Our Work in Co-Creating

February 23rd, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Great Work now . . . is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner. —Thomas Berry [1]
Again, I offer insights from the late theologian Beatrice Bruteau:
In the case of the cosmos, we can say that God as Creator is incarnate as self-creating universe, including self-creating creatures within that universe. . . . Creativity itself is what is evolving in the cosmos, and we are the growing edge as the Trinitarian Life Cycle moves from Transcendent to Incarnate to Realized. We are in a position to realize ourselves as incarnate divine creativity. This has two effects.
It makes the whole thing intensely meaningful. The universe is not some blind and uncaring organization of atoms. . . . It can easily be seen as a gigantic artwork, full of whatever it is that comes out as “feeling” when it becomes incarnate. We are part of this, creative contributors to this.
And this is the other effect: we bear some responsibility. We have to take our part in the work. We, for instance, are now in a position to do something about all the suffering. . . . We are agents within the system and can have causal effects on other parts of the system. We have intelligence, we have empathy and capacity to feel for others and to care about them, we even have insight into the Ground present in every being and calling for an appropriate form of absolute respect.
What will we do? . . . What does “God want us to” do? Not a good way of putting the question, because it distances God from the world, but the answer I propose is Be! Be creative, be interactive, be agape, give being, unite, be whole, be in every possible way, be new. The self-creating world is unpredictable. It’s like a musician’s improvisation. . . . But the artwork will always resemble the artist. So the cosmos will somehow be like the Trinity, the vast Person-Community that is Agape, inter-being. . . .
Does the contemplative have some special role? I say to the contemplative: Feel at home in the universe, study it, try to understand at least some of its innumerable marvels, including ourselves who are more and more capable of this understanding—marvel at that! Rejoice in the cosmos. In spite of all its hurtful ways, look at what it has done, is doing, is capable of doing. . . . And be active in it, contribute to it, participate in the building, in the artwork, in the healing, in the understanding. This is where Reality is. You yourself are both a member of the Finite and a member of the Infinite. You are a participant in the Trinitarian Life Cycle, for you are doing the incarnating and the creating and the realizing and the rejoicing. God’s ecstasy creates the world, and the world’s ecstasy realizes God.

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The Determination to Serve

By Oswald Chambers

 The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve… —Matthew 20:28
 Jesus also said, “Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27). Paul’s idea of service was the same as our Lord’s— “…ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). We somehow have the idea that a person called to the ministry is called to be different and above other people. But according to Jesus Christ, he is called to be a “doormat” for others— called to be their spiritual leader, but never their superior. Paul said, “I know how to be abased…” (Philippians 4:12). Paul’s idea of service was to pour his life out to the last drop for others. And whether he received praise or blame made no difference. As long as there was one human being who did not know Jesus, Paul felt a debt of service to that person until he did come to know Him. But the chief motivation behind Paul’s service was not love for others but love for his Lord. If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and broken-hearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from other people. But if we are motivated by our love for God, no amount of ingratitude will be able to hinder us from serving one another.

Paul’s understanding of how Christ had dealt with him is the secret behind his determination to serve others. “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…” (1 Timothy 1:13). In other words, no matter how badly others may have treated Paul, they could never have treated him with the same degree of spite and hatred with which he had treated Jesus Christ. Once we realize that Jesus has served us even to the depths of our meagerness, our selfishness, and our sin, nothing we encounter from others will be able to exhaust our determination to serve others for His sake.

The Universe Is Love

February 22nd, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The future can exist only when we understand the universe as composed of subjects to be communed with, not as objects to be exploited. —Thomas Berry [1]
Cynthia Bourgeault, a faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation, writes about how the ancient Wisdom tradition views creation:
Contrary to our usual theological notion, which sees God as “having” certain qualities—such as love, truth, and justice—Wisdom correctly perceives that there are certain states, or qualities of being, that cannot be known (or even truly said to exist) in potential but only in actual manifestation. God “has” these qualities by virtue of enacting them. “I was a hidden treasure and longed to be known,” says God, according to an ancient Islamic teaching, “and so I created the world.” [2]
Foremost among these qualities . . . is love. In the Christian West we are accustomed to rattling off the statement “God is love” [1 John 4: 8, 16]. . . . Love is a relational word, and that relationship presumes duality, or twoness, “because,” in the words of Valentin Tomberg (1900-1973), “love is inconceivable without the Lover and the Loved, without ME and YOU, without One and the Other.” [3] In order for love to manifest, there must first be duality. . . . In the words of another Sufi maxim whose truth is apparent to anyone who has ever experienced the sublime dance of recognition and mutual becoming at the heart of all love: “You are the mirror in which God sees himself.”
. . . As we begin orienting ourselves on the Wisdom road map, it is with the recognition that our manifest universe is not simply an “object” created by a wholly other God out of the effluence of [God’s] love but is that love itself, made manifest in the only possible way that it can, in the dimensions of energy and form. The created realm is not an artifact but an instrument through which the divine life becomes perceptible to itself. It’s the way the score gets transformed into the music.

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The Discipline of Spiritual Perseverance

By Oswald Chambers

Be still, and know that I am God… —Psalm 46:10
Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen. Perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling. Perseverance is our supreme effort of refusing to believe that our hero is going to be conquered. Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated. Also, our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us. Then there is the call to spiritual perseverance. A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated.

If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified. Every hope or dream of the human mind will be fulfilled if it is noble and of God. But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God. He brings fulfillment, “because you have kept My command to persevere…” (Revelation 3:10).

Continue to persevere spiritually.

The Universe Story

February 21st, 2018 by Dave No comments »

The Universe Story
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The New Story of the universe is a biospiritual story as well as a galactic story and an Earth story. . . . Each particular being in the universe is needed by the entire universe. With this understanding of our profound kinship with all life, we can establish the basis for a flourishing Earth community. —Thomas Berry (1914-2009) [1]
Judy Cannato (1949-2011)—an author, spiritual director, and visionary of a “new cosmology”—writes:
Thomas Berry has said that our generation is one that is in-between stories. We are caught between the story that religion tells and the story that science tells. . . . During the last several decades, a new story has indeed emerged, a new cosmology that brings matters of science and matters of faith into a space where they no longer need collide, but can complement each other and render a fuller picture of what is true. [If it’s true, it’s true everywhere and all the time.] Ironically, in modern times it is science that has told us the story of how all life is connected in a fundamental way—a story that the world’s mystics have been telling for centuries. . . . [2]

In their book, Journey of the Universe, philosopher Brian Swimme and historian Mary Evelyn Tucker write:
With our empirical observations expanded by modern science, we are now realizing that our universe is a single immense energy event that began as a tiny speck that has unfolded over time to become galaxies and stars, palms and pelicans, the music of Bach, and each of us alive today. The . . . universe is not simply a place but a story—a story in which we are immersed, to which we belong, and out of which we arose.
This story has the power to awaken us more deeply to who we are. For just as the Milky Way is the universe in the form of a galaxy, and an orchid is the universe in the form of a flower, we are the universe in the form of a human. And every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself. . . .
With the emergence of humans, we have arrived at an evolutionary breakthrough for being able to develop compassion, not just for our offspring, but for all beings of every order of existence. . . .
Our human destiny is to become the heart of the universe that embraces the whole of the Earth community. We are just a speck in the universe, but we are beings with the capacity to feel comprehensive compassion in the midst of an ocean of intimacy. That is the direction of our becoming more fully human. [3]

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

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Do You Really Love Him?
By Oswald Chambers

She has done a good work for Me. —Mark 14:6

If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning. This may describe affection and it may bring us a warm feeling, but it is not a true and accurate description of love.
Have you ever been driven to do something for God not because you felt that it was useful or your duty to do so, or that there was anything in it for you, but simply because you love Him? Have you ever realized that you can give things to God that are of value to Him? Or are you just sitting around daydreaming about the greatness of His redemption, while neglecting all the things you could be doing for Him? I’m not referring to works which could be regarded as divine and miraculous, but ordinary, simple human things— things which would be evidence to God that you are totally surrendered to Him. Have you ever created what Mary of Bethany created in the heart of the Lord Jesus? “She has done a good work for Me.”
There are times when it seems as if God watches to see if we will give Him even small gifts of surrender, just to show how genuine our love is for Him. To be surrendered to God is of more value than our personal holiness. Concern over our personal holiness causes us to focus our eyes on ourselves, and we become overly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, out of fear of offending God. “…but perfect love casts out fear…” once we are surrendered to God (1 John 4:18). We should quit asking ourselves, “Am I of any use?” and accept the truth that we really are not of much use to Him. The issue is never of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time.

Reframing Our Cosmology

February 20th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Reframing Our Cosmology

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


If you wear glasses, perhaps you’ve experienced receiving a new prescription and suddenly you see the world in a new way. We often get used to “seeing the world” with an inadequate or outdated prescription. It is only when we go in for a check up that we realize we need a lens update, and what a difference it makes!
Cosmology—our understanding of the origins of our world and how our world works—is just like that. How we understand the universe comprises a “lens” through which we tend to understand everything else in life. Many of us who grew up in the church don’t realize that we’ve inherited a pretty blurry cosmology: a usually male God, separate from our world, who stands back and judgmentally observes the goings on of our universe and humanity’s faults and failings. This just does not work, and I do not apologize for saying it.
This view has gone a long way in perpetuating the idea that we are isolated from each other and from God and that there is something inherently wrong with us and the world. Christianity’s adherence to Greek philosophical ideas that matter and spirit are separate has perpetuated a split between theology (or “God-talk”) and science.
Beatrice Bruteau (1930-2014), who brings such profound spiritual intelligence to our necessary conversation, can help us update our cosmology to a lens that is more compatible with science and the world around us. Rather than a God that is removed from us, she explains how the Trinity reveals God as actively moving in and through our world:
What we now call complexity, and recognize as doing its creative work on the very edge of chaos, is at the heart of this miraculous picture. There may not be an external Designer and a micro-managing Providence from the outside, but neither is the world devoid of divinity. The divinity is so intimately present in the world that the world can be regarded as an incarnate expression of the Trinity, as creative, as expansive, as conscious, as self-realizing and self-sharing.
I have called this creative act God’s ecstasy. Ecstasy means standing outside oneself. It is kin to the kenosis of Philippians 2:6—being God is not a thing to be clung to, so God empties Godself, taking the form of limitation in finitude, and is born as a universe. It is the defining divine act: self-giving, being-bestowing. Ecstasy has the connotations of extreme love and supreme joy. That is right for the creation of the universe.
. . . We need a new theology of the cosmos, one that is grounded in the best science of our day. It will be a theology in which God is very present, precisely in all the dynamisms and patterns of the created order, in which God is not rendered absent by the self-organizing activities of the natural world, but in which God is actual as the one who makes and the one who is incarnate in what is made by these very self-making activities. [1]

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Taking the Initiative Against Daydreaming

By Oswald Chambers

 Arise, let us go from here. —John 14:31
 Daydreaming about something in order to do it properly is right, but daydreaming about it when we should be doing it is wrong. In this passage, after having said these wonderful things to His disciples, we might have expected our Lord to tell them to go away and meditate over them all. But Jesus never allowed idle daydreaming. When our purpose is to seek God and to discover His will for us, daydreaming is right and acceptable. But when our inclination is to spend time daydreaming over what we have already been told to do, it is unacceptable and God’s blessing is never on it. God will take the initiative against this kind of daydreaming by prodding us to action. His instructions to us will be along the lines of this: “Don’t sit or stand there, just go!”

If we are quietly waiting before God after He has said to us, “Come aside by yourselves…” then that is meditation before Him to seek His will (Mark 6:31). Beware, however, of giving in to mere daydreaming once God has spoken. Allow Him to be the source of all your dreams, joys, and delights, and be careful to go and obey what He has said. If you are in love with someone, you don’t sit and daydream about that person all the time— you go and do something for him. That is what Jesus Christ expects us to do. Daydreaming after God has spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him.

Creation Reflects God’s Glory

February 19th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Creation Reflects God’s Glory
Sunday, February 18, 2018

The universe itself can be understood as the primary revelation of the divine. —Thomas Berry [1]
The Divine Presence is happening in, through, and amidst every detail of life. . . . [It] penetrates all that exists. Everything in virtue of coming into existence is in relationship to this Source. —Thomas Keating [2]
The incarnation of God did not only happen in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. It began approximately 14 billion years ago with a moment that we now call “The Big Bang” or what some call “The Great Radiance.” At the birth of our universe, God materialized and revealed who God is. Ilia Delio writes: “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.” [3] This Singularity provides a solid basis for inherent reverence, universal sacrality, and a spiritual ecology that transcends groups and religions.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) stated, “The immense diversity and pluriformity of this creation more perfectly represents God than any one creature alone or by itself.” [4] However, most Christians thought humans were the only creatures that God cared about, and all else—animals, plants, light, water, soil, minerals—was just “food” for our own sustenance and enjoyment. I do not believe that the Infinitely Loving Source we call God could be so stingy and withholding, and only care about one species—unless that care would lead to care for everything else too, which I would call full consciousness. That is the unique human gift.
God created millions of creatures for millions of years before Homo sapiens came along. Many of these beings are too tiny for us to see or have yet to be discovered; some have seemingly no benefit to human life; and many, like the dinosaurs, lived and died long before we did. Why did they even exist? A number of the Psalms say that creation exists simply to reflect and give glory to God (e.g., Psalm 104). The deepest meaning of creation and creatures is their naked existence itself. God has chosen to communicate God’s very Self in multitudinous and diverse shapes of beauty, love, truth, and goodness, each of which manifests another facet of the Divine. (See Job 38-39, Wisdom 13:1-9, Romans 1:20.) Once you can see this, you live in an enchanted and spiritually safe world.
Christians have gotten ourselves into a muddle by not taking incarnation and creation as the body of God seriously. As theologian Sallie McFague writes, “Salvation is the direction of creation, and creation is the place of salvation.” [5] All is God’s place, which is our place, which is the only and every place.
I hope that our very suffering now, our crowded presence in this nest that we have largely fouled, will bring us together politically and religiously. The Earth and its life systems, on which we all entirely depend, still have the potential to convert us to a universal maturity. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. There are no Native, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim versions of the universal elements. The periodic table is the same in every country, or as Shakespeare and musician Mandisa expressed it, we all bleed the same. Animals do not care whether they are on the Mexican or the American side of our delusional wall.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

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Creation Is the Body of God
Monday, February 19, 2018

This week I’m drawing from several theologians and spiritual teachers I respect. I hope these introductions will inspire you to seek out their work and learn more! Today I offer Sallie McFague’s (b. 1933) excellent model of creation as God’s body. I could never say it as well as she does:
[This model of the universe as the body of God invites] . . . us to do something that Christians have seldom done: think about God and bodies. What would it mean, for instance, to understand sin as the refusal to share the basic necessities of survival with other bodies? to see Jesus of Nazareth as paradigmatic of God’s love for bodies? to interpret creation as all the myriad forms of matter bodied forth from God and empowered with the breath of life, the spirit of God? to consider ourselves as inspirited bodies profoundly interrelated with all other such bodies and yet having the special distinction of shared responsibility with God for the well-being of our planet? Such a focus causes us to see differently, to see dimensions of the relation of God and the world that we have not seen before.
. . . Incarnation (the belief that God is with us here on this earth) [goes] beyond Jesus of Nazareth to include all matter. God is incarnated in the world. . . . [This] suggests that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, for God is the breath or spirit that gives life to the billions of different bodies that make up God’s body. But God is also the source, power, and goal of everything that is, for the creation depends utterly upon God. . . .
What postmodern science is telling us—that the universe is a whole and that all things, living and nonliving, are interrelated and interdependent—has been, for most of the world’s history, common knowledge. That is, people living close to the land and to other animals as well as to the processes that support the health of the land and living creatures have known this from their daily experience. We, a postindustrial, urbanized people, alienated from our own bodies and from the body of the earth, have to learn it, and most often it’s a strange knowledge. It is also strange because for the past several hundred years at least, Christianity, and especially Protestant Christianity, has been concerned almost exclusively with the salvation of individual human beings, (primarily their “souls”), rather than with the liberation and well-being of the oppressed, including not only oppressed human beings, body and soul (or better, spirit), but also the oppressed earth and all its life-forms.
In the model of the universe as God’s body, not only does postmodern science help us understand the unity and diversity of the body in liberating ways, but divine embodiment makes sacred all embodiment: neither perspective alone is as rich as both together.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

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Taking the Initiative Against Drudgery
By Oswald Chambers

Arise, shine… —Isaiah 60:1

When it comes to taking the initiative against drudgery, we have to take the first step as though there were no God. There is no point in waiting for God to help us— He will not. But once we arise, immediately we find He is there. Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue— a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. If we will arise and shine, drudgery will be divinely transformed.
Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. Drudgery is work that is far removed from anything we think of as ideal work. It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery— washing fishermen’s feet. He then says to them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). The inspiration of God is required if drudgery is to shine with the light of God upon it. In some cases the way a person does a task makes that work sanctified and holy forever. It may be a very common everyday task, but after we have seen it done, it becomes different. When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer’s body has become “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

It Is Not Just About Us

February 16th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

It Is Not Just About Us
Friday, February 16, 2018

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, things visible, things invisible. . . . He is before all things and in him all things hold together. . . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God reconciled all things. —Colossians 1:15-17, 19-20
Not redemption from sin, but the unification of the world in itself and with God is the ultimate motivating cause for the Incarnation and, as such, the first idea of the Creator, existing in advance of all creation. —Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) [1]
Franciscans have always believed that Christ was Plan A, not a Plan B mop-up effort needed because of Adam and Eve’s sin. Franciscan philosopher John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) believed that the Christ Mystery was the first idea in the mind of God. The manifestation of the inner life of God in a physical universe was God’s plan from the very beginning. So, the Christ is manifest from the very first moment of the Big Bang (Ephesians 1:3,9-10). Jesus is the later personal personification of what was already true from the beginning. Most Christians were never told to make that distinction, and so their Jesus was often far too small because he was not also the Universal Christ.
Duns Scotus saw Jesus as a revelation of this positive, proactive message: “I say that the incarnation of Christ was not foreseen as occasioned by sin, but was immediately foreseen from all eternity by God as a good more proximate to the end.” [2] Contemporary Franciscan professor William Short explains:
The end here refers to God’s purpose or goal for the whole of creation. That goal, according to Scotus, is the sharing of God’s own life, one so fruitful that it constantly seeks expression. The ultimate goal must be sharing the life of the Trinity itself. . . . The Son may be called the heart of, or the way into the Trinity. [3]

This may seem like abstract theology, but without it, we end up with Jesus being a mere problem-solver for sin, appeasing a God who seems to be much less than love. God “the Father” ends up looking quite small, and the Christ has nothing to do for 14 billion years until Jesus appears. This leaves most of known time—before humans appeared—empty of God, the universe not yet a revelation of God. Mainstream Christian theology made humans the whole show; worse, human sin was the engine and motive for everything that God did.
Building on St. Francis’ teaching, Duns Scotus laid the theological foundation for a creation that was good, true, whole, and already the glory and freedom of God—before conscious humans even existed. To put it frankly, “salvation” is not just about us! If this ever sinks in, it will be the second Copernican Revolution in decentering this one small planet. The irony, of course, is that this decentered humanity is also even more the glory of God because it can see and say what I just said.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

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The Inspiration of Spiritual Initiative
By Oswald Chambers

Arise from the dead… —Ephesians 5:14

Not all initiative, the willingness to take the first step, is inspired by God. Someone may say to you, “Get up and get going! Take your reluctance by the throat and throw it overboard— just do what needs to be done!” That is what we mean by ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes to us and says, in effect, “Get up and get going,” suddenly we find that the initiative is inspired.
We all have many dreams and aspirations when we are young, but sooner or later we realize we have no power to accomplish them. We cannot do the things we long to do, so our tendency is to think of our dreams and aspirations as dead. But God comes and says to us, “Arise from the dead….” When God sends His inspiration, it comes to us with such miraculous power that we are able to “arise from the dead” and do the impossible. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power comes after we “get up and get going.” God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, “Arise from the dead…,” we have to get ourselves up; God will not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand” (Matthew 12:13). As soon as the man did so, his hand was healed. But he had to take the initiative. If we will take the initiative to overcome, we will find that we have the inspiration of God, because He immediately gives us the power of life.

Christ Is the Template for Creation

February 15th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Christ Is the Template for Creation
Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Franciscan philosopher and Doctor of the Church, St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274) was an exemplary mystic because he so effectively pulled his brilliant mind down into his passionate heart. [1] In Bonaventure’s writings, you will find little or none of the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and atonement, even the dualistic notions of heaven or hell, which later took over. Etienne Gilson (1884-1978), a noted medieval scholar, said that Bonaventure’s philosophical synthesis might be the most perfect and complete ever created.

Bonaventure summed up his entire life’s theology in three central and sacred ideas:

Emanation: We come forth from God bearing the divine image, and thus our inherent identity is grounded in the life of God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27).

Exemplarism: Everything in creation is an example, manifestation, and illustration of God in space and time (Romans 1:20). No exceptions.

Consummation: All returns to the Source from which it came (John 14:3). The Omega is the same as the Alpha; this is God’s supreme and final victory.

For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is quite simply a full circle, and to be perfect the circle must and will complete itself. He knows that Alpha and Omega are finally the same. The lynchpin holding it all in unity is the “Christ Mystery,” or the essential unity of matter and spirit, humanity and divinity. The Christ Mystery—the crucified and resurrected Christ—becomes the visible template for the pattern of all creation. Christ reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things moving toward ever further life. The death and birth of every star and atom is this same pattern of loss and renewal, yet this pattern is invariably hidden, denied, or avoided, and therefore must be revealed by Jesus—through his passion, death, and resurrection.

Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant or angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He is all cosmic optimism and hope! Once we lost this kind of mysticism, Christianity became preoccupied with fear, unworthiness, and guilt much more than being included in—and delighting in—God’s positive, all-pervasive plan.

The problem is solved from the beginning in Franciscan theology: “Before the world was made, God chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4). If more of the Church believed St. Francis and Bonaventure, they could have helped us move beyond the inherently negative notion of history being a “fall from grace.” Bonaventure invited us into a positive notion of history as a slow but real emergence/evolution into ever-greater consciousness of a larger and always renewed life (“resurrection”).

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“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”
By Oswald Chambers

None of us lives to himself… —Romans 14:7

Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? For instance, if I allow any turning away from God in my private life, everyone around me suffers. We “sit together in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 2:6). “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” (1 Corinthians 12:26). If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer. But you ask, “Who is sufficient to be able to live up to such a lofty standard?” “Our sufficiency is from God…” and God alone (2 Corinthians 3:5).
“You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). How many of us are willing to spend every bit of our nervous, mental, moral, and spiritual energy for Jesus Christ? That is what God means when He uses the word witness. But it takes time, so be patient with yourself. Why has God left us on the earth? Is it simply to be saved and sanctified? No, it is to be at work in service to Him. Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him? Am I willing to be of no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone— to be used to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ. My life of service to God is the way I say “thank you” to Him for His inexpressibly wonderful salvation. Remember, it is quite possible for God to set any of us aside if we refuse to be of service to Him— “…lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

The Great Nest of Being

February 14th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

The Great Nest of Being
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Ash Wednesday

The “Catholic synthesis” of the early Middle Ages had its limitations, but at its best it held together one coherent world. It was a positive intellectual vision that was not defined by opposition or enemies, but by the clarity and beauty of form. Such coherence is visible architecturally in the European cathedrals in Salisbury, Cologne, Orvieto, and Vézelay. This synthesis was a cosmic egg of meaning, a vision of Creator and a multitude of creatures that excluded nothing.
The Great Chain of Being (or The Great Nest of Being, as I prefer to call it, to give an image that doesn’t depend on higher and lower but simply ever greater capacity to include) is a holistic metaphor for the new seeing offered us by the Incarnation: Jesus as the living icon of integration, “the coincidence of opposites” who “holds all things in unity” within himself (Colossians 1:15-20). God is One. God is whole, and everything in creation—from minerals, stones, plants, animals, people, planets, and angels—can be seen as a holon (a part that mimics, replicates, and somehow includes the whole).
Sadly, the Catholic synthesis seldom moved beyond philosophers’ books and mystics’ prayers and some architecture, art, and music. Most Christians remained in a fragmented and dualistic world, usually looking for the contaminating element to punish or the unworthy member to expel. While still daring to worship the cosmic Scapegoat—Jesus—we scapegoated the other links in the great chain We have been unwilling to see the Divine Image in those we judged to be inferior or unworthy: so-called sinners and heretics, women, LGBTQ individuals, people from other races and ethnicities, the poor, those with disabilities, animals, non-Christians, and the Earth itself.
Once the great chain (each level protected and held by its inherent connection to the previous link) was broken or disbelieved, we were soon unable to see the Divine Image in our own species either, except for those who look and think just like us. We were all on our own! The dominant view—“patriarchy” (usually white, educated, or land-owning men)—formed the mentality of most “developed” cultures. It becomes a contest, of sorts, and the patriarchs (in whatever form) decide who is worthy, who is holy, and who is not. Then the strangely named Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and modern secularism denied the heavenly and divine links altogether—an attitude unknown in human history until recently. The coherence fell utterly apart, and this is the disenchanted world you and I live in today. It is hard to trust our own holiness if we are cut off from the Source.
As the medieval teachers predicted, once the Great Chain of Being is broken or denied, and any one link is not honored and included, the whole cosmic vision collapses. It seems that either we acknowledge that God is in all things or we lose the basis for seeing God in anything, including ourselves.

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The Discipline of Hearing
By Oswald Chambers

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. —Matthew 10:27
Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into “the shadow of His hand” until we learn to hear Him (Isaiah 49:2). “Whatever I tell you in the dark…” — pay attention when God puts you into darkness, and keep your mouth closed while you are there. Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? If so, then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will speak while in the wrong mood— darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason for the darkness; just listen and obey. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying. When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light.
After every time of darkness, we should experience a mixture of delight and humiliation. If there is only delight, I question whether we have really heard God at all. We should experience delight for having heard God speak, but mostly humiliation for having taken so long to hear Him! Then we will exclaim, “How slow I have been to listen and understand what God has been telling me!” And yet God has been saying it for days and even weeks. But once you hear Him, He gives you the gift of humiliation, which brings a softness of heart— a gift that will always cause you to listen to God now.

Reconnecting to Our Original Identity

February 13th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Reconnecting to Our Original Identity

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

For what can be known about God is plain . . . because God has made it plain. . . . Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible nature, namely, God’s eternal power and deity, have been there for the mind to see in the things that God has made. —Romans 1:20

God always and forever comes as one who is totally hidden and yet perfectly revealed in the same moment or event. The first act of divine revelation is creation itself. Thus, nature is the first Bible, written approximately 14 billion years before the Bible of words. God initially speaks through what is, as the Apostle Paul affirms above, before humans write words about God or from God.
It is interesting that in the biblical account, creation happens developmentally over six days, almost as if there was an ancient intuition of what we would eventually call evolution. Notice that on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days, God calls what was created “good” (Genesis 1:9-31); but at the end of the first and second days this statement is missing. The first day is the separation of darkness from light, and the second day is the separation of the heavens above from the earth below (1:3-8). The Bible does not say that God saw that it was good—because their separation was not good! It becomes the very function of religion to put darkness and light, heaven and earth back together in human consciousness. The precise reason that Jesus is the icon of salvation is because he holds these seeming contraries together so beautifully within himself, thus assuring us we can do the same.
Heaven and earth, divinity and humanity, have never really been separate of course, but we think so. The Bible calls this perceived state of separateness “sin”; “naughty” or so-called “bad” actions proceed from this state of consciousness. The essential task of all religion is to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God,” as Paul says (Colossians 3:3). This happens through forgiving and thus loving what first seems to be imperfect, unworthy, excluded, separate, wrong, or sinful. This is how we reunite that which the mind had begun to punish.
The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) described, as only he can, the diversity of our createdness—forgiven and beloved:
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him. [1]

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The Devotion of Hearing

By Oswald Chambers

 Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” —1 Samuel 3:10
Just because I have listened carefully and intently to one thing from God does not mean that I will listen to everything He says. I show God my lack of love and respect for Him by the insensitivity of my heart and mind toward what He says. If I love my friend, I will instinctively understand what he wants. And Jesus said, “You are My friends…” (John 15:14). Have I disobeyed some command of my Lord’s this week? If I had realized that it was a command of Jesus, I would not have deliberately disobeyed it. But most of us show incredible disrespect to God because we don’t even hear Him. He might as well never have spoken to us.
The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but I just don’t hear Him. The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” If I have not developed and nurtured this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do. This is not living the life of a child of God. Have you heard God’s voice today?

Mythos and Logos

February 12th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Mythos and Logos
Monday, February 12, 2018

The Judeo-Christian creation story is told in the form of a cosmic poem (Genesis 1). The realm of myth, art, and poetry can heal and create coherence, connection, and deep trust for the human psyche much better than prose that “tells it like it is.” Rather than orient us toward solving a problem, symbolic language and images turn our focus toward being itself, toward meaning, purpose, and inner life forces. They evoke the depths hidden beneath the practical, self-centered ego, and speak to our personal unconscious—as good therapy does—and our collective unconscious too—as story and myth often do.
There are several levels of knowing and interpreting reality—a “hierarchy of truths,” as Pope Francis calls it. [1] Not all truths are of equal importance, which does not mean the lesser ones are untrue. So don’t fight useless battles against them. Something might be true, for example, on a psychological, historical, or mythological level, but not on a universal level. Fundamentalists think the historical level is the “truest” one, yet in many ways literalism is the least important meaning for the soul. Facts may be fascinating, but they seldom change our lives at any deep level. I do believe the “historical-critical” method of interpreting Scripture is a helpful frame [2], without which fundamentalists create a fantasy that looks a lot like their own culture and preferred class perspective.
Scholars since Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) have been making good use of a distinction between logos, or problem-solving language, and mythos. Logos language includes facts, data, evidence, and precise descriptions. Rob Bell describes how “logos language and thinking got us medicine, got us airplanes. . . . For the past three hundred years we have had an explosion of logos language. . . . But the problem is, there are whole dimensions of our existence that require a different way of thinking.”
Bell rightly says, “The Bible is mostly written in mythos language. . . . Good religion traffics in mythos. . . . Mythos language is for that which is more than literally true. . . . Evolutionary science does an excellent job of explaining why I don’t have a tail. It just doesn’t do so well explaining why I find that interesting!” [3] We need mythos language to express the more-than-factual meaning of experiences like falling in love, grief, and death.
Good religion, art, poetry, and myth point us to the deeper levels of truth that logos can’t fully explain. Early Christians knew this; but the Western Church spent the last five centuries trying to prove that the stories in the Bible really happened just as they are described. For some Christians, it’s imperative that the world was created in six literal days, otherwise their entire belief system falls apart. Christianity came to rely heavily on technique, formula, and certitude instead of the more alluring power of story, myth, and narrative. These give room for the soul, mind, and heart to expand. Ironically, from such an open and creative stance, we can actually solve problems much more effectively.
The whole point of Scripture is the transformation of the soul. But when we stopped understanding myth, we stopped understanding how to read and learn from sacred story or Scripture. Children delight in hearing the same fantastical stories over and over again because they are open to awe, mystery, and discovery. Oh that we could all read the creation story with similar childlike wonder and open-heartedness!

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

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Are You Listening to God?
By Oswald Chambers

They said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” —Exodus 20:19

We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God— we simply don’t listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them— not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Once we realize we have constantly been showing disrespect to God, we will be filled with shame and humiliation for ignoring Him.
“You speak with us,…but let not God speak with us….” We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”
Am I constantly humiliating God by ignoring Him, while He lovingly continues to treat me as His child? Once I finally do hear Him, the humiliation I have heaped on Him returns to me. My response then becomes, “Lord, why was I so insensitive and obstinate?” This is always the result once we hear God. But our real delight in finally hearing Him is tempered with the shame we feel for having taken so long to do so.