayer into the conversation. I opened up to her that I didn’t know how to pray and always felt tongue-tied when I tried. She encouraged me to write my prayers down. That is when I started my first prayer journal. Slowly I began to discover my own prayer and conversation with God but I was still terrified to offer any words aloud in Chapel or church or even at the dinner table. I began to listen more. The prayers of my father stood out to me. They were always so beautiful, so honest and so poetic. I didn’t think of my father as a man of many words, great words or deep words until I heard him, really heard him, pray. I heard an honest man humbling himself before the Lord and lifting his request to God with grace and truth.
I spoke to a mentor of mine about my fear to pray in public, afraid of what to say. He encouraged me with words of beauty and truth of those who sit in the silence, who are reverent, who are more choice with their timing of prayer that is offered aloud for others to hear. It took me awhile to accept this truth, that it was part of me. But over the years, I’ve been more bold once in a while. My heart still pounds, but I think it is the pounding of my heart that tells me that this prayer should maybe be heard and shared by others.
Then I met two extraordinary people, around the same time but different circumstances, who brought prayer into our friendship and everyday conversation. I’d never met anyone like Brandon or Sarah. They exhorted the love and light of Jesus with their words, actions and love. I was so inspired by the faiths of these individuals and how “Let’s pray about it” became part of our vocabulary.
I still feel like a beginner. However, I understand the importance and meaning of prayer. I understand that sometimes we do not have words; that we go through times when God feels really far away and we really do not know what to say to Him; that when these times come the Spirit is interceding for us with groans that words cannot express(Romans 8:26-28 ). I understand accusing Him, questioning Him, yelling at Him in prayer. I understand ignoring Him, running from Him, doubting Him in prayer. I also understand and know the love of God and how deep it runs because of the time I have spent in prayer surrendering, crying, laughing, opening, listening, sharing. The more I fall in love with who God is the more I open myself to loving others and seeing their God-Light. The more I love others, the more I love God, the more I pray. My thoughts become my prayers through-out the day because I am constantly wanting to invite God into my thoughts, into my day, into my life because He opens my eyes and my heart to seeing beauty, joy, hope.
And it is hard. Most times God doesn’t answer right away. He takes His good ol’ time and we are asked to wait patiently. Which is even harder in this day and age, where we are always demanding quick results, quick answers, quick technology, transportation, etc, etc. We don’t take the time for anything anymore and God is often pushed to the very back of our priority lists.
My favorite verse right now has become Psalm 27:13+14. “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
This morning I read in Romans 8:24-25: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what one already has? But if we hope for what we no do yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Those two verse are hard pills to swallow, but you know what? The truth usually is. And that’s the truth. TAKE HEART! and WAIT FOR THE LORD.