Healing Our Social Wounds

September 22nd, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Healing Our Social Wounds (Richard Rohr)

Today’s meditation is longer than usual, but important. Many people associate the word “justice” with the penal system and retributive justice. Yet the prophets and Jesus clearly practiced what we now call “restorative justice.” Jesus never punished anybody. He undercut the basis for all violent, exclusionary, and punitive behavior. He became the forgiving victim so we would stop creating victims. He “justified” people by loving them and forgiving them at ever-deeper levels.

Punishment relies on enforcement and compliance but does not change the soul or the heart. Jesus held out for the heart; he restored people to their true and deepest identity. When the church itself resorts to various forms of shaming and punishment for “sin,” it is relying upon the retributive methods of this world and not the restorative methods of Jesus. We have a lot of growing up to do in the ways of Christ.

Our current criminal “justice” system has more to do with making a profit (through unpaid labor and filling quotas) and oppression of the marginalized than restoring individuals to wholeness and health. Though the United States holds only 5% of the world’s population, it houses 21% of the world’s prisoners. African Americans and Hispanics are imprisoned at much higher rates, in spite of similar rates of drug use and crime as whites. [1]

Today a friend of the Center for Action and Contemplation, Ray Leonardini, shares his own observations and experience teaching contemplative prayer in prisons: [2]

People in prison commonly live with a sense of personal failure. Most prisons and jails foster, even amplify, this sense of failure by dehumanizing practices like constant herding and extreme over-crowding. Prisoners’ efforts to cope with these humiliations result in behaviors similar to those identified with veterans as PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).

The violence in a war zone, like the threat of violence in a maximum-security prison, creates a chronic debilitating state of fight or flight for the individual. To simply cope, the prisoner develops the ability to avoid and numb feelings and represses intrusive memories. This leaves many of them with enormous anxiety and a deep sense of personal shame.

When their basic sense of personal worth is stifled in this way, the sufferers are driven to further extremes of self-loathing. As penal institutions perpetuate a culture of dehumanization, the symptoms of PTSD proliferate. Though they can be visible (angry outbursts, aggressive behavior), they also fester in secret (night terrors), buried in the deep crevices of the psyche.

As one prisoner describes it, “The external reality and climate of violence that dominates one’s existence and sense of self in these high-security prison environments cuts a prisoner off from any sense of personal interiority.” [3]

Experts tell us that the deepest wound of PTSD is a “moral injury,” that is a wound to the soul, caused by participation in events that violate one’s most deeply held sense of right and wrong. The perpetrator or victim realizes how wrong it was. The irony, of course, is that this “disorder” is actually an appropriately normal response to an overwhelmingly abnormal situation. No wonder medication and talk therapy are less effective in addressing this “moral injury,” researchers say, than Yoga and meditation, which by-pass the mind and unlock the unconscious wounds of the spirit, where the core wound of PTSD resides.

My experience teaching Centering Prayer in prisons for ten years supports this conclusion. Receptive, contemplative practices like Centering Prayer are uniquely suited to healing deep psychic wounds of this kind. [4] Centering Prayer bypasses the mind with its horrific memories and trauma and invites practitioners to “detach” from their narratives and “let go” into the spaciousness of Silence. There they can encounter God or Divine Reality through the deep longings of their hearts. The silence pulsates with a compassion and warmth that other remedies cannot replicate. The deep sense of moral injury and shame no longer needs to be repressed. They can begin to forgive themselves and feel like they just might be lovable.

Gateway to Silence:
Love your enemies.

————————-

The Missionary’s Master and Teacher
By Oswald Chambers

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am ….I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master… —John 13:13, 16
To have a master and teacher is not the same thing as being mastered and taught. Having a master and teacher means that there is someone who knows me better than I know myself, who is closer than a friend, and who understands the remotest depths of my heart and is able to satisfy them fully. It means having someone who has made me secure in the knowledge that he has met and solved all the doubts, uncertainties, and problems in my mind. To have a master and teacher is this and nothing less— “…for One is your Teacher, the Christ…” (Matthew 23:8).
Our Lord never takes measures to make me do what He wants. Sometimes I wish God would master and control me to make me do what He wants, but He will not. And at other times I wish He would leave me alone, and He does not.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord…”— but is He? Teacher, Master, and Lord have little place in our vocabulary. We prefer the words Savior, Sanctifier, and Healer. The only word that truly describes the experience of being mastered is love, and we know little about love as God reveals it in His Word. The way we use the word obey is proof of this. In the Bible, obedience is based on a relationship between equals; for example, that of a son with his father. Our Lord was not simply God’s servant— He was His Son. “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience…” (Hebrews 5:8). If we are consciously aware that we are being mastered, that idea itself is proof that we have no master. If that is our attitude toward Jesus, we are far away from having the relationship He wants with us. He wants us in a relationship where He is so easily our Master and Teacher that we have no conscious awareness of it— a relationship where all we know is that we are His to obey.

Nonviolence

September 21st, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Beloved Children of God
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Because it is crucial to our understanding of nonviolence, let me repeat: The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, from being somehow one with everyone and everything. Most of our conflicts arise from a very fragile sense of the self. When we’re full of fear, the enemy is everywhere. We endlessly look for the problem outside of ourselves so we can expel or exterminate it. If a prophetic peacemaker attempts to take our chosen object of hatred away from us, we turn our hatred on them. Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others were persecuted or killed because they challenged the myth of scapegoating. If we don’t own our own evil, we will always project it elsewhere and attack it there.

Only people who recognize their own evil, or at least their complicity in evil, stop this unconscious scapegoating pattern. Their experience of radical union with God makes it possible for them to own their own shadow, their own capacity for evil, and not need to hate it in other people. Fully conscious people do not scapegoat; unconscious people do almost nothing else.

On the fiftieth World Day of Peace, Pope Francis said:

I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity,” and make active nonviolence our way of life. [1]

How can we make nonviolence a way of life? Last week we heard from John Dear, nonviolent activist and author, and I’d like to share more of his words:

Practicing nonviolence means claiming our fundamental identity as the beloved sons and daughters of the God of peace, and thus, going forth into the world of war as peacemakers to love every other human being. . . . The problem is: we don’t know who we are. . . . The challenge then is to remember who we are, and therefore be nonviolent to ourselves and others.

Living nonviolence requires daily meditation, contemplation, study, concentration, and mindfulness. Just as mindlessness leads to violence, steady mindfulness and conscious awareness of our true identities lead to nonviolence and peace. The deeper we go into mindful nonviolence, the more we live the truth of our identity as sisters and brothers of one another, and sons and daughters of the God of peace. The social, economic, and political implications of this practice are astounding: if we are sons and daughters of a loving Creator, then every human being is our sister and brother, and we can never hurt anyone on earth ever again, much less be silent in the face of war, starvation, racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, systemic injustice, and environmental destruction. [2]

Gateway to Silence:
Love your enemies.

_______________________________________________________

The Missionary’s Predestined Purpose

By Oswald Chambers

 Now the Lord says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant… —Isaiah 49:5
The first thing that happens after we recognize our election by God in Christ Jesus is the destruction of our preconceived ideas, our narrow-minded thinking, and all of our other allegiances— we are turned solely into servants of God’s own purpose. The entire human race was created to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Sin has diverted the human race onto another course, but it has not altered God’s purpose to the slightest degree. And when we are born again we are brought into the realization of God’s great purpose for the human race, namely, that He created us for Himself. This realization of our election by God is the most joyful on earth, and we must learn to rely on this tremendous creative purpose of God. The first thing God will do is force the interests of the whole world through the channel of our hearts. The love of God, and even His very nature, is introduced into us. And we see the nature of Almighty God purely focused in John 3:16“For God so loved the world….”

We must continually keep our soul open to the fact of God’s creative purpose, and never confuse or cloud it with our own intentions. If we do, God will have to force our intentions aside no matter how much it may hurt. A missionary is created for the purpose of being God’s servant, one in whom God is glorified. Once we realize that it is through the salvation of Jesus Christ that we are made perfectly fit for the purpose of God, we will understand why Jesus Christ is so strict and relentless in His demands. He demands absolute righteousness from His servants, because He has put into them the very nature of God.

Beware lest you forget God’s purpose for your life.

Courageous Nonviolence

September 20th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Courageous Nonviolence
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 (Richard Rohr)

Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable. —Mahatma Gandhi [1]

Living a nonviolent life is no easy task; it is not simply pacifism. It requires courageous love, drawn from the very source of our being. As Mark Kurlansky explains, “Pacifism is passive; but nonviolence is active. Pacifism is harmless and therefore easier to accept than nonviolence, which is dangerous. When Jesus said that a victim should turn the other cheek, he was preaching pacifism. But when he said that an enemy should be won over through the power of love, he was preaching nonviolence.” [2]

Thomas Merton writes, “Non-violence implies a kind of bravery far different from violence.” [3] Our dualistic minds see evil as black and white and that the only solution is to eliminate evil. Nonviolence, on the other hand, comes from an awareness that I am also the enemy and my response is part of the whole moral equation. I cannot destroy the other without destroying myself. I must embrace my enemy just as much as I must welcome my own shadow. Both acts take real and lasting courage.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) coined a new term, satyagraha, because “passive resistance” didn’t capture his mission. Satyagraha combines the Sanskrit word sat—that which is, being, or truth—with graha—holding firm to or remaining steadfast in. It is often translated as “truth force” or “soul force.”

To create peaceful change, we must begin by remembering who we are in God. Gandhi believed the core of our being is union with God. From this awareness, nonviolence must flow naturally and consistently:

Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being. . . . If love or non-violence be not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces. . . . Belief in non-violence is based on the assumption that human nature in its essence is one and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love. . . . If one does not practice non-violence in one’s personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken. [4]

Regardless of what name we call the divine, Gandhi believed that experiencing God’s loving presence within is central to nonviolence. This was his motivation and sustenance as he fasted for peace, as he embraced the untouchables (whom he called “Children of God”), as he advocated against nuclear weapons. Gandhi writes: “We have one thousand names to denote God, and if I did not feel the presence of God within me, I see so much of misery and disappointment every day that I would be a raving maniac.” [5] Practicing loving presence must become our entire way of life, or it seldom works as an occasional tactic.

Gateway to Silence:
Love your enemies.

——————-

The Divine Commandment of Life (Oswald Chambers)

…be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. —Matthew 5:48

Our Lord’s exhortation to us in Matthew 5:38-48 is to be generous in our behavior toward everyone. Beware of living according to your natural affections in your spiritual life. Everyone has natural affections— some people we like and others we don’t like. Yet we must never let those likes and dislikes rule our Christian life. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7), even those toward whom we have no affection.
The example our Lord gave us here is not that of a good person, or even of a good Christian, but of God Himself. “…be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” In other words, simply show to the other person what God has shown to you. And God will give you plenty of real life opportunities to prove whether or not you are “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Being a disciple means deliberately identifying yourself with God’s interests in other people. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life, not in times of intimate fellowship with God. And when we come in contact with things that create confusion and a flurry of activity, we find to our own amazement that we have the power to stay wonderfully poised even in the center of it all.

Nonviolence

September 19th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

The Inevitable Spiral of Violence
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999) was a Brazilian archbishop and brilliant nonviolent activist who offered a model for understanding how structural injustice leads to greater violence. [1] I overlay Dom Hélder’s teaching on the “spiral of violence” with traditional Catholic moral teaching which saw the three primary sources of evil as the world, the flesh, and the devil—in that order. If evil and institutionalized violence (“structural sin”) go unrecognized at the first level, the second and third levels of violence and evil are inevitable. If we don’t nip evil in the bud at the level where it is legitimated and disguised, we will have little power to fight it at the individual level.

By “world” we don’t mean creation or nature, but “the system.” It’s the way groups, cultures, institutions, and nations organize to protect themselves and maintain their power. This is the most hidden and denied level of evil. We cannot see it because we are all inside of it, and it is in our ego’s self-interest to protect the corporate deception. For example, I have yet to hear a sermon or confession concerning the tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet.” It’s almost impossible for an American to see colonization, capitalism, or consumerism as problematic. Our culture is built upon the idea that there’s not enough, that we must always seek more—at others’ expense. Lynne Twist calls this unconscious, unexamined assumption the “lie of scarcity.” [2]

Historically, organized religion has put most of its concern at the middle level of the spiral of violence, or what we called “the flesh.” Flesh in this context is individual sin, personal mistakes that you and I make. Individual evil is certainly real, but the very word “flesh” had made us preoccupied with sexual sins, which Jesus never talked about. When we punish or shame individuals for their sins, we are usually treating symptoms rather than the root problem or cause: the illusion of separation from God and others.

There is a deep and direct connection between “the world” or “the system” with its culture and corporations and the evil things private individuals do. The entertainment and business worlds celebrate people who are greedy, ambitious, angry, vain, prideful, deceptive in the name of profit, and “lustful” in many ways beyond the obvious (these were historically called the “capital sins”). We can’t reward and promote evil at this level and then shame it at the personal level. It does not work. We can’t romanticize war, but then rail against murder. As my friend, Cardinal Bernardin, put it, we have no “consistent ethic of life.” [3] Because of our inconsistency, more and more people do not look to Christians for moral leadership. If we are to be truly “pro-life,” we must defend life “from womb to tomb” and stand against all violence, including war, racism, capital punishment, hunger, lack of health care, the destruction of the earth, and all that impoverishes people.

At the very top of the spiral of violence sits “the devil.” This personification of evil is hard to name or describe because it’s so well disguised and even idealized. If “the world” is hidden structural violence, then “the devil” is sanctified, romanticized, and legitimated violence—violence that is deemed culturally necessary to control the angry flesh and the world run amuck. Any institution thought of as “too big to fail” or somehow above criticism has a strong possibility of diabolical misuse. Think of the military industrial complex, the penal system, banks, multinational corporations subject to no law, tax codes benefiting the wealthy, or even organized religion itself. We need and admire these institutions all too much. As a result, they can “get away with murder.” Paul called this level of violence “powers, principalities, thrones, and dominions” (Colossians 1:16).

If we do not recognize the roots of violence at the first and disguised structural level (“the world”), we will waste time focusing exclusively on the second and individual level (“the flesh”), and we will seldom see our real devils who are always disguised as angels of light (“the devil”). (Remember, Lucifer means “Light Bearer.”)

Evil only succeeds by disguising itself as good, Thomas Aquinas taught.

Gateway to Silence:
Love your enemies.

_________________________________________________

Are You Going on With Jesus?

By Oswald Chambers

It is true that Jesus Christ is with us through our temptations, but are we going on with Him through His temptations? Many of us turn back from going on with Jesus from the very moment we have an experience of what He can do. Watch when God changes your circumstances to see whether you are going on with Jesus, or siding with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We wear His name, but are we going on with Him? “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66).

The temptations of Jesus continued throughout His earthly life, and they will continue throughout the life of the Son of God in us. Are we going on with Jesus in the life we are living right now?

We have the idea that we ought to shield ourselves from some of the things God brings around us. May it never be! It is God who engineers our circumstances, and whatever they may be we must see that we face them while continually abiding with Him in His temptations. They are His temptations, not temptations to us, but temptations to the life of the Son of God in us. Jesus Christ’s honor is at stake in our bodily lives. Are we remaining faithful to the Son of God in everything that attacks His life in us?

Are you going on with Jesus? The way goes through Gethsemane, through the city gate, and on “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:13). The way is lonely and goes on until there is no longer even a trace of a footprint to follow— but only the voice saying, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19).

Nonviolence

September 18th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

The Root of Violence (Richard Rohr)

The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything. When you don’t know you are connected and one, you will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power you lack. Contemplation of the Gospel message gradually trains you not to make so much of the differences, but to return to who you are (your True Self in God) which is always beyond any nationality, religion, skin color, gender, sexuality, or any other possible labels. In fact, you finally can see that they are always and only commercial labels—that cover the rich product underneath.

When you can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, then you will ironically find that you are more than enough. At this place of poverty and freedom, you have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. Here you can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs. This cuts violence at its very roots before there is even a basis for fear or greed—the things that usually cause us to be angry, suspicious, and violent.

To be clear, it is inconceivable that a true believer would be racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, homophobic, or bigoted toward any group or individual, especially toward the poor, which seems to be an acceptable American prejudice. In order to end the cycle of violence, our fight must flow from our authentic identity as Love.

One of the reasons I founded the Center for Action and Contemplation thirty years ago was to give activists some grounding in spirituality so they could continue working for social change, but from a stance much different than vengeance, ideology, or willpower pressing against willpower. Most activists I knew loved Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings on nonviolence. But it became clear to me that many of them had only an intellectual appreciation rather than a participation in the much deeper mystery. I often saw people on the Left playing the victim and creating victims of others who were not like them. The ego was still in charge. It was still a power game, not the science of love that Jesus taught us.

When we begin by connecting with our inner experience of communion rather than separation, our actions can become pure, clear, and firm. It takes a lifetime, I think. This kind of action, rooted in one’s True Self, comes from a deeper knowing of what is real, good, true, and beautiful, beyond labels and dualistic judgments of right or wrong. From this place, our energy is positive and has the most potential to create change for the good. This stance is precisely what we mean by “being in prayer.” We must pray “unceasingly” to maintain this posture.

Wait in prayer, but don’t wait for absolutely perfect motivation or we will never act. Radical union with God and neighbor is our starting place, not private perfection. Contemplation offers a way to make our action sustainable and lasting over the long haul, without being overly defended or cynical.

Gateway to Silence:
Love your enemies.

—————————–

His Temptation and Ours (Oswald Chambers)

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. —Hebrews 4:15

Until we are born again, the only kind of temptation we understand is the kind mentioned in James 1:14, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” But through regeneration we are lifted into another realm where there are other temptations to face, namely, the kind of temptations our Lord faced. The temptations of Jesus had no appeal to us as unbelievers because they were not at home in our human nature. Our Lord’s temptations and ours are in different realms until we are born again and become His brothers. The temptations of Jesus are not those of a mere man, but the temptations of God as Man. Through regeneration, the Son of God is formed in us (see Galatians 4:19), and in our physical life He has the same setting that He had on earth. Satan does not tempt us just to make us do wrong things— he tempts us to make us lose what God has put into us through regeneration, namely, the possibility of being of value to God. He does not come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of shifting our point of view, and only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil.

Temptation means a test of the possessions held within the inner, spiritual part of our being by a power outside us and foreign to us. This makes the temptation of our Lord explainable. After Jesus’ baptism, having accepted His mission of being the One “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) He “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matthew 4:1) and into the testing devices of the devil. Yet He did not become weary or exhausted. He went through the temptation “without sin,” and He retained all the possessions of His spiritual nature completely intact.

Hope in the Darkness

September 8th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Grief (Richard Rohr)
Friday, September 8, 2017

My friend and fellow teacher Mirabai Starr has become intimate with darkness through studying and translating the work of St. John of the Cross, as well as her own journey through the tragic loss of her daughter. Here she describes the experience of spiritual darkness and shares insights on grief from author Tim Farrington:

The Dark Night of the Soul, as John conceived it, is actually an inner state that may or may not have anything to do with external circumstances. It is an experience of being stripped of all the spiritual feelings and concepts with which we are accustomed to propping up our inner lives. It is a plunge into the abyss of radical unknowingness. This spiritual crisis, John assures us, is a cause for celebration, because it is only when we get out of our own way that the Divine can take over and fill us with love. But it’s a grueling process to come to this level of surrender, and few of us go willingly. [Tim Farrington offers] a lucid glimpse into the ways in which an experience of profound loss and deep sorrow can act as a catalyst for an authentic Dark Night of the Soul. Tim muses:

Whether you are truly in a “dark night” or “just” grieving is a question I have come to believe is insoluble in the midst of the process. The two experiences can certainly intertwine; often the loss of a loved one exposes the superficiality of the spiritual notions we believed to be sustaining us and challenges us to let go of them and go deeper; and the dark night, teaching us to let go of protective ideologies, often allows us to open for the first time to the nakedness of our real suffering of the death of loved ones. God uses our helplessness where it arises, and few things bring our human helplessness home to us more sharply and unavoidably than grief. [1]

[The] Dark Night of the Soul is not only about being brought to our knees. It is about unconditional love. The kind of love that wakes us up and affirms our deepest humanity. The act of consciously yielding to the shattering of the heart is not high on the list of cultural [and, I would add, Christian] values. But it should be! As Tim observes:

. . . we are often encouraged to buck up, to get over it, and so to throw out the baby of the slow true process of grieving with the bathwater. Grief will never go away, if we’re really paying attention. It’s part of being awake: we love, and we lose those we love to the erosions of time, sickness, and death (until those we love lose us to the same). To lose a loved one is to be called to come to genuine terms with that loss, or risk losing touch with that in us which loved. [2]

What are the ways in which your losses have transfigured your soul?

Gateway to Silence:
The night shines like the day.

————————

Do It Yourself (1) (Oswald Chambers)

…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God… —2 Corinthians 10:5

Determinedly Demolish Some Things. Deliverance from sin is not the same as deliverance from human nature. There are things in human nature, such as prejudices, that the saint can only destroy through sheer neglect. But there are other things that have to be destroyed through violence, that is, through God’s divine strength imparted by His Spirit. There are some things over which we are not to fight, but only to “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…” (see Exodus 14:13). But every theory or thought that raises itself up as a fortified barrier “against the knowledge of God” is to be determinedly demolished by drawing on God’s power, not through human effort or by compromise (see 2 Corinthians 10:4).

It is only when God has transformed our nature and we have entered into the experience of sanctification that the fight begins. The warfare is not against sin; we can never fight against sin— Jesus Christ conquered that in His redemption of us. The conflict is waged over turning our natural life into a spiritual life. This is never done easily, nor does God intend that it be so. It is accomplished only through a series of moral choices. God does not make us holy in the sense that He makes our character holy. He makes us holy in the sense that He has made us innocent before Him. And then we have to turn that innocence into holy character through the moral choices we make. These choices are continually opposed and hostile to the things of our natural life which have become so deeply entrenched— the very things that raise themselves up as fortified barriers “against the knowledge of God.” We can either turn back, making ourselves of no value to the kingdom of God, or we can determinedly demolish these things, allowing Jesus to bring another son to glory (see Hebrews 2:10).

Hope in the Darkness

September 7th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

The Dark Night of the Soul
Thursday, September 7, 2017 (Richard Rohr)

I came out of the seminary in 1970 thinking that my job was to have an answer for every question. What I’ve learned is that not-knowing and often not even needing to know is—surprise of surprises—a deeper way of knowing and a deeper falling into compassion. This is surely what the mystics mean by “death” and why they talk of it with so many metaphors. It is the essential transitioning. Maybe that is why Jesus praised faith even more than love; maybe that is why St. John of the Cross called faith “luminous darkness.” Yes, love is the final goal but ever deeper trust inside of darkness is the path for getting there.

My good friend Gerald May shed fresh light on the meaning of John of the Cross’ phrase “the dark night of the soul.” [1] He said that God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness, because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery/transformation/God/grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process. No one oversees his or her own demise willingly, even when it is the false self that is dying. God has to undo our illusions secretly, as it were, when we are not watching and not in perfect control, say the mystics. We move forward in ways that we do not even understand and through the quiet workings of time and grace, as “Deep calls unto deep” (Psalm 42:8). In other words, Spirit initiates deep resonance and intimacy with our spirit, as the Endless Divine Yes evokes an ever-deeper yes in us.

As James Finley, one of CAC’s core faculty members, says, “The mystic is not someone who says, ‘Look what I have done!’ The mystic is one who says, ‘Look what love has done to me. There’s nothing left but God’s intimate love giving itself to me as me.’ That’s the blessedness in poverty: when all in us that is not God dissolves, and we finally realize that we are already as beautiful as God is beautiful, because God gave the infinite beauty of God as who we are.”

Finley describes God as “the infinity of the unforeseeable; so we know that [the unforeseeable] is trustworthy, because in everything, God is trying to move us into Christ consciousness. If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” [2] Perhaps this explains the mysterious coexistence of deep suffering and intense joy in mystics, as we’ll explore further in a couple of weeks.

Gateway to Silence:
The night shines like the day.

—————

Fountains of Blessings (Oswald Chambers)

The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. —John 4:14

The picture our Lord described here is not that of a simple stream of water, but an overflowing fountain. Continue to “be filled” (Ephesians 5:18) and the sweetness of your vital relationship to Jesus will flow as generously out of you as it has been given to you. If you find that His life is not springing up as it should, you are to blame— something is obstructing the flow. Was Jesus saying to stay focused on the Source so that you may be blessed personally? No, you are to focus on the Source so that out of you “will flow rivers of living water”— irrepressible life (John 7:38).

We are to be fountains through which Jesus can flow as “rivers of living water” in blessing to everyone. Yet some of us are like the Dead Sea, always receiving but never giving, because our relationship is not right with the Lord Jesus. As surely as we receive blessings from Him, He will pour out blessings through us. But whenever the blessings are not being poured out in the same measure they are received, there is a defect in our relationship with Him. Is there anything between you and Jesus Christ? Is there anything hindering your faith in Him? If not, then Jesus says that out of you “will flow rivers of living water.” It is not a blessing that you pass on, or an experience that you share with others, but a river that continually flows through you. Stay at the Source, closely guarding your faith in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him, and there will be a steady flow into the lives of others with no dryness or deadness whatsoever.

Is it excessive to say that rivers will flow out of one individual believer? Do you look at yourself and say, “But I don’t see the rivers”? Through the history of God’s work you will usually find that He has started with the obscure, the unknown, the ignored, but those who have been steadfastly true to Jesus Christ.

Changing Our View of God

September 6th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Changing Our View of God
Wednesday, September 6, 2017 (Richard Rohr)

Through darkness and doubt often come the greatest creativity and faith. Our faith is strengthened every time we go through a period of questioning: “Why do I believe this? Do I believe this at all? What do I base my life on?” When we are at rock bottom, everything becomes clearer: self-image, God-image, worldview.

It takes a long time to purify the experience of dysfunctional family life, abuse, manipulation, shaming, negativity, or judgmental attitudes. As St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) described, our gods must each die till we find the true God. Or as Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1327) put it, “Let us pray to God that we may be free of God.” [1]

To allow and fully experience the darkness is an immense act of courage (from cor-agere, “an act of the heart”). Our natural instinct is to pull back from others, to move into a self-chosen exile. But when we are cut off or alienated from others, wounds are exacerbated rather than healed.

In the darkness, it’s hard to feel courageous. We resist love. “I will prove that I’m unworthy. I will not let you get to me.” Yet we must turn toward the very people we are pushing away, those who love us and who see meaning in our life when we can’t. It sounds naïve and simplistic, but love is the greatest healer.

In the darkness, we usually look for someone to blame, to absolve ourselves from the problem. I think we’ve been led into a period of exile again, both as a culture and as a Church, as evidenced by increased hostility and blame of the “other.”

The shame-and-blame game is all about projecting our inner state elsewhere. That’s why Jesus taught that, for the sake of our soul, we must love our enemy. The enemy—or whomever we resent, dislike, or are annoyed by—carries our dark side. “Why do you try to take the speck out of your brother’s or sister’s eye, when you cannot see the log in your own?” (Matthew 7:5).

Not all criticism is blind negativity. Healthy critique offers hope and vision when we own our complicity in the problem. People who love something have earned the right to make it better and keep it true to its deepest vision. We must first recognize that God has something to teach us personally, not just the group or institution.

The way through is always much more difficult than the way around. Cheap religion gives us the way around, avoiding darkness. True religion gives us the way through, stepping right into the mystery.

Darkness is sacred ground. The God who calls us into darkness will also sustain us and lead us through it. “God . . . brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not yet exist” (Romans 4:17). Resurrection is the one and only pattern.

Gateway to Silence:
The night shines like the day.

——————-

The Far-Reaching Rivers of Life (Oswald Chambers)

He who believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. —John 7:38

A river reaches places which its source never knows. And Jesus said that, if we have received His fullness, “rivers of living water” will flow out of us, reaching in blessing even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) regardless of how small the visible effects of our lives may appear to be. We have nothing to do with the outflow— “This is the work of God, that you believe…” (John 6:29). God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others.

A river is victoriously persistent, overcoming all barriers. For a while it goes steadily on its course, but then comes to an obstacle. And for a while it is blocked, yet it soon makes a pathway around the obstacle. Or a river will drop out of sight for miles, only later to emerge again even broader and greater than ever. Do you see God using the lives of others, but an obstacle has come into your life and you do not seem to be of any use to God? Then keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you around the obstacle or remove it. The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focused on the Source. Never allow anything to come between you and Jesus Christ— not emotion nor experience— nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.

Think of the healing and far-reaching rivers developing and nourishing themselves in our souls! God has been opening up wonderful truths to our minds, and every point He has opened up is another indication of the wider power of the river that He will flow through us. If you believe in Jesus, you will find that God has developed and nourished in you mighty, rushing rivers of blessing for others.

Hope In the Darkness

September 5th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Hpe in the Darkness

Two Kinds of Darkness
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Darkness is a good and necessary teacher. It is not to be avoided, denied, run from, or explained away. First, like Ezekiel the prophet, we must eat the scroll that is “lamentation, wailing, and moaning” in our belly, and only eventually becomes sweet as honey (see Ezekiel 2:9-10; 3:1-3).
By the time most people reach middle age, they’ve had days where life has lost its meaning, they no longer connect with an inner sense of motivation or joy. Sometimes this manifests as clinical depression and requires a therapist’s skilled care and medication. But even if we don’t experience depression, most of us go through a period of darkness, doubt, and malaise at some point in our lives.
There’s a darkness that we are led into by our own stupidity, sin (the illusion of separation), and selfishness (living out of the false self). We have to work our way out of this kind of darkness by brutal honesty, confession, surrender, forgiveness, apology, and restitution. It may feel simultaneously like dying and being liberated. We resist going through the darkness and facing our shadow, so we usually need help, as the Twelve Steps wisely identify. An accountability partner, spiritual director, or counselor can help us navigate this difficult, ego-humiliating process.
There’s another darkness that we’re led into by God, grace, and the nature of life itself. In many ways, the loss of meaning, motivation, purpose, and direction might feel even greater here. The saints and mystics called it “the dark night of the soul.” But even while we feel alone and that God has abandoned us, we sense that we have been led here intentionally. We know we are in “liminal space,” betwixt and between, on the threshold—and we have to stay here until we have learned something essential. It is still no fun and filled with doubt and “demons” of every sort. But it is the darkness of being held closely by God without our awareness. This is where transformation happens.
The darkness that we get ourselves into by our own “sinful” choices can also become the darkness of God. Regardless of the cause, the dark night is an opportunity to look for and find God—in different forms and ways than we’ve become accustomed. Even if we don’t feel like praying, staying committed to contemplative practice is particularly important.
Sometimes it may be tempting to remain in the darkness—it becomes familiar and we rebel against the light; the paralysis and self-pity has a strange attraction. We may feel an inner restlessness, as if we’re aimlessly pacing back and forth on the same path. Allowing periods of this seemingly fruitless darkness may be part of deconstructing our false self so that we can rebuild on the foundation of our True Self. We must lose our old image of God and our old ways of experiencing God’s presence to discover the absolute reality beneath all of our egoic fantasies and fears.
Gateway to Silence:
The night shines like the day.

____________________________________________________________________

Oswald Chambers

Watching with Jesus

Stay here and watch with Me. —Matthew 26:38

“Watch with Me.” Jesus was saying, in effect, “Watch with no private point of view at all, but watch solely and entirely with Me.” In the early stages of our Christian life, we do not watch with Jesus, we watch for Him. We do not watch with Him through the revealed truth of the Bible even in the circumstances of our own lives. Our Lord is trying to introduce us to identification with Himself through a particular “Gethsemane” experience of our own. But we refuse to go, saying, “No, Lord, I can’t see the meaning of this, and besides, it’s very painful.” And how can we possibly watch with Someone who is so incomprehensible? How are we going to understand Jesus sufficiently to watch with Him in His Gethsemane, when we don’t even know why He is suffering? We don’t know how to watch with Him— we are only used to the idea of Jesus watching with us.

The disciples loved Jesus Christ to the limit of their natural capacity, but they did not fully understand His purpose. In the Garden of Gethsemane they slept as a result of their own sorrow, and at the end of three years of the closest and most intimate relationship of their lives they “all…forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:4). “They” refers to the same people, but something wonderful has happened between these two events— our Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension— and the disciples have now been invaded and “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Our Lord had said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8). This meant that they learned to watch with Him the rest of their lives.

Entering the Dark Wood

September 4th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Entering the Dark Wood
Monday, September 4, 2017 Richard Rohr

The mystics of all the great religions, along with classic literature like Homer’s Odyssey, intuited that life was a journey involving completion of a first half and transition to a second half, sometimes called “a further journey.” Yet most of us were given the impression that life was a matter of learning and obeying the rules; and those who obeyed them won. Many of our pastoral problems and the foundational alienation from religion in Europe and North America stem from the lack of initiation and depth. Mainline Christianity does not seem to be giving people access to God, to the soul, or to the joy and freedom promised in the Scriptures. Christianity is not doing its primary job well—moving people from the first to the second half of life.

At some point along the journey, if you’re honest and open, you will realize there’s more to life. This experience is hardly inviting or encouraging, and so many of us turn back. Dante describes the human experience: “In the middle of life, I found myself in a dark wood.” [1] If you’re letting life happen to you, you will be led to the dark wood where you have to ask: “What does it all mean? Why am I doing this? Why don’t I feel fully alive or that my life has meaning? What am I doing wrong?” Most of us have bouts of immense self-doubt and even sometimes self-hatred at this point.

This is why Jesus says, “By faith you will be saved” (Luke 7:50, 18:42). It is only by a foundational trust in the midst of suffering, some ability to bear darkness and uncertainty, and learning to be comfortable with paradox and mystery, that you move from the first half of life to the second half.

Novelist Robertson Davies wrote, “One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.” [2] The word innocent comes from the Latin for unwounded or not harmed. The innocent one hasn’t yet learned from his or her wounds, and therefore doesn’t know his or her full reality yet. Human life only develops in the shadowlands, never inside of pure light or total darkness.

When you’ve stumbled—and the guilt, loneliness, and fear come to assault you—if you don’t have at least one good friend, or if you have not developed a prayer life where you know how to find yourself in God instead of in your own feelings, you will simply retrench and reassert your correctness. You’ll learn nothing and remain in the first half of life, maintaining your container and supposed identity. This explains why most people are stuck in the first half of life. This is especially true for people who are highly successful or have been able to avoid all suffering. If you only move from success to success, or you never live in solidarity with the suffering of others, you normally know very little about your own soul.

Gateway to Silence:
The night shines like the day.

———————-

His! Oswald Chambers

They were Yours, You gave them to Me… —John 17:6

A missionary is someone in whom the Holy Spirit has brought about this realization: “You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). To say, “I am not my own,” is to have reached a high point in my spiritual stature. The true nature of that life in actual everyday confusion is evidenced by the deliberate giving up of myself to another Person through a sovereign decision, and that Person is Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit interprets and explains the nature of Jesus to me to make me one with my Lord, not that I might simply become a trophy for His showcase. Our Lord never sent any of His disciples out on the basis of what He had done for them. It was not until after the resurrection, when the disciples had perceived through the power of the Holy Spirit who Jesus really was, that He said, “Go” (Matthew 28:19; also see Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8).

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). He was not saying that this person cannot be good and upright, but that he cannot be someone over whom Jesus can write the word Mine. Any one of the relationships our Lord mentions in this verse can compete with our relationship with Him. I may prefer to belong to my mother, or to my wife, or to myself, but if that is the case, then, Jesus said, “[You] cannot be My disciple.” This does not mean that I will not be saved, but it does mean that I cannot be entirely His.

Our Lord makes His disciple His very own possession, becoming responsible for him. “…you shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). The desire that comes into a disciple is not one of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him. The missionary’s secret is truly being able to say, “I am His, and He is accomplishing His work and His purposes through me.”

Be entirely His!