Have You Ever Been Speechless with Sorrow?

August 18th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. —Luke 18:23

The rich young ruler went away from Jesus speechless with sorrow, having nothing to say in response to Jesus’ words. He had no doubt about what Jesus had said or what it meant, and it produced in him a sorrow with no words with which to respond. Have you ever been there? Has God’s Word ever come to you, pointing out an area of your life, requiring you to yield it to Him? Maybe He has pointed out certain personal qualities, desires, and interests, or possibly relationships of your heart and mind. If so, then you have often been speechless with sorrow. The Lord will not go after you, and He will not plead with you. But every time He meets you at the place where He has pointed, He will simply repeat His words, saying, “If you really mean what you say, these are the conditions.”

“Sell all that you have…” (Luke 18:22). In other words, rid yourself before God of everything that might be considered a possession until you are a mere conscious human being standing before Him, and then give God that. That is where the battle is truly fought— in the realm of your will before God. Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Jesus Himself? If so, you are likely to hear one of His harsh and unyielding statements that will produce sorrow in you. What Jesus says is difficult— it is only easy when it is heard by those who have His nature in them. Beware of allowing anything to soften the hard words of Jesus Christ.

I can be so rich in my own poverty, or in the awareness of the fact that I am nobody, that I will never be a disciple of Jesus. Or I can be so rich in the awareness that I am somebody that I will never be a disciple. Am I willing to be destitute and poor even in my sense of awareness of my destitution and poverty? If not, that is why I become discouraged. Discouragement is disillusioned self-love, and self-love may be love for my devotion to Jesus— not love for Jesus Himself.

————————

James Finley
True Self and False Self: Week 2

Living in God
Friday, August 18, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring insights on the true self and false self that he gleaned from Thomas Merton.

In ways known only to God, the one seeking God in silence unexpectedly falls through the barriers of division and duplicity to discover, as Merton writes, that:

. . . here, where contemplation becomes what it is really meant to be, it is no longer something infused by God into a created subject, so much as God living in God and identifying a created life with His [sic] own Life so that there is nothing left of any significance but God living in God. [1]

This “disappearance” is the antithesis of loss of self. Rather it is an expression of the true self’s final consummation as a created capacity for perfect union with God. Thus, this disappearance is actually a manifestation of ourselves as radically one with God. The only self that actually vanishes is our false self, the separate self we thought ourselves to be. Within the context of this contemplative awareness, we actualize Jesus’ words: “He who loses his life shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Merton says the contemplative realizes that the ego-self is:

not final or absolute; it is a provisional self-construction which exists, for practical purposes, only in a sphere of relativity. Its existence has meaning in so far as it does not become fixated or centered upon itself as ultimate, learns to function not as its own center but “from God” and “for others.” [2]

This is why Christ came, that through him and in the Spirit we might find our fulfillment in union with the Father. Merton relates this contemplative transformation of consciousness to the whole of Christian life, saying:

This dynamic of emptying and of transcendence accurately defines the transformation of the Christian consciousness in Christ. It is a kenotic transformation, an emptying of all the contents of the ego-consciousness to become a void in which the light of God or the glory of God, the full radiation of the infinite reality of His Being and Love are manifested. [3]

Gateway to Silence:
I am one with God.

Does He Know Me?

August 16th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

He calls his own…by name… —John 10:3

 When I have sadly misunderstood Him? (see John 20:11-18). It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him. Why was Mary weeping? Doctrine meant no more to her than the grass under her feet. In fact, any Pharisee could have made a fool of Mary doctrinally, but one thing they could never ridicule was the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (see Luke 8:2); yet His blessings were nothing to her in comparison with knowing Jesus Himself. “…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus….Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ ” (John 20:14, 16). Once He called Mary by her name, she immediately knew that she had a personal history with the One who spoke. “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ ” (John 20:16).

When I have stubbornly doubted? (see John 20:24-29). Have I been doubting something about Jesus— maybe an experience to which others testify, but which I have not yet experienced? The other disciples said to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25). But Thomas doubted, saying, “Unless I see…I will not believe” (John 20:25). Thomas needed the personal touch of Jesus. When His touches will come we never know, but when they do come they are indescribably precious. “Thomas…said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” (John 20:28).

When I have selfishly denied Him? (see John 21:15-17). Peter denied Jesus Christ with oaths and curses (see Matthew 26:69-75), and yet after His resurrection Jesus appeared to Peter alone. Jesus restored Peter in private, and then He restored him publicly before the others. And Peter said to Him, “Lord…You know that I love You” (John 21:17).

Do I have a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one true sign of discipleship is intimate oneness with Him— a knowledge of Jesus that nothing can shake.

_______________________________________________

August 16 2017

Journal Entry for Today-JDV

Lord, it has been a while since I reached out to you via a journal entry. You led David and I to begin a study of Richard Rohr and his colleagues, David flew to Albuquerque for a three day session and we settled in to study, pray and discuss the ways to get and stay connected to you. Then we learned that we do not have to stay connected all the time and that You do not stop loving us just because we are who and what we are; flawed humans.

It seems like the pressure is off. There is no need to try to “be better” or to “overcome that habit or failure”. Sin management and more striving to be a better person and or Christian are no longer a topic for review with You. You are love in the most comprehensive and imaginable way. The way of Your love includes overwhelming acceptance, grace and growth that can only come from You. And if there is to be  change in us, You will handle all of that from the inside out.

And God says…..”Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. When you focus on Jesus, and take the time to consciously allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you, your awareness of our presence is more keen, and you feel more connected. But you are no more connected to Me then than when you are full tilt off the rails engaged in some weak human behavior that pursues the big four (to look good, feel good, be right and be in control).” 

“You are starting to understand that this is not a battle for your soul or for a better JD Vaughn, that battle needs never be fought. I love you unreservedly, and Jesus was my gift of love that does not measure your performance; ever. My closeness to you does not require anything on your part. However, you can take a moment to hear, feel and touch Me with your mind’s eye, and know I am God and I love you beyond your wildest comprehension. Now live out of that.”

__________________________________________________________

Richard Rohr

True Self and False Self: Week 2

Freedom to Be Our True Self
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring insights on the true self and false self that he gleaned from Thomas Merton.

Merton quotes Meister Eckhart as saying, “For God to be is to give being, and for man to be is to receive being.” [1] Our true self is a received self. At each moment, we exist to the extent we receive existence from God who is existence.

Our deepest freedom rests not in our freedom to do what we want to do but rather in our freedom to become who God wills us to be. This person, this ultimate self God wills us to be, is not a predetermined, static mold to which we must conform. Rather, it is an infinite possibility of growth. It is our true self; that is, a secret self hidden in and one with the divine freedom. In obeying God, in turning to do God’s will, God wills us to be free. God created us for freedom; that is to say, God created us for God’s self.

Phrased differently, we can say that God cannot hear the prayer of someone who does not exist. The self constructed of ideologies and social principles, the self that defines itself and proclaims its own worthiness is most unworthy of the claim to reality before God. Our freedom from the prison of our own illusions comes in realizing that in the end everything is a gift. Above all, we ourselves are gifts that we must first accept before we can become who we are by returning who we are to the Father. This is accomplished in a daily death to self, in a compassionate reaching out to those in need, and in a detached desire for the silent, ineffable surrender of contemplative prayer. It is accomplished in making Jesus’ prayer our own: “Father, . . . not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

We must break free from the lie that we are separate from God and the misguided desire to lay hold of God as a possession. In Merton’s words:

Only when we are able to “let go” of everything within us, all desire to see, to know, to taste and to experience the presence of God, do we truly become able to experience that presence with the overwhelming conviction and reality that revolutionize our entire inner life. [2]

This letting-go in the moral order is the living out of the Beatitudes. In the order of prayer, it is in-depth kenosis, an emptying out of the contents of awareness so that one becomes oneself an empty vessel, a broken vessel, a void that lies open before God and finds itself filled with God’s own life. This gift of God is revealed to be the ground and root of our very existence. It is our own true self.

Gateway to Silence:
I am one with God.

The Illusion of Our False Self

August 15th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

True Self and False Self: Week 2

The Illusion of Our False Self
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring insights on the true self and false self that he gleaned from Thomas Merton.

In the following text, Merton makes clear that the self-proclaimed autonomy of the false self is but an illusion:

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.

This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.

My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love—outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves—the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin. [1]

The false self, sensing its fundamental unreality, begins to clothe itself in myths and symbols of power. Since it intuits that it is but a shadow, that it is nothing, it begins to convince itself that it is what it does. Hence, the more it does, achieves and experiences, the more real it becomes. Merton writes:

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface. [2]

Eventually and inevitably that which was too awful even to think about finally happens. Death reveals in us that eventually tomorrow is today and that we have run out of time. We discover by force of death that, as Merton describes:

But there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed. I am hollow, and my structure of pleasure and ambitions has no foundation. I am objectified in them. But they are all destined by their very contingency to be destroyed. And when they are gone there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness, to tell me that I am my own mistake. [3]

Gateway to Silence:
I am one with God.

________________________________________

Oswald Chambers

From My Utmost for His Highest

You must be born again. —John 3:7

The answer to Nicodemus’ question, “How can a man be born when he is old?” is: Only when he is willing to die to everything in his life, including his rights, his virtues, and his religion, and becomes willing to receive into himself a new life that he has never before experienced (John 3:4). This new life exhibits itself in our conscious repentance and through our unconscious holiness.

But as many as received Him…” (John 1:12). Is my knowledge of Jesus the result of my own internal spiritual perception, or is it only what I have learned through listening to others? Is there something in my life that unites me with the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior? My spiritual history must have as its underlying foundation a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. To be born again means that I see Jesus.

“…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God ” (John 3:3). Am I seeking only for the evidence of God’s kingdom, or am I actually recognizing His absolute sovereign control? The new birth gives me a new power of vision by which I begin to discern God’s control. His sovereignty was there all the time, but with God being true to His nature, I could not see it until I received His very nature myself.

Whoever has been born of God does not sin…” (1 John 3:9). Am I seeking to stop sinning or have I actually stopped? To be born of God means that I have His supernatural power to stop sinning. The Bible never asks, “Should a Christian sin?” The Bible emphatically states that a Christian must not sin. The work of the new birth is being effective in us when we do not commit sin. It is not merely that we have the power not to sin, but that we have actually stopped sinning. Yet 1 John 3:9 does not mean that we cannot sin— it simply means that if we will obey the life of God in us, that we do not have to sin.

Discovering Self in Discovering God

August 14th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Note: Today’s selections are in reverse order from our previous custom. The first is from Richard Rohr’s daily devotional…. Followed by My Utmost For His Highest.

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring insights on the true self and false self that he gleaned from Thomas Merton.

For Merton, the spiritual life is a journey in which we discover ourselves in discovering God, and discover God in discovering our true self hidden in God. Merton writes:

The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God.

But whatever is in God is really identical with Him [sic], for His infinite simplicity admits no division and no distinction. Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in Him.

Ultimately the only way that I can be myself is to become identified with Him in whom is hidden the reason and fulfillment of my existence.

Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him. [1]

So it is that the spiritual life centers around the one problem of an identity found in faith. Our true self is a self in communion. It is a self that subsists in God’s eternal love. Likewise, the false self is the self that stands outside this created subsisting communion with God that forms our very identity. As Merton puts it:

When we seem to possess and use our being and natural faculties in a completely autonomous manner, as if our individual ego were the pure source and end of our own acts, then we are in illusion and our acts, however spontaneous they may seem to be, lack spiritual meaning and authenticity. [2]

Gateway to Silence:
I am one with God.

———————-

The Discipline of the Lord

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. —Hebrews 12:5

It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by despising the discipline of the Lord, or by becoming discouraged when He rebukes us. If our experience of being set apart from sin and being made holy through the process of sanctification is still very shallow, we tend to mistake the reality of God for something else. And when the Spirit of God gives us a sense of warning or restraint, we are apt to say mistakenly, “Oh, that must be from the devil.”

“Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), and do not despise Him when He says to you, in effect, “Don’t be blind on this point anymore— you are not as far along spiritually as you thought you were. Until now I have not been able to reveal this to you, but I’m revealing it to you right now.” When the Lord disciplines you like that, let Him have His way with you. Allow Him to put you into a right-standing relationship before God.

“…nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” We begin to pout, become irritated with God, and then say, “Oh well, I can’t help it. I prayed and things didn’t turn out right anyway. So I’m simply going to give up on everything.” Just think what would happen if we acted like this in any other area of our lives!

Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me. But He has to get me into the state of mind and spirit where I will allow Him to sanctify me completely, whatever the cost (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Journal DJR
Good Morning Lord,
Today’s selections have some commonality. This conclusion by Chambers…

“sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me. But He has to get me into the state of mind and spirit where I will allow Him to sanctify me completely, whatever the cost” and this by James Finley…

“So it is that the spiritual life centers around the one problem of an identity found in faith. Our true self is a self in communion. It is a self that subsists in God’s eternal love.”

These two seem to be two lenses looking at the sanctification process aka becoming one with God. Here’s some scripture that provides some view of that same process:

Col 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Acts 17:28 for in Him we live and move and have our being

Prayer in the Father’s House

August 7th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

…they found Him in the temple….And He said to them, “…Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” —Luke 2:46, 49

Our Lord’s childhood was not immaturity waiting to grow into manhood— His childhood is an eternal fact. Am I a holy, innocent child of God as a result of my identification with my Lord and Savior? Do I look at my life as being in my Father’s house? Is the Son of God living in His Father’s house within me?

The only abiding reality is God Himself, and His order comes to me moment by moment. Am I continually in touch with the reality of God, or do I pray only when things have gone wrong— when there is some disturbance in my life? I must learn to identify myself closely with my Lord in ways of holy fellowship and oneness that some of us have not yet even begun to learn. “…I must be about My Father’s business”— and I must learn to live every moment of my life in my Father’s house.

Think about your own circumstances. Are you so closely identified with the Lord’s life that you are simply a child of God, continually talking to Him and realizing that everything comes from His hands? Is the eternal Child in you living in His Father’s house? Is the grace of His ministering life being worked out through you in your home, your business, and in your circle of friends? Have you been wondering why you are going through certain circumstances? In fact, it is not that you have to go through them. It is because of your relationship with the Son of God who comes, through the providential will of His Father, into your life. You must allow Him to have His way with you, staying in perfect oneness with Him.

The life of your Lord is to become your vital, simple life, and the way He worked and lived among people while here on earth must be the way He works and lives in you.

—————————
As has become our custom, we compare two daily devotionals. Here is today’s offering from Richard Rohr.

What Is the False Self? Monday, August 7, 2017

Your egoic false self is who you think you are, but your thinking does not make it true. Your false self is a social and mental construct to get you started on your life journey. It is a set of agreements between you and your parents, your family, your school chums, your partner or spouse, your culture, and your religion. It is your “container.” It is largely defined in distinction from others, precisely as your separate and unique self. It is probably necessary to get started, but it becomes problematic when you stop there and spend the rest of your life promoting and protecting it.

Jesus would call your false self your “wineskin,” which he points out is only helpful insofar as it can contain some good and new wine. He says that “old wineskins” cannot hold any new wine; in fact, “they burst and both the skins and the wine are lost” (Luke 5:37-38). This is a quite telling and wise metaphor, revealing Jesus’ bias toward growth and change. “The old wine is good enough” (Luke 5:39), says the man or woman set in their ways.

The false self, which we might also call the “small self,” is merely your launching pad: your appearance, your education, your job, your money, your success, and so on. These are the trappings of ego that help you get through an ordinary day. They are what Bill Plotkin wisely calls your “survival dance,” but they are not yet your “sacred dance.” [1]

Please understand that your false self is not bad or inherently deceitful. Your false self is actually quite good and necessary as far as it goes. It just does not go far enough, and it often poses and thus substitutes for the real thing. That is its only problem, and that is why we call it “false.” The false self is bogus more than bad; it pretends to be more than it is. Various false selves (temporary costumes) are necessary to get us all started, but they show their limitations when they stay around too long. If people keep growing, their various false selves usually die in exposure to greater light. That is, if they ever let greater light get in; many do not.
(continue reading)

The Brave Friendship of God

August 4th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

He took the twelve aside… —Luke 18:31

Oh, the bravery of God in trusting us! Do you say, “But He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing good in me and I have no value”? That is exactly why He chose you. As long as you think that you are of value to Him He cannot choose you, because you have purposes of your own to serve. But if you will allow Him to take you to the end of your own self-sufficiency, then He can choose you to go with Him “to Jerusalem” (Luke 18:31). And that will mean the fulfillment of purposes which He does not discuss with you.

We tend to say that because a person has natural ability, he will make a good Christian. It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience— all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friends (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). God’s friendship is with people who know their poverty. He can accomplish nothing with the person who thinks that he is of use to God. As Christians we are not here for our own purpose at all— we are here for the purpose of God, and the two are not the same. We do not know what God’s compelling purpose is, but whatever happens, we must maintain our relationship with Him. We must never allow anything to damage our relationship with God, but if something does damage it, we must take the time to make it right again. The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to, and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.

———————

Path of Descent

Metamorphosis of Consciousness
Friday, August 4, 2017

Today James Finley, one of CAC’s core faculty members, reflects on how hard it is for our ego to surrender to the path of descent, the transformative process.

In meditation, our customary, ego-based ways of experiencing ourselves are yielding and giving way to more interior, meditative ways of being, ways that transcend all that ego can attain. While we may wish for transformation, realizing it to be the way we awaken to our eternal oneness with God, the process is at times immensely difficult. When we sit in meditation we take the little child of our ego self off to school where we must learn to die to our illusions about being dualistically other than God. We must also die to any grandiose delusions that we are God.

It is amazing how a caterpillar spins about itself a hiding place from which it emerges and takes flight as a butterfly with delicate, iridescent wings. Similarly, Christ lived as a human being who freely entered into the hiding place of death to emerge, deathless, filled with light and life, utterly transformed. Our faith proclaims that in following Christ we experience the same thing: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We sit in meditation so that the last traces of our tendency to identify with egoic consciousness might finally dissolve as our habitual base of operations. We come face-to-face with how deeply entrenched our tendencies to remain identified with ego consciousness are. The truth is, our own ego-based sense of ourselves is afraid to open to unknown depths, transcending its circle of influence and control. We will go halfway, in a willingness to become a caterpillar with wings. This leaves our ego intact, an ego which has now attained spiritual gifts or mystical states of oneness with God. Surrendering ourselves to something as radical as a complete metamorphosis of consciousness itself is too great a risk. The possibility of realizing a life that is at once God’s and our own is beyond what we can comprehend. (continue reading)

The Compelling Purpose of God

August 3rd, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

He…said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…” —Luke 18:31

 
Jerusalem, in the life of our Lord, represents the place where He reached the culmination of His Father’s will. Jesus said, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). Seeking to do “the will of the Father” was the one dominating concern throughout our Lord’s life. And whatever He encountered along the way, whether joy or sorrow, success or failure, He was never deterred from that purpose. “…He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem…” (Luke 9:51).The greatest thing for us to remember is that we go up to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s purpose, not our own. In the natural life our ambitions are our own, but in the Christian life we have no goals of our own. We talk so much today about our decisions for Christ, our determination to be Christians, and our decisions for this and that, but in the New Testament the only aspect that is brought out is the compelling purpose of God. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16).

We are not taken into a conscious agreement with God’s purpose— we are taken into God’s purpose with no awareness of it at all. We have no idea what God’s goal may be; as we continue, His purpose becomes even more and more vague. God’s aim appears to have missed the mark, because we are too nearsighted to see the target at which He is aiming. At the beginning of the Christian life, we have our own ideas as to what God’s purpose is. We say, “God means for me to go over there,” and, “God has called me to do this special work.” We do what we think is right, and yet the compelling purpose of God remains upon us. The work we do is of no account when compared with the compelling purpose of God. It is simply the scaffolding surrounding His work and His plan. “He took the twelve aside…” (Luke 18:31). God takes us aside all the time. We have not yet understood all there is to know of the compelling purpose of God.

_____________________________________________

Richard Rohr

The Path of Descent

We Come to God by Doing It Wrong
Thursday, August 3, 2017

Jesus’ story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and his story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) are both wonderful illustrations of how Jesus turns a spirituality of climbing, achieving, and perfection upside down. In both stories, the ones who have done it wrong and are humble about it (the younger son and the tax collector) are the ones who are forgiven, transformed, and rewarded. Those who are proud of how they have done everything right—but also feel superior to others, or feel they are now entitled—are not open to God’s blessing. This is Jesus’ Great Reversal theme. He turns religion on its head. We thought we came to God by doing it right, and lo and behold, surprise of surprises, we come to God by doing it wrong—and growing because of it! The only things strong enough to break open our heart are things like pain, mistakes, unjust suffering, tragedy, failure, and the general absurdity of life. I wish it were not so, but it clearly is.

Fortunately, life will lead us to the edge of our own resources through such events. We must be led to an experience or situation that we cannot fix or control or understand. That’s where faith begins. Up to that moment it has just been religion! Only on the other side do you know that everything has been preparation.

When Jesus called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he himself had to face the darkness and absurdity of life (Matthew 27:46). On the cross, Jesus’ human mind had no reason to believe that God was his Father, that God loved him, or that this death had any transformative, redemptive meaning. At this moment Jesus fully and totally fell into the hands of the living God. And that is called resurrection. This is the mystery of faith.

Gateway to Silence:
The way down is the way up.

The Teaching of Adversity

August 2nd, 2017 by Dave No comments »

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

The typical view of the Christian life is that it means being delivered from all adversity. But it actually means being delivered in adversity, which is something very different. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling…” (Psalm 91:1,10)— the place where you are at one with God.

If you are a child of God, you will certainly encounter adversities, but Jesus says you should not be surprised when they come. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He is saying, “There is nothing for you to fear.” The same people who refused to talk about their adversities before they were saved often complain and worry after being born again because they have the wrong idea of what it means to live the life of a saint.

God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength. Are you asking God to give you life, liberty, and joy? He cannot, unless you are willing to accept the strain. And once you face the strain, you will immediately get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the first step. Then God will give you nourishment— “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life…” (Revelation 2:7). If you completely give of yourself physically, you become exhausted. But when you give of yourself spiritually, you get more strength. God never gives us strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the moment. Our temptation is to face adversities from the standpoint of our own common sense. But a saint can “be of good cheer” even when seemingly defeated by adversities, because victory is absurdly impossible to everyone, except God.

Participating in God
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as one,
received not in essence but by participation.
Just as if you lit a flame from a flame,
it is the whole flame you receive.
—St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) [1]
The path of descent involves letting go of our self-image, our titles, our status symbols—our false self. It will die anyway. So don’t make anything absolute when it is only relative. This is one of the many meanings of the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7). We must let go of our false images of God (which mostly serve our purposes) and also of ourselves.
The German Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260—c. 1328) preached, “God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.” [2] But in the capitalistic West, we think very differently. We all keep trying to climb higher up the ladder of success in any form. We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. All we can really do is get out of the way. The spiritual life is often more about unlearning than learning, letting go of illusions more than studying the Bible or the catechism.
When C. G. Jung was an old man, one of his students read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and he asked Jung, “What has your pilgrimage really been?” Jung answered: “In my case Pilgrim’s Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.” [3] Wow!
The word “human” comes from the Latin humus, which means earth. Being human means acknowledging that we’re made from the earth and will return to the earth. We are earth that has come to consciousness. For a few years we dance around on the stage of life and have the chance to reflect a little bit of God’s glory. As a human, I’m just a tiny moment of consciousness, a tiny part of creation, a particle that reflects only a fragment of God’s love and beauty. And yet that’s enough. And then we return to where we started—in the heart of God. Everything in between is a school of love.

Gateway to Silence:
The way down is the way up.

Learning About His Ways

August 1st, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

When Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples…He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. —Matthew 11:1


He comes where He commands us to leave. If you stayed home when God told you to go because you were so concerned about your own people there, then you actually robbed them of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. When you obeyed and left all the consequences to God, the Lord went into your city to teach, but as long as you were disobedient, you blocked His way. Watch where you begin to debate with Him and put what you call your duty into competition with His commands. If you say, “I know that He told me to go, but my duty is here,” it simply means that you do not believe that Jesus means what He says.He teaches where He instructs us not to teach. “Master…let us make three tabernacles…” (Luke 9:33).Are we playing the part of an amateur providence, trying to play God’s role in the lives of others? Are we so noisy in our instruction of other people that God cannot get near them? We must learn to keep our mouths shut and our spirits alert. God wants to instruct us regarding His Son, and He wants to turn our times of prayer into mounts of transfiguration. When we become certain that God is going to work in a particular way, He will never work in that way again.

He works where He sends us to wait. “…tarry…until…” (Luke 24:49). “Wait on the Lord” and He will work (Psalm 37:34). But don’t wait sulking spiritually and feeling sorry for yourself, just because you can’t see one inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual fits of emotion to “wait patiently for Him”? (Psalm 37:7). Waiting is not sitting with folded hands doing nothing, but it is learning to do what we are told.

These are some of the facets of His ways that we rarely recognize.

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Richard Rohr

The Path of Descent

The Belly of the Whale
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

And so long as you do not know that to die is to become, you are just a wretched visitor on this dark earth. —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1]

Jesus’ primary metaphor for the mystery of transformation is the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:39, 16:4; Luke 11:29). As a Jew, Jesus knew the vivid story of Jonah, the prophet who ran away from God and yet was used by God in spite of himself. Jonah was swallowed by a “big fish” and taken where he would rather not go—a metaphor for any kind of death. Then and only then will we be spit up on a new shore in spite of ourselves. Isn’t this the story of most of our lives?

Paul wrote of “reproducing the pattern” of Jesus’ death and thus understanding resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11). That teaching will never fail. The soul is always freed and formed through dying and rising. Indigenous religions speak of winter and summer; mystics speak of darkness and light; Eastern religions speak of yin and yang or the Tao. Some Christians call it the paschal mystery, and Catholics proclaim this publically at every Eucharist as “the mystery of faith.” We are all pointing to the same necessity of both descent and ascent, which is the core theme of my book Falling Upward.

“To die and thus to become” is the pattern of transformation in the entire physical and biological world. Why not the human? There seems to be no other cauldron of growth and transformation.

We seldom go willingly into the belly of the beast. Unless we face a major disaster like the death of a friend or spouse or the loss of a marriage or job, we usually will not go there on our own accord. We have to be taught the way of descent. Mature spirituality will always teach us to enter willingly, trustingly into the dark periods of life, which is why we speak so much of “faith” or trust. Transformative power is discovered in the dark—in questions and doubts, seldom in the answers. Yet this goes against our cultural instincts. We usually try to fix or change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. Wise people tell us we must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning. That is the dark path of contemplative prayer. Grace leads us to a state of emptiness, to that momentary sense of meaninglessness in which we ask, “What is it all for?” It seems some form of absence always needs to precede any deepening notion of presence. Desire makes way for depth.

Gateway to Silence:
The way down is the way up.

Becoming Entirely His

July 31st, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. —James 1:4

Many of us appear to be all right in general, but there are still some areas in which we are careless and lazy; it is not a matter of sin, but the remnants of our carnal life that tend to make us careless. Carelessness is an insult to the Holy Spirit. We should have no carelessness about us either in the way we worship God, or even in the way we eat and drink.

Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right. Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives.

We have been having a wonderful time in our studies over the revealed truth of God’s redemption, and our hearts are perfect toward Him. And His wonderful work in us makes us know that overall we are right with Him. “Let patience have its perfect work….” The Holy Spirit speaking through James said, “Now let your patience become a finished product.” Beware of becoming careless over the small details of life and saying, “Oh, that will have to do for now.” Whatever it may be, God will point it out with persistence until we become entirely His.

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Redefining Success
Monday, July 31, 2017

Much of the teaching and culture that has emerged in recent Christianity has much more to do with Greek philosophy and Roman mythologies than the Gospel. This is not all bad, but we must acknowledge these influences. The ego is naturally attracted to heroic language, and so we focused on the heroic instead of transformation: Zeus instead of Trinity, Prometheus and Ulysses instead of the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah. Jesus’ teaching was more about becoming a loving, humble, and servant-like person than a hero by any of our normal standards.

The ego thinks that heroic acts or various forms of mortification are supposed to please God somehow. Yet Jesus says, “John the Baptist came along fasting and living an ascetic life and you were upset with him. Now I come along eating and drinking and you don’t like me either” (see Matthew 11:16-19). The scandalous thing about Jesus is how free he is. He is not a ritualist, legalist, or into any form of priestcraft. The things we usually associate with religion are not what Jesus emphasizes—at all. If you don’t believe me, just read the Gospels.

René Girard (1923-2015), a brilliant anthropologist and master of cultural critique, held that Jesus is the most unlikely founder of a religion because he does not encourage any forms of sacrifice except the letting go of one’s own egocentricity. Religion normally begins by making a distinction between the pure and the impure and telling us to “sacrifice” the impure—so we can be pure. Given that premise, Jesus undoes religion by doing the most amazing thing: he finds God among the impure instead of among the pure!(continue reading)