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Hungers of the Heart by Richard G. Watts (excerpts)

Hungers of the heart: to find a personal reason for being here, a purpose worth living for; hunger to shed our loneliness, to have honest relationships with one another; for a society that is more peaceable and fair; and a hunger to feel at home in a cosmos that we so briefly inhabit, a hunger that many people call God.
Regarding the words Spiritual and Religious, you might think of it this way: Spirituality is personal religion and religion is social spirituality. Both words refer to the human need to find our place in the overall scheme of things.
However, in virtually every field of human endeavor, new discoveries are praised. …In no other area of life is denial of progress held up as a virtue, except religion.
Carl Sagan was right: “Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
But often our skepticism doesn’t go deep enough, because both reason and science don’t go deep enough to satisfy the hungers of the human heart. And reason can be used to rationalize bad behavior and science can be used for destruction.
While rightly appalled by the evil done in the name of religion, do we picture a Jesus who would bash gays, cover up for priestly pedophiles, or beat the drums for a holy war?
Carl Sagan again: “Nearly every scientist has experienced in a moment of discovery or sudden understanding, a reverential astonishment.”
This sense of awe and wonder is the cornerstone of all authentic religion. But just as we have trouble describing or explaining the meaningfulness of music, art, love, beauty….so do we in explaining our trust in the meaningfulness of life, which is what faith means.
Religion or spirituality is a focused attitude of trust that moves us to an ethical lifestyle that becomes our thank you note for the gift of being here.

The Love of God

The Love of God is the only thing
of any importance at all.
The Love of God is so incredibly different
and beyond compare
that it boggles our ability to believe in it
enough to accept it.
No matter how much we have been loved
by family and friends,
no matter how famous and wildly adored
by the multitudes,
nothing has ever been more than
a barely glimpsed shadow
of the Love of God.
The Love of God is all that is necessary.
We need nothing more
than to know the unconditional love of God
with our whole mind,
to experience it with an open heart
until our spirit is so filled
with it, that we simply pass it on
by letting it overflow.
We begin to sense this Love of God
when we consider
the possibility that the creator of the universe
chose to walk in our skin,
to experience the frustrating and fearful limits
of being human,
being born under crushing political oppression,
a scorned minority,
bearing physical exhaustion and bodily pain,
the heartbreak
of being abandoned and even betrayed
by his only friends,
publicly ridiculed, tortured and killed,
even taking the
leap of faith into the darkness of death
to show us there is more,
because of His Love.
The love of God can free us to see ourselves
exactly as we are,
to accept our own need for forgiveness
without guilt, just true sorrow
that brings a joy that sets us free from fear
and gives us grace to change.
The Love of God begins to free us to forgive
both ourselves and others.
The Love of God heals us of the crippling wounds
that stunt our growth in love.
The Love of God takes our mustard seed of good
and nurtures it with grace.
The Love of God builds our faith and sets us free
to die and live again.
The Love of God is
personal, unconditional, and eternal.
All else fails.
There is nothing greater than
the Love of God expressed in Jesus,
the Love of God for you.

Hopes, Dreams, and Breadcrumbs

I’ve always struggled with unrealistic expectations and the depression that follows when I’m forced to face the realities of our human imperfections (including mine) and a seemingly hopelessly imperfect world.
One of my many disillusionments has been how imperceptible are the differences even the greatest of us makes. For every plague we cure, another one is born. From every war we win, the seeds of the next are sown. For every race or nation emancipated, we project our inner evil on another one. For every answer we discover, a new question arises.
I cling to the hope, that in the overall picture of eons of evolution, that there is progress imperceptible to us in humanity’s short history, but recognizable to God.
Sometimes in the crucible of my own struggle to become the person God created me to be, no matter how humiliatingly limited that potential may be, I get a glimpse of a tiny, almost imperceptible new strength, understanding, and freedom in my willingness to love. If I can resist being overwhelmed by the multitude of areas where I still fall short, I can focus on the next breadcrumb in the spiritual trail God has scattered for me in my daily life.
The key word for me is ‘tiny.’ My illusions are large with fairy tale size expectations.
My husband was a realist, who lived in the moment, and was able to focus on just the next task. I once had a dream in which we were at dinner on a river cruise. The waiters kept bringing small appetizer like courses, one after the other. My husband happily ate each one as it came, while I refrained, waiting for the main course. At some point I realized that there was no main course.
I cannot lie, it’s still frustrating. Sometimes, I have overwhelming dark days of discouragement. But they aren’t frequent, they don’t last long, and usually I can follow God’s bread crumbs out into the light again, feeling a tiny bit stronger and wiser and a tiny bit more able to love. Grace can turn dark times into what stretches us and increases our capacity not only for persevering, but for joy and love.
Some of those bread crumbs are found in blogs I follow. Two particularly (but not limited to these) are: Unshakable Hope and Make Believe Boutique
The many sources of bread crumbs vary greatly from Scripture, nature, friends, books, movies, TV, dreams, memories, and even the comic strips. When we look for God’s breadcrumbs, they are everywhere.

Grace for the Hard Times

I’m seventy-five now and once again, I can walk, climb a hill, and even dance a little. In my late fifties, I was dependent on a wheelchair to even get across my house. It was a long house with a lot of two stair changes in levels, so it wasn’t really handicapped accessible. The house, designed by my architect husband to uniquely suit our own way of living, was in the middle of our hundred acre weed and rock sanctuary, almost fifteen minutes from town, down dirt roads, and through a creek. It was my idea of heaven, until I ended up in a wheelchair.
My five children were grown and gone and my husband worked long days, six days a week. So, I was pretty isolated. I put a roll away bed in the middle of my kitchen, where I could spend the day, and usually manage to cook meals and load and run the dishwasher and the washer/dryer.
Two fairly new friends began bringing out delicious lunches and delightful movies twice a week. They also took me in the wheel chair to events at Museums and even Christmas shopping at a Mall. These visits and outings were filled with laughter and special treats of Caramel Frappuccinos and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies, that quickly became traditions.
One of the movies we watched was a Canadian film, Strangers in Good Company. This was about a tour bus of elderly ladies getting stranded in the Canadian woods. The younger woman bus driver had a sprained ankle, so the little old ladies had to rally and organize for survival. The women became quite resourceful in finding food. They stretched the rather large bus driver’s panty hose open on shrub branches, and held it across a creek to catch small fish. Another woman showed how to go frog-gigging with sharpened sticks. Shared leftover cookies, apples, and candy bars helped supplement foraging. The women bonded, sharing life memories, and renewing their spirits through taking time to just soak in the beauty surrounding them. Of course, at the end, they were rescued, but it was what they made of the time together, that was the point of the movie.
In spite of my friends helping me, I did struggle with depression over my situation, fearing it was permanent. But the movie made me re-evaluate my priorities.
Nature was really a source of connectedness to God for me. And my house was open to the woods around us through walls of glass doors. The kitchen was open to the great-room, so from both my bed in the kitchen (my “bitchen”) and my bed in the master bedroom, I could see and hear birds of all kinds, watch the hummingbirds kama-kazi diving at each other, and even watch a doe and her brand new fawn in the small clearing outside the windows. She brought the fawn just as it was learning to gambol and play. For several weeks she and I would both lie contentedly watching the fawn play. Other times, a male wild turkey would do his awesome dance in courting a couple of “ladies” in the clearing. A possum came in the evening and scratched on the screen door. A crazy, but beautiful cardinal, fixated on his reflection in one of the glass doors, spent days flying into the door and then regrouping in the plum tree next to it. Cardinals in the snow whitened winter landscape or among the spring dogwood blossoms were among my favorite things.
The movie made me realize that I experienced the presence and grace of God most in two things: the beauty of nature and in relationships. And wheel chair bound or not, I was blessed with good friends, a husband that loved me, and surrounded, up close and personal, by the beauty of nature. Even in a wheelchair, I had a bubbling spring of grace around me.