Create in Me a Clean Heart and a New Blog Post

Today’s post is by Kimberly Borin

I said “yes” to writing a blog. At the time, writing a blog about something I loved seemed like a piece of cake. I could instantly see all of the prayers I would include, the artwork, the inspirational music videos and more.  I was excited to create the blog until I actually started writing and wondering how I would fill its approximately 50 blog posts.

The topic was Lent and all of the days leading up to the magnificent Easter celebration. In the midst of creating the posts I was thinking about my own Lenten journey. I was praying for perfect words and a clean heart so that the posts would be holy and a blessing.  I was trying to get it just right and was feeling very overwhelmed.

Then, I realized, it made sense that I felt a little frightened. I was writing about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his resurrection from the dead, and his hope and love for all of humanity.  I wanted to capture the essence of the angels and their message of courage and love, too. I asked myself, “How could I possibly capture any of the hope, joy, suffering, humility, sacrifice, and love in any of my small blog posts?”  I felt defeated and felt afraid to try.

At the same time, I was also excited and decided to just begin. I gave myself permission to be a Child of God, just doing the very best I could with the very best intentions. I humbly started writing, added photos, art, inspirational music videos, and poetry. I had hopes that some of these might capture the glory of God and His love for us. It was a humbling undertaking to say the very least.

While working on the blog I could hear myself say, “Create in me a clean heart and please just one more blog post.”  It was a strange juxtaposition of creativity and spirituality.  I had arrived somewhere between the garden of suffering and learning how to upload just the right photo. I felt inadequate on more than one occasion and prayed that it would offer people the hope or comfort that they needed.

The creation of the blog became a prayer in itself. Offering only what I knew how to do and trusting that God would just fill in the rest. It was (and is) a walk of faith and I am hoping that God will offer whoever reads the blog just what they need on their own Lenten journey.  I trust that the blog is just a simple bridge for love and grace that only God can bring.

And so once again I pray to God, “Create in me a clean heart and please just take care of the rest.”  If you’d like to check out the blog posts, they began on February 10, 2016 (https://becomingthestorywetell.blogspot.com ). This is a part of the ministry of my church, The Church of the Holy Spirit, Episcopal Church. I am wishing you and all those you love a most magnificent Lenten journey and the abundant joy and peace during the Easter Season.


kimberlyborin

Dr. Kimberly Borin is a School Counselor, Retreat Leader, and in training to be a Spiritual Director in Nurturing the Call: the Spiritual Guidance Program of the Shalem Institute.  She believes that we can find peace and grace in simple ways, each moment. She has been a teacher and counselor since 1989 and holds a doctorate in Education, a master degree in Educational Leadership and one in School Counseling.  She is an Ananda Yoga Teacher for adults and children and the author of the Laughter Salad series of books. You can learn more about Kimberly at: www.TheEncouragingWorks.com.

Are you a clergy person who would like to deepen your inner life, as well as bring a contemplative dimension to your congregational life? Shalem’s Going Deeper: Clergy Spiritual Life and Leadership Program is taking applications right now! Early bird registration deadline is March 1, and final application deadline is April 1. Learn more about this respected program here: Going Deeper.

What Does it Mean to Be Beloved of God?

Today’s post is by Juliet Vedral

It happened at the last day—the last hour really—of the 2013 Shalem YALLI kick-off retreat (Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative). As our ragtag group of contemplatives wrote down on paper the blockages we sensed to living lives connected to the Spirit, we placed them in a bowl. We were then asked to come up, take a few of the slips of paper, hold them up to God, then return them to the bowl with a prayer: “I am the Beloved of God.”

This snarky, snide former Pastors’ Kid (yes, that’s two pastors) rolled the eyes of her heart. What did that prayer even mean? But then that question tugged at me: what does it mean to be the Beloved of God? It seemed to be the question I had always been asking. Could that really be true of me?

I’ve always loved John’s gospel the most, primarily because of his audacity to define himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” What a claim, right? Yet it seemed the journey that the Spirit was inviting me to take as we left the retreat was to be able to claim for myself, for my core identity, “the Beloved of God.”

2013-06-23 09.02.12Flash forward 10 months. I am on a work retreat with the messaging team and Anne Grizzle, my mentor through Shalem’s YALLI program. I had suggested that one of my projects to incorporate contemplative practices in the workplace was to have this team take some time to learn how best to listen to the Spirit and each other. As we did some listening and discernment, I shared about my life and how I felt as though I have been on a pilgrimage in the darkness and not sure to what end.

To my surprise, two of my colleagues said that they believed I was “blessed” and that perhaps the season I was in was less about me and more for others. It was not what I’d hoped to hear. Still, it struck a chord in me—as in, it caused all the notes that had been playing in my head and my heart for months to harmonize.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, Life of the Beloved, writes that being the Beloved of God means that we are taken, blessed, broken, and then given to others. As Jesus was blessed, broken, and given to us, so are we to the world. It is at once a beautiful and terrible thing to claim about oneself.

As I contemplate certain areas of my life that feel broken, I recognize that perhaps I’m missing the “slow work of God” because change isn’t happening fast enough. Perhaps the challenge of being the Beloved is having the eyes to see that this life is about God and God’s work in this world.

A co-worker recently referenced a sermon she’d heard a few years earlier, about being in the river of God. As we wade deeper into that river, we are carried to places we may not have willingly gone.

Right now I feel that I am at a place in my life where I would not have willingly gone. I am a single (off of a recent, perplexing break up), 33-year-old, childless woman with a great job, but not in her vocation, far from home. All of these aspects of my life make me feel as though I am not Beloved, as I would prefer to be married, with children, living into a vocational calling and near my family. There is a powerful temptation to feel purposeless and “cursed” by God when looking at my life through the lens of a self-centered world that tells me I am barren because I am alone and childless and not “living my dream.”

And yet the One whom God proclaimed a beloved child that pleased the Divine, was “like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53: 3b). In this upside-down kingdom, Belovedness looks broken. It looks low and impoverished, without “beauty or majesty.” That’s quite a depressing image, right? Who’d really want to sign up for that?

On my birthday I joked that this was my “Jesus year.” Well, here was another 33-year-old, alone, without any descendants, unrecognized for the work he was doing, far from home. So when my colleagues said back to me something I couldn’t hear—the voice of God saying “this is my Beloved Daughter in whom I am well pleased”— it was transformative. To be considered “blessed” despite feeling otherwise showed me how much farther I need to go in embracing all of God’s love towards me. Not just the warm, fuzzy parts. But the real life parts of being broken in front of people and letting them see God heal and restore.

Isn’t that the reason we claim “the Beloved of God” as our identity? I am my father and mother’s beloved daughter even when I don’t always feel it. When I was a child and they didn’t give me what I wanted all the time and they disciplined me to be a kind, thoughtful person, it was because they loved me. As the author of Hebrews writes, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (Hebrews 12:7). This discipline is not punishment but instead is teaching me to know my worth to God. I am Beloved even when it doesn’t feel like it and through this process being made more and more like Jesus. And like him, may I continue to be chosen, blessed, broken, and given to those who need to see the slow—yet powerful—work of God.


Juliet Vedral is a member of the YALLI class of 2015. She is the press secretary for Sojourners and the editor of a literary magazine called The Wheelhouse Review. You can follow her on Twitter.