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LONGING
ISSUE No. 42 | FEBRUARY 2O24

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ISSUE No. 42 | February 2024

WELCOME

If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you!  CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND.  Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:

What are you cultivating in your life?

What fruit do you want your life to bear?

Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:

Cultivate:  Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”

 

Irrigate:  Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation:  Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.

 

Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.  

Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living.  We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!

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FIELD

For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.

(I Corinthians 3:9)

Our theme this month is LONGING.  As we begin the second month of a new year, what do you long for?  What is something your soul aches for that has yet to be realized?  Some may view longing as being primarily related to romance and desire, but longing is far deeper than that. Desire can be an itch that wants to be scratched, but longing is an ache that reverberates deep in the soul.  Desire can exist in the realm of choice, but longing is rooted deep in our being. Longing is existential. You can’t just switch it off or chase it away. 

 

The Bible has a lot to say about longing, as scripture is filled with stories of longing.  For example, the book of Psalms overflows with longing – one reason, I believe, it speaks so deeply to individuals navigating anguish, loss, and deep questioning.  Often our longing can be for God himself – that He could be seen, heard, felt in some tangible way. Psalm 42:1 captures this well:  As a deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. 

 

Perhaps you long for a broken relationship to be repaired.  Perhaps you long for financial provision or simply to know that God sees you and is working on your behalf.  Perhaps you long for your child to be well who is struggling in life and feels far from God. Perhaps you long for a loved one who has passed on, and your grief seems never ending. Maybe you long to get back to a new normal. Perhaps you long for something new. 

 

Whatever you long for, we hope this issue will be encouraging to you.  Our profile is of St. Monica who, over several decades, faithfully prayed for and experienced deep anguish for her son Augustine (he eventually came to faith, in large part, due to her faithfulness).  We spotlight three pieces of classical music that give expression to the bittersweet beauty of longing. And we feature an original essay by Travis Noland who shares from personal experience insights learned through longing.

 

Our deepest longings are often the place where God probes our motives and where we are confronted with how much we really trust Him. Whatever you long for in this season, may you be encouraged to know that God longs for you, that you would hear God’s ongoing invitation to come to Him with your deepest needs and longings, that he may lead you on a path of freedom and fulfillment. As poet John O’Donohue has succinctly put it:

 

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.
(DG)

 

***

 

 

O Lord, you know what I long for; you hear all my groans. 

(Psalm 38:9 GNT)


 

God! My God! It’s you—
I search for you!
My whole being thirsts for you!
My body desires you
in a dry and tired land,
no water anywhere.
Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary;
I’ve seen your power and glory.
My lips praise you
because your faithful love
is better than life itself!

(Psalms 63:1-3 CEB)


 

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

(Romans 8:19-21 NRS) 


 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. 

(Proverbs 13:12 NIV)

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SEEDS

A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life

 

If God is the great longing of our souls, he will become the polestar of our inward beings. 

(Dallas Willard)

 

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
(Mahatma Gandhi)

 

My definition of the blues is the naked cry of the human heart longing to be in union with God. (Dion DiMucci)

 

If some longing goes unmet, don't be astonished. We call that Life. (Anna Freud)

 

The foundation of the furious longing of God is the Father who is the originating Lover, the Son who is the full self-expression of that Love, and the Spirit who is the original and inexhaustible activity of that Love, drawing the created universe into itself.
(Brennan Manning)

 

The desire is thy prayers; and if thy desire is without ceasing, thy prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer.
(Saint Augustine)

 

Longing is not to be confused with desire.  Longing is the agony of the nearness of the distant. (Martin Heidegger) 

 

To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing -- the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. (Marilynne Robinson)          

 

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. (C.S. Lewis)

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ART

The Bittersweet Beauty of Longing:

A Classical Music Playlist

By Bonnie Fearer

Longing is a heart-felt “soul-pull” towards something, and that “something” is sometimes ineffable and hard to describe. We long for home, for love, for innocence, for being known, for God – and for things unnamed and unknown. German philosopher Martin Heidegger said, Longing is the agony of the nearness of the distant. The thought gives an image of something that is seen and yearned for, but just out of reach, for now.

 

Longing - and artistic expression – have always been closely connected. One might argue that the art form that most evokes this sense of yearning is music. Country music and blues articulate longing directly and with words. In this issue, however, we have chosen to profile three classical pieces.

 

In the language of Romania, there is a word, “dor.” It means the state of longing necessary to sing, or to make great work. It is this “dor” that precedes great art and, in this case, great classical music. We encourage you to listen to the pieces we’ve selected and to enjoy the bittersweet beauty of longing.

  

Johannes Brahms, 3rd Symphony, 3rd movement - View Now

 

Tomaso Albinoni, Adagio in G minor - View Now

 

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings, Opus 11 - View Now

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POETRY

Go to the Limits of Your Longing

By Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

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PROFILE

Saint Monica 
Mother of Saint Augustine

No man is poor who has a Godly mother.
(Abraham Lincoln)

For our profile this month we chose St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.  We honor this historic mother of the church, on behalf of all mothers and fathers, for the extraordinary ways parents care for and pray for their children no matter their age or status in life. For decades Monica longed for her son to live a good and godly life, to embrace Christ as she herself embraced her Lord – and for decades her prayers went unanswered.  Eventually Monica learned that the longing of a parent’s heart is fertile soul for the Spirit of God to do a work in and through the parent.  Author Robert Ellsberg writes beautifully of Monica in his book All Saints*:

 

It would be nice to suppose that behind every great saint there is a saintly mother. If so, few would have been so ably memorialized by their children as St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. In his Confessions he gives her special credit for his conversion, noting that “in the flesh she brought me to birth in this world: in her heart she brough me to birth in your eternal life.”

 

Monica, like her son, was an African, born near Carthage of Christian parents.  Though she was devout in her faith her parents arranged her marriage to a non-Christian, Patricius. It seems their relationship was marked more by mutual respect than warmth.  Nevertheless, before his death Patricius followed Monica’s pious example and was received into the church.  They had three children, of whom Augustine was the oldest.  Augustine’s account suggests that from the moment of his birth in 354 until her death thirty-three years later, Monica’s relationship with her brilliant and sometimes prodigal son was the center of her life.

 

She had great hopes for Augustine and encouraged his academic ambitions.  But her hopes extended beyond his worldly success, and she suffered greatly from the fact that he did not share her faith.  Her sufferings were compounded by his amoral conduct and later by his immersion in the Manichean cult.  She was consoled, however, by a prophetic vision in which an angel assured her, “Your son is with you.”  When she repeated this to Augustine, he replied flippantly that this might just as well foretell her own apostasy.  No, she corrected. “He did not say that I was with you: he said that you were with me.”

 

She did not cease to suffer on his behalf, praying constantly for his conversion and weeping over his sins.  Finally, a sympathetic bishop reassured her: “Go now, I beg you: it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

 

When Augustine left for Rome to study rhetoric, Monica was determined to travel with him.  Though Augustine tricked her and left without saying goodbye, Monica went in pursuit.  She found him finally in Milan, where he confronted her with the joyous news that he wished to become a Christian.  They both received spiritual direction from the holy bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose.  Augustine’s baptism came in 387.

 

Soon thereafter they traveled to Ostia, awaiting a ship for their return to North Africa.  Augustine described a conversation there that lasted most of a day concerning the mysteries of faith and the joys of heaven.  The beauty of the moment was such that “for one fleeting instant” they seemed to touch the eternal Wisdom for which they both longed.  Monica sensed that her life was drawing to a close.  She confided to her son that she found no pleasure in this life.  “There was one reason, and one alone, why I wished to remain a little longer in this life, and that was to see you a Christian before I died.  God has granted my wish…. What is left for me to do in this world?”  In fact, within days she fell mortally ill.  When asked whether she did not fear dying, so far from home, she replied, “Nothing is far from God.”

 

 

*p.369, Robert Ellsberg, All Saints, 2009, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, NY

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FILM

Each month we recommend films focused on our theme

Feature Film

The Holdovers  (2023)

 

From acclaimed director Alexander Payne, The Holdovers follows a curmudgeonly instructor (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually he forms an unlikely bond with one of them — a wounded, brainy troublemaker (newcomer Dominic Sessa) — and with the school’s head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). Nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture.  Currently available in theaters and on various streaming services.

.

 

Documentary Film

Perfecting the Art of Longing  (11 minutes)

Cut off from his loved ones due to the pandemic lockdown, a quadriplegic rabbi in a long-term-care facility is filmed remotely by his daughter. Offering powerful meditations on love and hope, Perfecting the Art of Longing shows us what it means to be alive in a state of profound isolation.

View Now

 

Short Film

Paperman (6 minutes)

 

First-time director John Kahrs takes the art of animation in a bold new direction. The short film follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination, and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him.

View Now

Ted Talk

The Hidden Power of Sad Songs and Rainy Days

By Susan Cain

Have you ever wondered why you like sad music? Do you find comfort or inspiration in rainy days? In this profound, poetic talk, author Susan Cain invites you to embrace the feeling of longing -- or the place where joy and sorrow meet – as a gateway to creativity, connection, and love. Accompanied by the splendid sounds of violinist Min Kym, Cain meditates on how heartache unexpectedly brings us closer to the sublime beauty of life.

View Now

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ESSAY

Learning from the Longing
By Travis Noland

“What are you most longing for in this New Year?” a friend asked me recently. This was a different question, posed in a distinct tenor than that of the reflexive New Year’s resolution. It is a more profound, and potentially disruptive question that threatens to undermine, or even upend our responses to the lesser questions we might prefer. This question stayed with me, and so I took it to my journal in the early days of 2024.

 

My initial reaction was the conviction that I have lived most of my life in a state of longing, in one form or another. If I’m honest, it has frequently dominated my outlook as one of the most powerful forces I’ve known. Growing up in an agrarian town rated The Worst City in America by popular magazines the year before I was born, I longed to be somewhere else, anywhere else. As a young adult, I wandered the world fueled by a longing for adventure; and then, eventually, for home, community and belonging. Later, as my wife and I suffered repeated and consecutive miscarriages, we groaned in agony longing for children. As I entered my mid-30s and experienced the sudden early onset of severe facet arthritis in my lumbar spine, I longed for momentary relief, if not permanent healing, from this excruciating, seemingly unmanageable, and supposedly irreversible chronic back pain. These days, even as I help lead my family’s business into its third generation, I still long for greater purpose and satisfaction in my work. 

 

There was a time when I began to disdain the very act of longing because I associated it with deprivation – as empty lungs gasping for breath, a dry mouth parched for thirst, or the languishing mind fixated on deficit. 

 

In scripture, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to rejoice always, and be thankful in everything. And though God knows I try, I cannot stop longing for that which I have not. Raised in a pervasively materialistic and idealistic culture, I know all too well what it is to want, crave, and covet. I’ve been all too easily swept up by worldly desires for wealth, recognition, or success; to strive for some nebulous projection of what life could be, and perhaps, might just be someday--if only.

 

By now, I’ve lived enough life to accept that I cannot trust many of my own earthbound desires, hopes or dreams. In retrospect, they often appear to have been fleeting, sometimes comical, and often drastically misleading, rooted in some self-centered superficial misconception about my identity or perceived needs as a younger man. With some help from those who have discovered this truth long before me, I now think of longing, in its truest expression, as something distinct from these other forms of desire – as the sincerest yearnings of our souls for their Creator.

 

CS Lewis refers to a German word – Sehnsucht as an inconsolable longing in the human heart “for which we know not what.” In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis elaborates: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

 

As I am more intentional about redirecting my longings back to their original design as both source and object, I discover both freedom from the longings that can never be fulfilled in this life and greater capacity to embrace and even savor, rather than disdain, my longings for healing amidst the brokenness in ourselves and our world, restoration of the health of our planet, and an increasingly refined palate for the fruits of the spirit while I am here on earth.


In responding to my friend’s question, I am challenged to reexamine and discern the everlasting longings of my soul in contrast with the temporary desires of my heart, mind, and flesh. How often, really, do we break from the routine of our daily lives and take time to sit with this question? And yet, as I do, it seems to me that there are few questions more significant in our time on this planet. I now consider it an honor to pose his same question to the readers of Cultivare – what does your soul long for this coming year?

*Travis Noland was raised on his family's 3rd generation organic kiwifruit farm in California's Sacramento Valley.  Having lived and worked in Sub Saharan Africa, Central America, and India, Travis decided to return home after more than 12 years to give his family's business, Wild River Fruit, a chance at continuing on into its next generation. He now lives in the forested foothills of Grass Valley, CA with his wife and young children.

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BOOKS

 

Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme

Non-Fiction

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make us Whole

By Susan Cain

Bittersweetness is a tendency toward states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired. 
 
If you’ve ever wondered why you like sad music . . . 
If you find comfort or inspiration in a rainy day . . . 
If you react intensely to music, art, nature, and beauty . . .
 
Then you probably identify with the bittersweet state of mind.
 
Cain shows how a bittersweet state of mind is the quiet force that helps us transcend our personal and collective pain, whether from a death or breakup, addiction or illness. If we don’t acknowledge our own heartache, she says, we can end up inflicting it on others via abuse, domination, or neglect. But if we realize that all humans know—or will know—loss and suffering, we can turn toward one another. 
 
At a time of profound discord and personal anxiety, Bittersweet brings us together in deep and unexpected ways.

View Now

Fiction

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman

 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kind of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . The only way to survive is to open your heart. 

View Now

 

Childrens Book

A Map into the World

By Kao Kalia Yang

A heartfelt story of a young girl seeking beauty and connection in a busy world.

As the seasons change, so too does a young Hmong girl's world. She moves into a new home with her family and encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the natural world. But who are her treasures for?

View Now

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DIG DEEPER

Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme

1.    QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION 

Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:

a.   What do you most long for?

b.   What is the ache of your longing?

c.   What do you do with unmet longings?

d.   What questions do you ask yourself about your longings?

e.    In what ways can you engage with God regarding your longings?

f.    Is your longing a burden or a gift? If it is a burden, how can you turn it into a gift?

g.   What action might God be inviting you to take regarding your deepest longing?


 

2.    LONGING FOR MORE

In this article by Andy Tix in Psychology Today he explores how the German concept of Sehnsucht sheds light on the human quest.

View Now


 

3.    THE FLIP SIDE OF LONGING

In this article by Mandy Smith in Missio Alliance she poses the questions: What if our longing is God’s longing? What if God wants us to step toward our deep joy to bring about a foretaste of the thing we’re longing to see?

View Now

 

 

4.   SIX QUESTIONS ABOUT LONGING

In this unique blog entry, photographer Eleanor Steiner posses six meaningful questions about longing and offers biblical reflections for each.

View Now

 

 

5.     A PRAYER FOR LONGING 

 

Loving God, our hearts are overflowing with longing. 

 

Longing for a world with more hope and less despair.
Longing for a life with deeper connection and less isolation.
Longing for a brave love, a growing seed within us, spreading far and wide.
Longing for a world with less consumption and more compassion.
Longing for leaders of integrity who live and model truth and wisdom.
Longing for a nation that acknowledges its injustices and works to make them right.
Longing for companions to give us courage, that we might be the people these times require 

to bring about your beloved community.

 

May your Kingdom come!  Your will be done!  On earth as it is in heaven.

 

Through Christ our Lord we pray, AMEN

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ROOTED

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.

(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)

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(a 501c3 ministry) for CULTIVARE are tax-deductible.  

Subscribe to CULTIVARE for free! 

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FIELD NOTES

Images used in order of appearance:

1.   FIELD:   Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning, 1950, Smithsonian American Art Museum,

Washington, DC

 

 

2.  SEEDS:  Hasui Kawase, Sunset at Ichinokura, 1928, Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

3.  ART:  Brian Bakke, Waiting for My Music Teacher, 2006, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


 

4.  POETRY:  Brian Bakke, How Long Must We Sing This Song, 2011, Washington DC

 

 

5.   PROFILE:   Brian Bakke, Shadow Woman, 2016, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

 

6.   FILM:  Edward Hopper, New York Movie, 1939, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

 

 

7.   ESSAY:  Andrew Wyeth, The Swinger, 1969, unknown 


 

8.   BOOKS:   Brian Bakke, Lookout, Etching and Aquatint, August 1993 


 

9.   DIG DEEPER:  Carl Larsson, Esbjorn Doing his Homework, 1912, public collection



10.   ROOTED:   Guido Reni, The Saint Francis, Before the Cross Praying, unknown

TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Amy Drennan, Greg Ehlert, Bonnie Fearer, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Heather Shackelford, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)

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