Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Howard Thurman - A Thanksgiving, a Trust and Coming Alive

I am not exactly sure where the inspiration comes today that I should post a few quotes from Dr Howard Thurman...
“And this is the strangest of all paradoxes of the human adventure; we live inside all experience, but we are permitted to bear witness only to the outside. Such is the riddle of life and the story of the passing of our days.” 

“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.” 

My friend and mentor, Gil Bailie posted this a while back:
I had the good fortune to know Howard Thurman, a wise and faithful black Protestant preacher and spiritual counselor to Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. I didn’t know Thurman well, but I met with him in his home a few times, and I heard him preach on a few occasions. He had been the dean of the chapel at Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1944, he received a letter from a group of people in San Francisco who were trying to start an interracial congregation. He was asked if he knew any newly ordained ministers who might be willing to come to San Francisco, live on practically nothing, and help launch the new congregation. He wrote back: Mrs. Thurman and I would love to!
I don’t know much about the events of those early days, but Dr. Thurman told me one thing that has stuck with me... Dr. Thurman said that at one critical point he had to say to those who were on the verge of giving up hope:
“Trust it with my trust until you can trust it with your own.”
When dark uncertainties loom, the faith of those who have gone before us shines like a beacon. - Howard Thurman, 1900-1981, may he rest in peace.

In another post where Gil reflected on July 4th, remembering what Howard Thurman had told him many years ago, namely, 
You can't be at home everywhere until you're at home somewhere.

In opening a meeting at Boston University, Howard Thurman gave this perfect prayer for us to have in our hearts everyday.
Howard Thurman
In Your presence, O God, we make our Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
We begin with the simple things of our days:
Fresh air to breathe,

Cool water to drink,

The taste of food,

The protection of houses and clothes,

The comforts of home.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

We bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that we have known:
Our mothers' arms,

The strength of our fathers,

The playmates of our childhood,

The wonderful stories brought to us from the lives of many who talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and diverse kinds of magic held sway;

The tears we have shed, the tears we have seen;

The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its reminder that life is good.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.
We finger one by one the messages of hope that await us at the crossroads:
The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of our security,

The tightening of the grip of a single handshake when we feared the step before us in the darkness,

The whisper in our heart when the temptation was fiercest and the claims of appetite were not to be denied,

The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page when our decision hung in the balance.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.
We passed before us the mainsprings of our heritage:
The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before us,
without whom our own lives would have no meaning,

The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;

The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp, and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which they would never see,

The workers whose sweat has watered the trees, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations,

The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons, whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places,

The savior whose blood was shed with the recklessness that only a dream could inspire and God could command.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.
We linger over the meaning of our own life and commitment to which we give the loyalty of our heart and mind:
The little purposes in which we have shared with our loves, our desires,
our gifts,

The restlessness which bottoms all we do with its stark insistence that we have never done our best, we have never reached for the highest,

The big hope that never quite deserts us, that we and our kind will
study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the children of God as the waters
cover the sea.
All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel, I make as my Sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee, Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.  (from Meditations of the Heart, pgs. 147-149)

And my favorite Howard Thurman quote: 
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. 
[This quote is in Gil Bailie's Violence Unveiled, p. xv, where he attributes the quotation to a conversation he had with Thurman.]


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