The River

by Dustin Davis

One day I discover that deep inside my heart a river flows. So deep is this river that before I stumbled upon it – quite by accident mind you – I never knew it existed. Even as this river is new to me I can tell it is an ancient river, its banks carving out the landscape long before. What a delight to find such an unexpected surprise in what I thought was the well-mapped terrain of my heart!

Time and time again I return to the river. Its beauty is at times beyond comprehension or expression, and it seems enough to simply sit along the edge and take in the dazzling sight. So much of this river still remains a mystery. I don’t know its source or to where it stretches over the horizon. And what to name it? The River of Life, the Flow, the Living Water, the Force, the One…

I decide that I should build a place to live along the shore of this river, as majestic as it is. Who wouldn’t want to live amongst such scenery? Stone by stone I build my dwelling. It is hard work! When I grow tired from my labor I walk to the river to rest, to get a drink. How refreshing! Most times I return quickly to the task at hand, but sometimes I linger. “Drink of me and never thirst again,” the river quietly whispers, lapping at the shore.

My stone house grows very large. It has more rooms than I had originally planned. It appears impressive to some, though I never seem satisfied. Its walls are too high, and it’s hard to see the river outside because the windows are too small, too few. It does offer a certain level of shelter and comfort, but then what’s the point of living so near the river, I catch myself wondering.

There are times when I leave my house to marvel at the river. “Never thirst again,” it invites me. Drawn by its cool, healing waters, I actually wade into the river. It moves swiftly around me, the current gentle but strong. What a feeling to be part of the river, to be part of something more! I swim out from the shore and am caught in the current. I begin to flail and flounder. I can’t touch the riverbed below. Already I am swept down the river away from my house. I try desperately to swim upstream, fighting the current. In a matter of mere moments I am exhausted and gasping for breath. Finally, once I reach my familiar shore and my house, I pull myself from the river and collapse on the dry ground.

At night I sit and look at the river from inside my house. It sparkles in the moonlight, the stars reflecting on the smooth surface. It was exhilarating to be swept of my feet, but startling nonetheless. I have too many questions and not enough answers it seems. Should I risk going back in? I wonder. What if I am swept away for good? What if I end up so far down the river I can’t make it back? What will happen to my house that I’ve worked so hard to build? My lovely view of the river will be lost! Do the waters turn choppy? Are there rapids? A waterfall? I realize that I can’t control the river.

“Be still,” the water calls, and I go outside. Even though I can’t see where the river flows beyond the horizon I imagine it flowing where all rivers flow, to the ocean. My deepest longing is to float along the river, not fighting, not struggling, but riding the twists and the turns and the rapids. My deepest longing is to float in that Great Ocean at the end, held aloft by the buoyancy of the loving voice that assures me, “You are mine.”

I stick my feet back in the river.

A Place of Confrontation

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Turn off the radio, TV, phone, or computer, and simply work or rest in silence. As you hear the sounds of life around you, allow yourself to be filled with awe and gratitude at the presence of God’s Spirit in diverse ways.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

Today’s post is a reflection on the practice of silence written by Dustin Davis, a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team. May your Good Friday be holy confrontational and blessed!

A Place of Confrontation
by Dustin Davis

In my experience there are two levels of silence. The first level is a more superficial type of silence. It’s characterized by the relief that comes when a loud noise passes. Living in a city as big as Los Angeles I experience noise followed by this type of silence all the time when a circling helicopter finally flies into the distance, when screaming sirens continue down the street out of earshot or when a honking car alarm mercifully halts. Indeed, whenever I travel back to Missouri I’m struck by the silence, particularly at night. It’s restful, and it’s peaceful.

The other, and deeper, level of silence doesn’t happen spontaneously. In fact, I have to be rather intentional about it. I have to purposefully turn off the radio and tv, remove my cell phone to another room and attempt the often impossible task of quieting my own thoughts. I have to make space for this type of silence, and it’s in this place that I do my best to listen to the still small voice that is God. This kind of silence, although it may bring me peace, isn’t peaceful at all. It’s a place of confrontation.

During Lent this year I’ve been reading The Last Week by Marcus Borg. In it he examines each day, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, of Jesus’s life as narrated in the gospel of Mark. It’s been a fascinating journey, and one of the points that Borg makes abundantly clear is that the last week of Jesus’s life, what we experience this week as Holy Week, is a time of extreme confrontation with the unjust systems of the Roman empire and with those who collude and are complicit within those systems. Borg says, “As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus’s final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as all know, it killed him.”

Silence, real and deep silence, can be a scary thing. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so difficult to achieve. We wouldn’t have the countless options for distraction that we do today. It’s only in this place where we can sense God truly calling us that we are confronted with our own unjust actions and complicity in the status quo. When we put away the phones and the music and the other noise that fills our lives, our fears and insecurities and vulnerabilities raise to the top, and we hear God’s loving voice nudging us to reconciliation, to love deeper, risk greater, to seek the kingdom. This requires within us to change and to die, and we don’t often do so willingly. However, as Jesus shows us time and time again, this is the path of the disciple that we must all take.

So often we confuse the peace we seek with the simple absence of unwanted or loud noises. It’s giving up chocolate for Lent and making it to the end without cheating only to binge the next day. It feels good, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. But we have to stop fooling ourselves and recognize that there is so much more.

The good news is that we know death is not the end. Even as Jerusalem was a place of confrontation and death for Jesus, it was also a place of resurrection. We cling to the Easter promise of new life beyond our imaginings, which is good and hopeful, but it’s only once we die and live again that it stops being just a promise or a story. Our suffering is transformed into new life, into the reality we call God’s Kingdom. Only then can we call ourselves an Easter people and say we believe in the resurrection!

Formed By Each Other

Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Reflect on your life and consider the people who have helped you grow in your faith. Write a letter of gratitude to a person who has been formative to you.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“SEARCH MY HEART AND MAKE IT ONE WITH YOURS.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The soul is a pliable substance
We are formed by each other
Into holy shapes
Over time

If I were to begin to express
My abounding gratitude
For the many other souls
Who have participated
In shaping my own
It might go something like this:

Thank you for seeing me
Really seeing me
For taking a risk on the worth
And potential
You thought you saw
For investing yourself
So whole-heartedly
In the life of another
With no guarantee
Of anything in return

Thank you for awakening
Gifts lying dormant
And tending them
To fullest life in me

Thank you for the ways
You assured me
In each moment of doubt
Affirming my questions
As faithful
The questions themselves
Pathways into the future
I could not yet see
But could somehow still trust

Each word a shaping
Each moment a molding
Not into your likeness
But into the shape of the One
Shaping you
Shaping us

Thank you for what you never
Said out-loud
But lived
Which I noticed
Which I admired
Which I desired to live
Which spoke louder
Than anything
Anyone
Has
Ever
Said

“You hold precious lives in your hands. Be gentle and gracious with one another.” Doctrine & Covenants Section 162