November 17th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Friday, November 17, 2017 Richard Rohr

If we are going to talk about God as me, we must also talk about God as thee too! For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment just because of the color of our skin. This “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true?

Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us.

Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. And so we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of color or any highly visible difference. The white man’s easy advancement was too often at the cost of others not advancing at all. A minor history course should make that rather clear.

I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees, and frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid! Recognition was slow in coming. I am not only white, but I am male, overeducated, clergy (from cleros, “the separated ones”), a Catholic celibate, mostly healthy, and part of the American empire.

Power never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there (what exactly is it that is up there?), we will never experience true “liberty, equality, fraternity” (revolutionary ideals that endure as mottos for France and Haiti).

To repeat, if God operates as me, God operates as thee too, and the playing field is utterly leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we then rush down instead of up. In the act of letting go and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.

——————

The Eternal Goal
By Oswald Chambers

By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing…I will bless you… —Genesis 22:16-17

Abraham, at this point, has reached where he is in touch with the very nature of God. He now understands the reality of God.
My goal is God Himself…
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.
“At any cost…by any road” means submitting to God’s way of bringing us to the goal.
There is no possibility of questioning God when He speaks, if He speaks to His own nature in me. Prompt obedience is the only result. When Jesus says, “Come,” I simply come; when He says, “Let go,” I let go; when He says, “Trust God in this matter,” I trust. This work of obedience is the evidence that the nature of God is in me.
God’s revelation of Himself to me is influenced by my character, not by God’s character.
’Tis because I am ordinary,
Thy ways so often look ordinary to me.
It is through the discipline of obedience that I get to the place where Abraham was and I see who God is. God will never be real to me until I come face to face with Him in Jesus Christ. Then I will know and can boldly proclaim, “In all the world, my God, there is none but Thee, there is none but Thee.”
The promises of God are of no value to us until, through obedience, we come to understand the nature of God. We may read some things in the Bible every day for a year and they may mean nothing to us. Then, because we have been obedient to God in some small detail, we suddenly see what God means and His nature is instantly opened up to us. “All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen…” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Our “Yes” must be born of obedience; when by obedience we ratify a promise of God by saying, “Amen,” or, “So be it.” That promise becomes ours.
Gateway to Silence:
We are temples of God.

God as US

November 16th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

God as Us: Week 2

See, Look, Pay Attention
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tim Shriver, Chair of Special Olympics and a dear friend, works with many people whom our culture excludes or disregards. Through their eyes he has come to see God’s presence in every human being. As you read Tim’s words, imagine how you might stand in solidarity with someone “on the edge,” someone who has been excluded, and see that individual through God’s eyes.

You cannot believe in or practice unitive consciousness as long as you exclude and marginalize others—whether it is women or people of different sexual orientations or people of religious or ethnic minorities or, in my experience, people with intellectual disabilities. My work is largely with and in support of people who have significant vulnerabilities because of intellectual disability. In many cultures these people are excluded and oppressed, though often unconsciously, even more so than other marginalized groups. . . . They are thought to be hopeless. Mostly they are ignored and forgotten.

For 20 years I have been mentored by these same people. Some might not be the best-spoken, the most articulate writers, the most celebrated thinkers, the fastest runners. And yet, despite all of that, I have met person after person who emanates a kind of radiant light. After a while, even the densest of us may have our eyes opened to that something which transcends all superficial distractions of disability: the unimaginable beauty of every person. That beauty is ours for the seeing if only we have the eyes to see, if only we pay attention.

I try to maintain those eyes as I am engaged in this work. At times I will pull myself out of whatever I’m doing and try to remember that I’m united with all that is. I give myself license to step away and reconnect. I fail mostly, but once in a while I succeed, and when I do, I feel like I am touching a “sweet spot” of wonder and peace. It enables me to be present to people in a way that I can communicate to them that I love them unconditionally. There are no conditions to our unity, to our oneness.

Many times I’ve watched, for instance, as a person with Down syndrome stands with a gold medal around her neck, arms raised high to a cheering crowd. I can’t look at that child, at that human being, without slipping out of dualistic thinking. Those moments are a kind of sacrament of unitive consciousness. They are “both-and” moments where shadow and light coexist in the same experience. . . . Divine energy shoots vertically through me like a force, and says, “See! Look! Pay attention to what is right in front of you! That is all you need to know!” [1]

Gateway to Silence:
We are temples of God.

_________________________________________________________

Still Human!

By Oswald Chambers

 …whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:31

In the Scriptures, the great miracle of the incarnation slips into the ordinary life of a child; the great miracle of the transfiguration fades into the demon-possessed valley below; the glory of the resurrection descends into a breakfast on the seashore. This is not an anticlimax, but a great revelation of God.

We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, “What a wonderful man of prayer he is!” or, “What a great woman of devotion she is!” If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time.

We want to be able to say, “Oh, I have had a wonderful call from God!” But to do even the most humbling tasks to the glory of God takes the Almighty God Incarnate working in us. To be utterly unnoticeable requires God’s Spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His. The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life “hidden with Christ in God” in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited.

Conscious Love

November 15th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, names Jesus’ teaching and way of life “the path of conscious love.”

[This phrase] emphasizes the life-affirming and implicitly relational nature of the path, and the word “conscious” makes clear that the touchstone here is transformation, not simply romance. Conscious love is “love in the service of inner transformation”—or if you prefer, “inner transformation in the service of love.” Either way, this is exactly what Jesus was about. [1]

Cynthia’s words “conscious love” ring true for me as a definition for our life’s purpose and the goal of all spirituality. When we’re conscious, we will always do the loving thing, the connecting thing, the intimate thing, the communion thing, the aware thing. We will be our True Selves.

Cynthia describes what this means: “The first requirement of conscious love is, of course that it has to be conscious—or in other words, anchored in a quality of our presence deeper than simply egoic selfhood. [It is] unitive, or nondual, awareness.” [2]

As I’ve said several times this year, the source of violence and so many of our world’s hurts is the illusion of separation. Our culture of romance suggests that sex and marriage solve the problem of loneliness and longing. But from many people I’ve talked with, it seems there is a great deal of unhealthy sexuality, trauma, and wounding in our sexually preoccupied world. Almost half the marriages in the United States end in divorce. Perhaps the Church intuited that the issue is deeper when it mandated celibacy for priesthood and religious life, but their proposed solution can also be a clever avoidance of intimacy too. I believe sex, marriage, and celibacy are not given to us to solve the problem, but to actually reveal the problem. All of these life stances show us that we still don’t know how to love. At the same time, if we are conscious and aware, they give us the daily practice and opportunity to try one more time! I find every healthy marriage comes to this conclusion sooner or later.

Cynthia writes: “For Jesus as for all teachers of conscious transformation . . . the work with a partner is in service of this goal. It is not intended simply to fulfill physical or emotional needs, but to accelerate the process of awakening.” [3]

She quotes psychologist John Welwood:

A conscious relationship is one that calls forth who you really are. . . . [Instead of looking to a relationship for shelter] we could welcome its power to wake us up in areas of life where we are asleep and where we avoid naked, direct contact with life. This approach puts us on a path. It commits us to movement and change, providing forward direction by showing us where we most need to grow. Embracing relationship as a path also gives us practice: learning to use each difficulty along the way as an opportunity to go further, to connect more deeply, not just with a partner, but with our own aliveness as well. [4]

Gateway to Silence:
We are temples of God.

———————

“What Is That to You?”
By Oswald Chambers

Peter…said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “…what is that to you? You follow Me.” —John 21:21-22

One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue, but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose, or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit.

    Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.

Most of us live only within the level of consciousness— consciously serving and consciously devoted to God. This shows immaturity and the fact that we’re not yet living the real Christian life. Maturity is produced in the life of a child of God on the unconscious level, until we become so totally surrendered to God that we are not even aware of being used by Him. When we are consciously aware of being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, we have yet another level to reach— a level where all awareness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is completely eliminated.

    A saint is never consciously a saint— a saint is consciously dependent on God.

Gates to the Temple

November 14th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Richard Rohr, Sunday, November 12, 2017

Authentic love is about giving a bit of myself to another—and, in this surrender, something new is created, whether a baby or another form of life and beauty. The flow of love is a divine experience mirroring the relationship within the Trinity. That’s why I’m calling this series of meditations “God as Us.” I know it is a daring title, but I wanted to allow you to connect your varied experiences of embodiment—through gender, sexuality, physicality—with the very life of God flowing through you. We are “co-creators” with God in a world that is continually evolving and unfolding (Romans 8:28), not just passive observers.

In the midst of lovemaking, we realize that there is a third element that is beyond us or our beloved. In the Christian Trinitarian view, we call this third energy the Holy Spirit. Unconditional, unselfish love—where I love and care for the other for their own sake, even to the point of suffering for their good and seeking their pleasure more than my own—takes us to a level beyond separation, a place where we are one even if we are far apart physically or in time.

I’ve witnessed this eternal, unbreakable intimacy in many whose partner has passed away. More than one bereaved spouse has said to me, “He’s actually more real, more present to me now than when I had his body.” This means they fully experienced “the bridal chamber” or the divine espousals, to use mystical language. We are part of the divine lovemaking in which we are both making love and being made love to in the same action. This is experienced as an energy and life that is larger than our own. We are merely along for the ride!

Of course, the greater the light there is in something, the greater the shadow it casts. Sexuality and false intimacy also have the power to destroy and wound. No wonder there are so many taboos around sexuality. It has been said, “Where nothing is forbidden, nothing is required.” Because there’s something so significant required of the soul to make love, I’m not surprised religions have created so many moralistic guidelines (even if a lot of them were not very helpful or healing). Impulse control is certainly a valuable skill for an adolescent to learn, but too often the Church’s teaching just led to shame or pre-emptive repression rather than healthy sexuality. (This is not to say that all free expression is wonderful, moral, or even helpful!)

What is so important and essential here? I believe it’s simply this: You are a sacred image of the Divine, you are a co-creator with God, so respect your own embodiment—and the sacred embodiment of the other. Let Paul speak his truth here: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? The temple of God, which you are, is holy” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

I believe the temple happens when “two solitudes protect and border and greet each other,” as Rilke so perfectly put it. [1] This alone is the sacred temple. We do not create this temple; we only occasionally dwell within it—by a daring respect and a risky surrender. [2]

Gateway to Silence:
We are temples of God.

_________________________________________________________

Discovering Divine Design

By Oswald Chambers

Discovering Divine Design
By Oswald Chambers

As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me… —Genesis 24:27

We should be so one with God that we don’t need to ask continually for guidance. Sanctification means that we are made the children of God. A child’s life is normally obedient, until he chooses disobedience. But as soon as he chooses to disobey, an inherent inner conflict is produced. On the spiritual level, inner conflict is the warning of the Spirit of God. When He warns us in this way, we must stop at once and be renewed in the spirit of our mind to discern God’s will (see Romans 12:2). If we are born again by the Spirit of God, our devotion to Him is hindered, or even stopped, by continually asking Him to guide us here and there. “…the Lord led me…” and on looking back we see the presence of an amazing design. If we are born of God we will see His guiding hand and give Him the credit.

We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never believe that the so-called random events of life are anything less than God’s appointed order. Be ready to discover His divine designs anywhere and everywhere.

Beware of being obsessed with consistency to your own convictions instead of being devoted to God. If you are a saint and say, “I will never do this or that,” in all probability this will be exactly what God will require of you. There was never a more inconsistent being on this earth than our Lord, but He was never inconsistent with His Father. The important consistency in a saint is not to a principle but to the divine life. It is the divine life that continually makes more and more discoveries about the divine mind. It is easier to be an excessive fanatic than it is to be consistently faithful, because God causes an amazing humbling of our religious conceit when we are faithful to Him.

Purity and Passion

November 13th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

…from Richard Rohr:

I want to say a little about purity and about passion. What I mean by purity is singleness of heart, when the head and the heart are working together in a way that allows you to see wholeness, to see from your True Self.

Purity also has to do with appropriate boundaries, protecting the sacred character of intimacy on both sides of a relationship. You have to know the rules and know what they’re trying to protect before you too quickly throw them out. I don’t mean to sound like a prudish old priest, but I’ve worked with young people who have already had so much casual sex that I wonder if it will ever have the power to lead them to the great feast, the great romance, the great union. Sex is all too often an experience of disunion, failure, or entertainment rather than enlightenment.

If the world does not understand purity and its necessity, it seems to me the church has not understood passion and its necessity. Christianity has mostly mistrusted passion and the abandonment, excitement, joy, freedom, playfulness, and enthusiasm that human love can inspire.

Passion is an energy, a drive from within. The French call it elan vital, a creative force. It’s a thirst for union, a thirst for myself, for more of true life. As such, passion surprisingly carries with it some inevitable dissatisfaction. It never lasts and is never enough once you feed on it. Passion constantly creates within you a hole that longs to be filled. In the Christian tradition we call such implanted longing the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit keeps yearning in us for union with more—with ourselves and thus with God. Drawing from her deep experiences in prayer, St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510) shared with conviction, “My own me is God! My own me is God!” [1] Passion is a “leading-string of love” drawing us into God (see Hosea 11:3-4).

We must realize that human love (eros) and divine love (agape) are on a continuum; human love and passion prepare us for and lead us to divine love. As Cynthia Bourgeault explains:

The great secret of erotic love—which all true lovers instinctively know and which I believe Jesus also knew—is that agape is in essence transfigured desire. There are not two loves, one agape-based and the other eros-based. Rather, agape is what emerges from the refiner’s fire when that surging desire to cling, possess, consume the object of one’s adoring is subjected to the discipline of kenosis, self-giving love. . . . [K]enosis is an exercise in the pure generosity of standing in the other’s place, discovering what it means to love one’s neighbor as oneself—not as much as one’s self, as egoic consciousness always appends, but as the intimate expression of one’s own being. [2]

“My life is not about me. I am about Life,” the mystic comes to believe! Or as Paul put it, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Gateway to Silence:
We are temples of God.

————————–

Faith or Experience?
By Oswald Chambers

…the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. —Galatians 2:20

We should battle through our moods, feelings, and emotions into absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus. We must break out of our own little world of experience into abandoned devotion to Him. Think who the New Testament says Jesus Christ is, and then think of the despicable meagerness of the miserable faith we exhibit by saying, “I haven’t had this experience or that experience”! Think what faith in Jesus Christ claims and provides— He can present us faultless before the throne of God, inexpressibly pure, absolutely righteous, and profoundly justified. Stand in absolute adoring faith “in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). How dare we talk of making a sacrifice for the Son of God! We are saved from hell and total destruction, and then we talk about making sacrifices!
We must continually focus and firmly place our faith in Jesus Christ— not a “prayer meeting” Jesus Christ, or a “book” Jesus Christ, but the New Testament Jesus Christ, who is God Incarnate, and who ought to strike us dead at His feet. Our faith must be in the One from whom our salvation springs. Jesus Christ wants our absolute, unrestrained devotion to Himself. We can never experience Jesus Christ, or selfishly bind Him in the confines of our own hearts. Our faith must be built on strong determined confidence in Him.
It is because of our trusting in experience that we see the steadfast impatience of the Holy Spirit against unbelief. All of our fears are sinful, and we create our own fears by refusing to nourish ourselves in our faith. How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear! Our lives should be an absolute hymn of praise resulting from perfect, irrepressible, triumphant belief.

God As Us

November 6th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Images of God

Monday, November 6, 2017

In the image of God they were created, male and female God created them. —Genesis 1:27

The Bible is filled with images of God, metaphors for the sacred. The biblical commandment to make no graven images of God obviously did not mean avoiding word-images. But it does mean that no one of these should be “carved in stone”—that is, made absolute.
Yet within “common Christianity,” by which I mean what most Christians took for granted and shared in common not so long ago, male images of God have often been absolutized. God is “father,” “king,” and “lord.” Enshrined in the Lord’s Prayer and the creeds, male images dominate much of Christian liturgy and hymnody.

But the Bible includes many metaphors for God that are not male. Some are beyond gender because they do not image God in human form. God is like fire, light, a rock, wind, breath, spirit.
Even when God is imaged in human form, the person-like metaphor is sometimes female. Of course, most of the time the person-like imagery is male; both the Old and New Testaments [Hebrew and Christian Scriptures] come from patriarchal cultures. Given this, it is remarkable that the Bible uses female imagery for God at all.

For example, “El Shaddai,” one of the Hebrew names of God, is most often translated into English as “God Almighty.” But its linguistic roots suggest that it meant “breasted God”—God as “mother,” not “father.” Another example: God is “womb-like.” Old Testament scholar Phyllis Trible convincingly argues that Jeremiah 31:20, in which God remembers Israel, should be translated, “My womb trembles for him; I will truly show motherly-compassion on him.”
And (Richard here, with my own example) if we still miss the point, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us: “For YHWH is creating a new thing upon the earth: a woman [God] will seek and protect a man [collective humanity]” (31:22).

Gateway to Silence:
I am created in God’s image.

____________________________________________________

Intimate Theology

By Oswald Chambers

 Do you believe this? —John 11:26

Martha believed in the power available to Jesus Christ; she believed that if He had been there He could have healed her brother; she also believed that Jesus had a special intimacy with God, and that whatever He asked of God, God would do. But— she needed a closer personal intimacy with Jesus. Martha’s theology had its fulfillment in the future. But Jesus continued to attract and draw her in until her belief became an intimate possession. It then slowly emerged into a personal inheritance— “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ…” (John 11:27).

Is the Lord dealing with you in the same way? Is Jesus teaching you to have a personal intimacy with Himself? Allow Him to drive His question home to you— “Do you believe this?” Are you facing an area of doubt in your life? Have you come, like Martha, to a crossroads of overwhelming circumstances where your theology is about to become a very personal belief? This happens only when a personal problem brings the awareness of our personal need.

To believe is to commit. In the area of intellectual learning I commit myself mentally, and reject anything not related to that belief. In the realm of personal belief I commit myself morally to my convictions and refuse to compromise. But in intimate personal belief I commit myself spiritually to Jesus Christ and make a determination to be dominated by Him alone.

Then, when I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and He says to me, “Do you believe this?” I find that faith is as natural as breathing. And I am staggered when I think how foolish I have been in not trusting Him earlier.

God’s Heartbeat

November 3rd, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Cosmology

God’s Heartbeat
Friday, November 3, 2017

CAC’s core faculty member, Cynthia Bourgeault, shares insights from other mystics—current and past—to reveal mercy at the heart of the universe. She shares the theological implications of quantum physics from contemporary Episcopal preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor:

Where is God in this picture? God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. . . . At this point in my thinking, it is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity—the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that make it all go. [1]

Cynthia reflects:

Barbara’s point may seem like a nuance, but it is a crucially important one. Our visible, created universe is not simply an object created by a wholly other God in order to manifest God’s love, but the created universe is that love itself—the very heart of God, fully expressive in the dimension of time and form.

When we speak in these terms, of course, we begin to use the classic language of the mystics, the language of visionary utterance. For Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) the name in German for mercy was Barmherzigkeit—“warmheartedness.” Boehme saw mercy as “the holy element”: the root energy out of which all else in the visible universe is made. The Mercy is “holy substantiality”—the innermost essence of being itself. It is that “river of God,” running like the sap through the tree of life. [2]

Lest we be inclined to discount this insight as merely the rambling of a God-intoxicated mystic, it is astonishing to discover virtually an identical insight revealed by the eminently sane psychotherapist Gerald May (1940-2005). May affirms that from a clinical standpoint, once the various differentiations and feeling-tones have been stripped away from our subjective emotional life, what remains is a raw, root energy that is, finally, none other than divine love. “It is as if agape [divine love] were the base metal, irreducible and unadulterated,” he writes. “The universe runs on an energy that is, at its core, unconditionally loving.” [3]

May’s vision of agape—divine love—is very close to Boehme’s (and my own) notion of the Mercy. Far from pity or condescension, it is the very heartbeat of God resonant in creation; the warmth that pulses through all things as the divine Mystery flows out into created form.

Gateway to Silence:
We live, move, and have our being in love.

________________________________________________

A Bondservant of Jesus

By Oswald Chambers

 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me… —Galatians 2:20
These words mean the breaking and collapse of my independence brought about by my own hands, and the surrendering of my life to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. No one can do this for me, I must do it myself. God may bring me up to this point three hundred and sixty-five times a year, but He cannot push me through it. It means breaking the hard outer layer of my individual independence from God, and the liberating of myself and my nature into oneness with Him; not following my own ideas, but choosing absolute loyalty to Jesus. Once I am at that point, there is no possibility of misunderstanding. Very few of us know anything about loyalty to Christ or understand what He meant when He said, “…for My sake” (Matthew 5:11). That is what makes a strong saint.

Has that breaking of my independence come? All the rest is religious fraud. The one point to decide is— will I give up? Will I surrender to Jesus Christ, placing no conditions whatsoever as to how the brokenness will come? I must be broken from my own understanding of myself. When I reach that point, immediately the reality of the supernatural identification with Jesus Christ takes place. And the witness of the Spirit of God is unmistakable— “I have been crucified with Christ….”

The passion of Christianity comes from deliberately signing away my own rights and becoming a bondservant of Jesus Christ. Until I do that, I will not begin to be a saint.

One student a year who hears God’s call would be sufficient for God to have called the Bible Training College into existence. This college has no value as an organization, not even academically. Its sole value for existence is for God to help Himself to lives. Will we allow Him to help Himself to us, or are we more concerned with our own ideas of what we are going to be?

Coming to Be Love

November 1st, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Cosmology

Coming to Be Love
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
(All Saints Day)


Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, continues reflecting on love as the heart of the universe.

To see the universe through the eyes of love helps us make sense of evolution, not as a process of cold, blind chance or randomness, but one of passion, yearning, novelty, union, gift, suffering, death, and new life. Love is the faithful heart of the cosmos, the constancy of all life; yet love seeks to become more being-in-love and hence is the energy of change. . . . The name “God” points to this mystery of love in its unlimited depth, the center of all that is; love that overflows onto new life. God is not a super-natural Being hovering above earth, but the supra-personal whole, the Omega, who exists in all and through all.

God is love—eternal, divine, overflowing, personal love. Love goes out to another for the sake of the other and manifests itself in relationship. Divine love is personally relational—Trinity: Lover, Beloved, and the Breath of Love. Divine Love, breathed forth into Word incarnate, marks the history of evolution. . . . Every star, every galaxy, every leaf and bird breathed forth in divine Love, reveals the Christ who is the personal unity of divine being-in-love. From all eternity, God has sought to love another, to be love in another, and to be loved by the other forever—this other is the Christ who is the aim and purpose of this evolutionary universe.

[Evolution] is not only the universe coming to be, but it is God who is coming to be. Divine Love, poured into space-time, rises in consciousness and erupts in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, becoming the pledge of our future in the risen Christ: “I am with you always until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). We can read the history of our 13.7-billion-year-old universe as the rising up of Divine Love incarnate, which bursts forth in the person of Jesus, who reveals love’s urge toward wholeness through reconciliation, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. Jesus is the love of God incarnate, the wholemaker who shows the way of evolution toward unity in love. . . . In Jesus, God comes to us from the future to be our future. . . .

Christian life is a commitment to love, to give birth to God in one’s own life and to become midwives of divinity in this evolving cosmos. We are to be wholemakers of love in a world of change.

In summary, this is why I (Richard) say we need to switch our thinking from “Jesus came to fulfill us” to “we have come to fulfill Christ.” We are a part of this ever-growing cosmic Christ that is coming to be in this one great big act of giving birth described in Romans 8:22. [1]

Gateway to Silence:
We live, move, and have our being in love.

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“You Are Not Your Own”

By Oswald Chambers

 Do you not know that…you are not your own? —1 Corinthians 6:19
There is no such thing as a private life, or a place to hide in this world, for a man or woman who is intimately aware of and shares in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. God divides the private life of His saints and makes it a highway for the world on one hand and for Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is identified with Jesus Christ. We are not sanctified for ourselves. We are called into intimacy with the gospel, and things happen that appear to have nothing to do with us. But God is getting us into fellowship with Himself. Let Him have His way. If you refuse, you will be of no value to God in His redemptive work in the world, but will be a hindrance and a stumbling block.

The first thing God does is get us grounded on strong reality and truth. He does this until our cares for ourselves individually have been brought into submission to His way for the purpose of His redemption. Why shouldn’t we experience heartbreak? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us collapse at the first grip of pain. We sit down at the door of God’s purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity. And all the so-called Christian sympathy of others helps us to our deathbed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, as if to say, “Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine.” If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?

The Reformation: an Anniversary

October 31st, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

500th Anniversary of the Beginnings of the Reformation

Today we celebrate an important milestone in the history of Western Christianity. On this day in 1517, an Augustinian friar named Martin Luther posted his famous “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This set off a much-needed firestorm that has continued to this day. “I have come to set fire upon the earth and how I wish it were already blazing,” says Jesus (Luke 12:49). The flames of the reformation are still burning, bringing regeneration and new life in their wake.

When I first preached in Germany in the 1980s, my Lutheran friends took me to Wittenberg, and we staged a scene of this Franciscan friar nailing my agreement with Martin Luther to the same church door. With irony, we enacted a too-Catholic-God striking me dead.
For the most part, Roman Catholics have viewed the Reformation as the division of Christendom. Yet we should not have been surprised by Luther’s call to reform! Catholics teach that “the church was reformed but always in need of reformation.” Reformation is the perpetual process of conversion that is needed by all individuals and by all institutions. Otherwise people and churches become idols.

Christianity has experienced many periods of dramatic change and upheaval, beginning with the Constantinian privileges and separation from the poor in 313. In the Great Schism of 1054, Christianity split between East and West.

In my opinion, this is the way that history and spirituality move forward. Change is never in a perfectly straight and logical line; it happens through the constant push and pull, death and life, that mirrors the Paschal Mystery: Some seeming Ideal Order is the easiest way to begin.
This is followed by a necessary experience of Disorder, which Christians call “the folly of the cross.” Finally, there is a Reordering, what Christians name the Body of Christ, the Mind of Christ, or Resurrection!

In the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Living School, drawing from the teachings of George Gurdjieff and Cynthia Bourgeault, we call this sacred pattern Holy Affirming > Holy Denying > Holy Reconciling. It is the subtle but powerful work of grace. Without the self-correcting of Holy Denying (Disorder), all persons and groups become idolatrous of themselves and thus corrupt.

At the time of the Reformation, this was true of the Catholic Church. As many Lutherans now recognize, this was soon true of the new Lutheran and Evangelical churches as well. Both Lutherans and Catholics are “reformed but ever in need of reforming.” None of us will ever live up to “the full stature that is Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), though at the same time we are all already in Christ. It took the Catholic Church until the Second Vatican Council of 1963-1965 to admit its mistakes and return to a more Scripture-based Christianity.

Now, by the grace of God, we are all beneficiaries of a Holy Reconciling by a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, formally agreed to by the highest theological authorities of the Vatican and the Lutheran Church in 1999. The declaration affirms that Luther was largely right, but both churches split into our own forms of dualistic thinking and remained in our dueling camps for 500 years. One side made an idol out of the Bible (Sola Scriptura!) and the other made an idol out of tradition (placing all confidence in leadership), but they were much the same in their human idolatry of something other than God. We are still learning the dangers of the dualistic concept of “only”!

Now the Reformed churches and many other denominations have affirmed this important and healing Joint Declaration, although the common churchgoer knows little of it. We are ever so slowly growing up together (how else could it be?). The future of Christianity is certainly ecumenical and even interfaith, and thus finally and hopefully “catholic” (universal). How else could Jesus ever be “The Savior of the World” (John 4:42)?

For 500 years we were stuck in Holy Denying of one another’s ideas and practices. But today we celebrate a new Holy Reconciling! There is no point in perpetually restating the initial arguments which have kept us in an endless Holy Affirming. The Risen Christ is forever leading us into a much larger future that is always created by God, where none of us wins or even needs to win. Here only God—Love—wins.

Be forewarned that this Holy Reconciling now sets the stage for the cycle to begin again! All we can do is to be ready and willing and a little less surprised.

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The Trial of Faith

By Oswald Chambers

 If you have faith as a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you. —Matthew 17:20

Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds. Faith being worked out into reality must experience times of unbroken isolation. Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal of what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive. Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him— a faith that says, “I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.” The highest and the greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is— “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

We Are Already One

October 30th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Cosmology

We Are Already One
Monday, October 30, 2017

There was no place in the universe that was separate from the originating power of the universe. Each thing of the universe had its very roots in this realm. —Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry [1]

There is only Christ. He is everything and he is in everything. —Colossians 3:11

Believe it or not, a Roman Catholic priest first proposed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. In 1927, Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, astronomer, and physics professor, suggested that the expanding universe might be traced back to a single point of origin, a singularity. As Ilia Delio describes, “[It] appeared like a little quantum size blip on the screen [creatio ex nihilo] and inflated rapidly like a balloon and since that time, it has been expanding.” [2] I’ll let Delio, a scientist, explain the implications for this cosmology—our story of the universe:

Every human person desires to love and to be loved, to belong to another, because we come from another. We are born social and relational. We yearn to belong, to be part of a larger whole that includes not only friends and family but neighbors, community, trees, flowers, sun, Earth, stars. We are born of nature and are part of nature; that is, we are born into a web of life and are part of a web of life. We cannot know what this means, however, without seeing ourselves within the story of the Big Bang universe. Human life must be traced back to the time when life was deeply one, a Singularity, whereby the intensity of mass-energy exploded into consciousness. Deep in our DNA we belong to the stars, the trees, and the galaxies.

Deep within we long for unity because, at the most fundamental level, we are already one. We belong to one another because we have the same source of love; the love that flows through the trees is the same love that flows through my being. . . . We are deeply connected in this flow of love, beginning on the level of nature where we are the closest of kin because the Earth is our mother. [3]

We began as one and our goal is oneness. Studying evolution, the French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) found that increased complexity and increased consciousness surprisingly lead to greater unity at a much higher level—which we would call love. Unity is not the same as uniformity! With increased complexity, there is actually greater diversity and a greater enjoyment of that very diversity, which is the fruit of love. As Teilhard said, “Everything that rises must converge.” [4] We are in the midst of that convergence today—and seemingly at an accelerated pace—both in terms of good and resistance to the good.

Gateway to Silence:
We live, move, and have our being in love.

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Faith

By Oswald Chambers

 Without faith it is impossible to please Him… —Hebrews 11:6

Faith in active opposition to common sense is mistaken enthusiasm and narrow-mindedness, and common sense in opposition to faith demonstrates a mistaken reliance on reason as the basis for truth. The life of faith brings the two of these into the proper relationship. Common sense and faith are as different from each other as the natural life is from the spiritual, and as impulsiveness is from inspiration. Nothing that Jesus Christ ever said is common sense, but is revelation sense, and is complete, whereas common sense falls short. Yet faith must be tested and tried before it becomes real in your life. “We know that all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28) so that no matter what happens, the transforming power of God’s providence transforms perfect faith into reality. Faith always works in a personal way, because the purpose of God is to see that perfect faith is made real in His children.

For every detail of common sense in life, there is a truth God has revealed by which we can prove in our practical experience what we believe God to be. Faith is a tremendously active principle that always puts Jesus Christ first. The life of faith says, “Lord, You have said it, it appears to be irrational, but I’m going to step out boldly, trusting in Your Word” (for example, see Matthew 6:33). Turning intellectual faith into our personal possession is always a fight, not just sometimes. God brings us into particular circumstances to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make the object of our faith very real to us. Until we know Jesus, God is merely a concept, and we can’t have faith in Him. But once we hear Jesus say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) we immediately have something that is real, and our faith is limitless. Faith is the entire person in the right relationship with God through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.