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My Two Versions of a Beatitude

Janet O. Hagberg

Beatitude Poem: French Pantoum form

Stanza 1:

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

 

Stanza 2:

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

For your life will be transformed

 

Stanza 3:

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

For your life will be transformed

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

c Janet O. Hagberg, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

My Original Beatitude

Blessed are you who created me along with every leaf and bird and animal and snowflake; and now watch over us all

Blessed are you who know me inside and out and shower me with your love

Blessed are you who weep when I weep and laugh when I laugh

Blessed are you who make plans for my growth in ways too deep for words

Blessed are you who pick me up when I fall and hold me until the fear transforms me

Blessed are you who choose to use all of my weaknesses and imperfections to display your glory and power

Blessed are you who bring forth joy and gladness out of my pain when I attend to it with courage

Blessed are you who make your home in me

Blessed are you

c Janet O. Hagberg, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

Reflections on these beatitudes

Which lines resonate most with you?

How does God most bless your life?

How do you bless God’s life in you?

What is your gratitude beatitude?

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Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Five versions: NRSV, The Message, Aramaic, C. Paintner, F. Buechner

 

Blessed are you when people revile you.

Verse 11-12:

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. NRSV

 

Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit you. What it means it that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can even be glad when that happens—give a cheer even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. The Message

 

Renewal when you are reproached and driven away by the clamor of evil on all sides, for my sake…Then do everything extreme, including letting your ego disappear, for this is the secret of claiming your expanded home in the universe. For so they shamed those before you: All who are enraptured, saying inspired things—who produce on the outside what the spirit has given them within. Aramaic

 

What are the quiet voices within you that have been persecuted? How have you shut out the wisdom of these smaller selves? How might you begin to make room for them to emerge? …Remember the cloud of witnesses who stand beside you supporting you in this journey. See if any of them have faces you recognize. Christine Paintner

 

Jesus says that his listeners are blessed when they are worked over and cursed out on his account…It is not his hard times to come but theirs he is concerned with, speaking out of his own meekness and mercy, the purity of his own heart. Frederick Buechner

 

Reflections on this Beatitude:

Which version speaks to you most?

How does it relate to your life now?

What would your own beatitude be, if you would write one?

How is God a beatitude (a blessing) for you?

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are Those who are Persecuted

 

Verse 10:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you deeper into God’s kingdom. (The Message)

 

Blessed are those who are dislocated for the cause of justice; their new home is the province of the universe. (Aramaic)

 

Who does Jesus commend? Jesus saved for last the ones who side with Heaven even when any fool can see it’s the losing side and all you get for your pain is pain. Looking into the faces of his listeners, he speaks to them directly for the first time. “Blessed are you,” He says. (Frederick Buechner)

 

Reflections on this Beatitude:
Which of the four versions do you most resonate with?
Have you ever been persecuted (or belittled or questioned or mocked or written off) for your commitment to faith or to God?

 

How did it change you?

 

What could you do to “side with Heaven” in your current life, even if it caused you some pain?

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are the Peacemakers

 

Verse 9:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. (The Message)

 

Blessed are those who plant peace each season; they shall be named the children of God. (Aramaic, Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos)

 

Your place of grief teaches you compassion and invites you to treat others with compassion. The peacemakers are those who seek to bring peace to their own hearts so that their interactions with others come from a place of peace. They are those who extend the practice of shalom into the world. Where in your heart do you experience the longing to make peace? (Christine Paintner, The Artist’s Rule)

 

Who does Jesus commend? Not the ones who have necessarily found peace in its fullness but the ones who, just for that reason, try to bring it about wherever and however they can—peace with their neighbors and God, peace with themselves. (Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark)

 

 

Reflections on this beatitude

Which of the options resonates with you the most? Why?

How are you doing with finding peace within your own heart?

Where in your world does peace most need to grow?

How do you experience God’s peace?

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed Are The Pure in Heart

 

Verse 8:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (The Message)

 

Aligned with the One are those whose lives radiate from a core of love; they shall see God everywhere. (Aramaic)

 

To be pure in heart means to live in congruity between your inner life and your outer life; it means to live from an awareness of the Sacred Source who is pulsing in your own heart and in the world around you, moment by moment. Where in your life do you have a longing for integrity and for seeing God more clearly in each moment? (Christine Paintner, The Artist’s Rule)

 

Who does Jesus choose to commend? Not the totally pure but the “pure in heart,” to use Jesus’ phrase, the ones who may be as shop-worn and clay-footed as the next one but have somehow kept some inner freshness and innocence intact. (Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark)

 

 

Reflections on this beatitude

Which of the five versions appeals to you now in your life?

When has your life radiated from a place of love and you noticed?

How has it felt for you to have your inner life and outer life be congruent?

How do you show a longing for more of God?

How do you keep an inner freshness, despite all of life’s challenges?

What is your prayer for yourself and others around this beatitude?

 

 

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed Are The Merciful

 

Verse 7:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-ful,’ you find yourselves cared for. (The Message)

 

Blessed are those who, from their inner wombs, birth mercy; they shall feel its warm arms embrace them. (Aramaic)

 

Those who are merciful are the ones who extend grace; they also receive grace in return. Where in your heart do you experience the longing for grace and mercy? Which part of you offers mercy and grace to others and which part resists? Christine Paintner, The Artist’s Rule

 

Who does Jesus choose to commend? Not the winners of great victories over Evil in the world but the ones who, seeing it also in themselves every time they comb their hair in front of the bathroom mirror, are merciful when they find it in others and maybe that way win the greater victory. Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

 

 

 

Reflections on this beatitude

Which of the five versions appeals to you now in your life?

Who has been most merciful to you in your life? How did it affect you?

Who do you feel the most mercy for at this moment? Why? What will you do?

What is your prayer for yourself and others around this beatitude?

 

 

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed Are The Meek

 

Verse 5:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (The Message)

 

Happy are those who have softened what is rigid within; they shall receive physical vigor and strength from the universe. (Aramaic)

 

To be meek means to have softened what is rigid within, to be like the fertile soil that receives its nourishment from the rain, allowing it to seep down into its substance. Is there a place within you that is longing to soften and yield? Is there a tender place longing to emerge and be expressed? What is the wisdom the earth has to offer you? Notice what stirs in response, and make room to be present to this experience. (The Artist’s Rule, Christine Paintner)

 

Reflections on this beatitude

Which of the four versions appeals to you now in your life?

What has the word meek meant to you in the past?

What does it mean for you to be meek now?
What is your prayer for yourself and others around this beatitude?

 

 

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed Are Those who Mourn

 

Verse 4:

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (The Message)

 

Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; they shall be united inside by love. (Aramaic)

 

Grief tells us that we loved deeply and that we are passionate. We are often unaware of the grief that we carry, that has been pushed aside in the rush of life or in the judgment that we should be done with its work. In reality, grief is slow. It rises and falls like a tide. Where in your heart do you experience a grief that lingers, that is calling for some attention? Notice the thoughts and feelings that respond, and be present to this experience. (The Artist’s Rule, Christine Paintner)

 

 

Reflections on this beatitude

Which of the four versions do you resonate with the most? Why?

Where are you feeling grief in your life; relationships, work, pets, loss of a vision?

How do you feel God guiding you through this grief process whether old or new grief?

How can grief be a blessing?

Beatitudes: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5: 3-11

 

I share four versions of each beatitude: New Revised Standard Version, The Message, one of several choices from an Aramaic translation, and Christine Paintner’s reflection from her book, The Artist’s Rule. The reason for this is that the Beatitudes are frequently hard to understand or to translate to our own lives. I hope that this opportunity to experience them from different viewpoints will open them for you and take you to a new place within yourself. I hope this inspires you to write your own beatitude or to sing it or to pray it. Blessed are you who receive this love.

 

 Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Verse 3:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is the more of God and his rule. (The Message)

 

Tuned into the Source are those who live by breathing Unity; their ”I can!” is included in God’s. (Aramaic)

 

Paintner’s reflection: She says the Beatitudes are not about our big radiant self, but about the tender, quiet self, or the self who has been shut out for some reason. Now we can invite the wisdom of the quiet self.

“To be poor in spirit is to surrender yourself to something much bigger and vaster than you own ego. This poverty allows you to recognize your experience of exile in the world. God is present as the one who stirs in the depths of our hearts, not in the dominant ways we usually think out in the world. The experience of poverty and brokenness often acquaints us more deeply with the gift of simplicity as we discover what is most important. Where in your heart do you experience this call to simplicity, to finding that place where you and God meet? Notice what stirs in response, and be present to this experience. “

 

Reflections on this post.

Where does this beatitude resonate in you?

Which version speaks to you and why?

Where are you poor in spirit right now?

Where in your heart do you experience the call to simplicity that Paintner describes?

The Poor in Spirit; Why are They Blessed?

I’ve been intrigued with the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 5) all of my adult life. I think my interest comes from the challenge that Jesus is extending to us, to be so counter cultural, so unrealistic, maybe even unhealthy. The three beatitudes that bother me—or perhaps intrigue me—the most are blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who are persecuted for my name’s sake, and the ultimate one, blessed are the poor in spirit. I’ve always wondered about this one. What does it mean to be poor in spirit and how can that be blessed?

After years of experiencing the pilgrimage we call the inner life I have found some kindred spirits throughout history who describe rather profoundly what it is like to be poor in spirit. People like Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill, Macrina Weideker, Ignatius of Loyola, Barbara Brown Taylor and Jean Vanier all speak of the journey of being poor in spirit in words that are simple and yet profound. I find their words best summed up this way: self-emptying.

Macrina Weideker’s description send chills down my spine whenever I hear it. She says, in an excerpt from her poem, Blessed are the Poor in Spirit,
Being poor in spirit means
having nothing to call your own,
except your own poverty.
It is a joyful awareness of your emptiness.
It is the soil of opportunity
for God has space to work
in emptiness that is owned.

Being poor in spirit means
knowing that you are so small
and dependent
needy and powerless
that you live with an open heart
waiting to be blessed.
For only then can you be blessed
If you know
that you need blessing.

Jesus is our ultimate role model for self-emptying. He gave up equality with God, the writer of Philippines tells us (Phil. 2:3-7). He emptied himself, was born in human form and became obedient to the point of giving up his life. It’s hard for me to read these words yet they are so inspiring. I want to let go of the illusion of control in my life. I want to live a smaller, simpler and more meaningful life. I want to live with an open heart and open hands. I long to feel blessed. I know I need blessing. But it is so hard to live into this in a culture that values all of the opposites of what I long for. I need daily reminders and a lot of support from kindred spirits just to stay focused on wanting to live these desires.

Just recently I had a vivid reminder that I am not yet able to take everything in stride because it is not mine to control. I thought I had sold my condo. A woman had been to see it several times, emailing me for more details. She had offered to rent it with a large deposit until she could sell her own home. I thought we were well on the way to closure. Then I got an email saying she had found another condo that fit her needs better. This jarred me and I slipped into fear and dread.

Why was this so upsetting? Well first, it was just plain disappointing. But more than that, I had orchestrated this deal so that I could move when I wanted to and get a particular apartment. So I had it all completed in my mind. This really upset my plans. And beneath that there was also another truth.

I really don’t trust God. In fact, I am afraid of God.

I can see this truth as my cutting edge in life. Can I trust God? Do I believe God is there for me, that God will care for me, find me worthy to be loved? When I calm down and reflect, I have had dozens of examples of ways in which God is there for me, cares for me, seeks me out to show me how cherished I am, whether I feel worthy or not. Yet I still need reminders, especially when the unexpected happens. This condo sale is a way for me to simplify, to get smaller, to move closer to the heart of God, to self-empty; yet some part of me is afraid that I might lose myself completely, so that part of me fights to hold on, to get control.

Only God can help me with this dilemma. Only God can soothe me to the point where self-emptying feels holy and where dependency feels sacred. Only God can bless my emptiness and show me the way to God’s heart and a new way of living my life, a life of love.

Henri Nouwen puts into words what I am longing to experience in my emptiness.
It is very hard to allow emptiness in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.

Maybe the secret to moving forward in faith, no matter where we are, is to ask God to help us even to let go of our fear of God. That may seem risky but it also feels like the beginning of a new adventure. After all Jesus did say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Self-emptying brings us into the kingdom. Self-emptying connects us in community at deeper levels than we can describe. Community is the kingdom on earth. When I am open to love, to my poverty, to my need for blessing, I am in that kingdom community which is my deepest hearts desire. I’m not afraid of God when I experience that community– and I’m no longer bothered by that beatitude.

© Janet O. Hagberg, 2009. All rights reserved.
Macrina’s poem excerpt is from Tree Full of Angels and Nouwen’s quote is from his book, Gracias.

Reflections on this essay
What does poor in spirit mean to you?

Which line in Macrina’s poem most resonates with you? Why?

Do you trust God? How do you know that?

Are you afraid of God? How do you know that?

When does self-emptying feel holy and dependence feel sacred for you?

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