Rupture of the Ordinary

October 19th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Rupture of the Ordinary
Friday, October 19, 2018

Barbara Holmes paints a moving portrait of how suffering transformed kidnapped peoples from different African tribes and languages into a kind of contemplative community, beginning with their journey across the Atlantic.
Captured Africans were spooned together lying on their sides in ships that pitched with every wave. Together they wept and moaned in a forced community that cut across tribal and cultural lines. . . . In his book Terror and Triumph, Anthony Pinn discusses the Middle Passage as the horrific transition from personhood to property and nonidentity. The journey can be characterized as “rupture.” [1] . . .
Slavery does not represent ordinary suffering. It is one of many unique situations that far exceed the limits of human imagination and assessment. Holocausts against one group or another cannot be contained within the bounds of the individual human body. Instead, oppression of this magnitude forces a community beyond courage and individual survival skills into a state of unresolved shock and disassociation. Under these conditions, the interiority of the community becomes a living “flow” that sustains the afflicted. . . .
The hold of the slave ship becomes the stage upon which the human drama unfolds. . . . Although unity is the ultimate outcome of flow [or contemplation], angst and anguish are the fertile sites of its emergence. Strangers linked by destiny and chains focused their intentions on survival instead of the unrelenting pain, because pain that does not abate cannot be integrated into human reality structures. . . .
Ultimately, our objective tools for analyzing and interpreting pain will always fail us because there is an aspect of suffering that is not within our rational reach. Pain is a parallel universe that sends shock-waves breaking over our unconscious, daring us to succumb. The only hope of understanding it comes as we align ourselves with a groaning universe committed to cycles of birth, rebirth, and the longing for a just order. As Eric Cassell puts it, “suffering arises with the ‘loss of the ability to pursue purpose.’ Thus in suffering we face the loss of our own personal universe.” [2] . . .
The only sound that would carry Africans over the bitter waters was the moan. Moans flowed through each wracked body and drew each soul toward the center of contemplation. . . . Contemplation can . . . be a displacement of the ordinary, a paradigm shift that becomes a temporary refuge when human suffering reaches the extent of spiritual and psychic dissolution. It can be a state of extraordinary spiritual attenuation, a removal to a level of reality that allows distance from excruciating circumstances.
The portal to this reality can best be described as a break in the ordinary, exposing the complexity and chaos of a universe that sanctions both pleasure and pain.

___________________________________________

Sarah Young 

Jesus Calling; October 19, 2018

TRY TO STAY CONSCIOUS OF ME as you go step by step through this day. My Presence with you is both a promise and a protection. My final statement just before I ascended into heaven was: Surely I am with you always. That promise was for all of My followers, without exception. The promise of My Presence is a powerful protection. As you journey through your life, there are numerous pitfalls along the way.
Many voices clamor for your attention, enticing you to go their way. A few steps away from your true path are pits of self-pity and despair, plateaus of pride and self-will. If you take your eyes off Me and follow another’s way, you are in grave danger. Even well-meaning friends can lead you astray if you let them usurp My place in your life. The way to stay on the path of Life is to keep your focus on Me. Awareness of My Presence is your best protection.

MATTHEW 28: 20; and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

HEBREWS 12: 1– 2; Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Suffering Love

October 18th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Suffering: Week 1
Suffering Love
Thursday, October 18, 2018

I know that this too is part of life, and somewhere there is something inside me that will never desert me again. —Etty Hillesum [1]
In his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner dispels a common myth about suffering and helps us see our way through intense pain:
The conventional explanation, that God sends us the burden because [God] knows that we are strong enough to handle it, has it all wrong. Fate, not God, sends us the problem. When we try to deal with it, we find out that we are not strong. We are weak; we get tired, we get angry, overwhelmed. . . . But when we reach the limits of our own strength and courage, something unexpected happens. We find reinforcement coming from a source outside of ourselves. And in the knowledge that we are not alone, that God is on our side, we manage to go on. . . .
Like Jacob in the Bible [Genesis 32], like every one of us at one time or another, you faced a scary situation, prayed for help, and found out that you were a lot stronger, and a lot better able to handle it, than you ever would have thought you were. In your desperation, you opened your heart in prayer, and what happened? You didn’t get a miracle to avert a tragedy. But you discovered people around you, and God beside you, and strength within you to help you survive the tragedy. I offer that as an example of a prayer being answered. [2]
Many people rightly question how there can be a good God or a just God in the presence of so much evil and suffering in the world—about which God appears to do nothing. Exactly how is God loving and sustaining what God created? That is our dilemma.
I believe—if I am to believe Jesus—that God is suffering love. If we are created in God’s image, and if there is so much suffering in the world, then God must also be suffering. How else can we understand the revelation of the cross? Why else would the central Christian logo be a naked, bleeding, suffering divine-human being?
Many of the happiest and most peaceful people I know love “a crucified God” who walks with crucified people, and thus reveals and redeems their plight as God’s own. For them, Jesus is not observing human suffering from a distance; he is somehow at the center of human suffering, with us and for us. He includes our suffering in the co-redemption of the world, as “all creation groans in one great act of giving birth” (Romans 8:22). Is this possible? Could it be true that we “make up in our own bodies all that still has to be undergone for the sake of the Whole Body” (Colossians 1:24)? Are we somehow partners with the Divine? At our best, we surely must be. But our rational minds will never fully surrender to this mystery until our minds are led by our soul and our spirit.

___________________________________________________

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

October 18, 2018

GO GENTLY THROUGH THIS DAY, keeping your eyes on Me. I will open up the way before you as you take steps of trust along your path. Sometimes the way before you appears to be blocked. If you focus on the obstacle or search for a way around it, you will probably go off course. Instead, focus on Me, the Shepherd who is leading you along your life-journey. Before you know it, the “obstacle” will be behind you and you will hardly know how you passed through it.

That is the secret of success in My kingdom. Although you remain aware of the visible world around you, your primary awareness is of Me. When the road before you looks rocky, you can trust Me to get you through that rough patch. My Presence enables you to face each day with confidence.

JOHN 10: 14– 15; I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for them.

ISAIAH 26: 7; The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.

PROVERBS 3: 25– 26; 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26 for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

 

October 17th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Knowledge of Good and Evil
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

During our recent CONSPIRE 2018 conference, we explored how the path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers. We looked at personal and societal suffering including slavery, the oppression of Native Americans and African Americans, apartheid, the Holocaust, police brutality, exclusion of those seeking asylum, and sexual abuse. It was a painful and—hopefully for many—transformative experience.

The first step toward healing is truthfully acknowledging evil, while trusting the inherent goodness of reality. Poet and pastor John Philip Newell writes about the journey through suffering:

Knowing and naming brokenness is essential in the journey toward wholeness. We will not be well by denying the wrongs that we carry within us as nations and religions and communities. Nor will we be well by downplaying them or projecting them onto others. The path to wholeness will take us not around such awareness but through it, confronting the depths of our brokenness. . . . As Hildegard of Bingen [1098–1179] says, we need two wings with which to fly. One is the “knowledge of good,” and the other is the “knowledge of evil.” [1] If we lack one or the other, we will be like an eagle with only one wing. We will fall to the ground instead of rising to the heights of unitary vision. . . .

In one of her . . . visions of Jesus, Julian [of Norwich (1342–1416)] realizes that he is [a] “handsome mixture.” . . . [2] His face speaks of a knowledge of life’s delight and a knowledge of life’s pain. It is not a face that is naïve to the world’s sufferings or to the personal experience of sorrow. Nor is it a face that is so overwhelmed by sorrow that it loses its openness and wonder. . . . It is a soul that has experienced the heights and the depths of human life. . . .

In July 1942, the same month that the Nazis began their first big street roundups of Jews in Amsterdam, Etty Hillesum wrote in her diary, “I am with the hungry, with the ill-treated and the dying, every day, but I am also with the jasmine and with that piece of sky beyond my window; . . . It is a question of living life from minute to minute and taking suffering into the bargain. And it is certainly no small bargain these days.” [3] Etty was looking at suffering straight in the face. Her friends, her family, and she herself were under the sentence of extermination. It was now beginning to be carried out. And yet Etty held within herself the “handsome mixture” of pain at the plight of her people, and of what one people can do to another people, along with a continued delight in the gift of life and its ineffable wonder. “I have looked our destruction, our miserable end, which has already begun in so many small ways in our daily life, straight in the eye . . .” she writes, “and my love of life has not been diminished.” [4] To look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and to see its beauty—this is an essential part of glimpsing the way forward.

———————-
Transforming Pain
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain, with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust and the undeserved—all of which eventually come into every lifetime. If only we could see these “wounds” as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become sacred wounds rather than scars to deny, disguise, or project onto others. I am sorry to admit that I first see my wounds as an obstacle more than a gift. Healing is a long journey.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. This is the storyline of many of the greatest novels, myths, and stories of every culture. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.

Scapegoating, exporting our unresolved hurt, is the most common storyline of human history. The Jesus Story is about radically transforming history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing on the pain to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering, that God is somehow in it and can also use it for good, humanity is in major trouble. Because we will suffer. Even the Buddha said that suffering is part of the deal!

We shouldn’t try to get rid of our own pain until we’ve learned what it has to teach. When we can hold our pain consciously and trustfully (and not project it elsewhere), we find ourselves in a very special liminal space. Here we are open to learning and breaking through to a much deeper level of faith and consciousness. Please trust me on this. We must all carry the cross of our own reality until God transforms us through it. These are the wounded healers of the world, and healers who have fully faced their wounds are the only ones who heal anyone else.

As an example of holding the pain, picture Mary standing at the foot of the cross or, as in Michelangelo’s Pietà cradling Jesus’ body. One would expect her to take her role wailing or protesting, but she doesn’t! We must reflect on this deeply. Mary is in complete solidarity with the mystery of life and death. It’s as if she is saying, “There’s something deeper happening here. How can I absorb it just as Jesus is absorbing it, instead of returning it in kind?” Consider the analogy of energy circuits: Most of us are relay stations; only a minority are transformers—people who actually change the electrical charge that passes through us.

Jesus on the cross and Mary standing beneath the cross are classic images of transformative spirituality. They do not return the hostility, hatred, accusations, or malice directed at them. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection! That’s the core mystery of Christianity. It takes our whole life to begin to comprehend this. It tends to be the wisdom of elders, not youngers.

Unfortunately, our natural instinct is to try to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, to try to understand it. The ego insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold the contraries, until we are moved by grace to a much deeper level and a much larger frame, where our private pain is not center stage but a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed and every tear wept since the beginning of time. Our pain is not just our own.

————————-

October 17, 2018

ANXIETY IS A RESULT OF envisioning the future without Me. So the best defense against worry is staying in communication with Me. When you turn your thoughts toward Me, you can think much more positively. Remember to listen as well as to speak, making your thoughts a dialogue with Me. If you must consider upcoming events, follow these rules: 1) Do not linger in the future, because anxieties sprout up like mushrooms when you wander there. 2) Remember the promise of My continual Presence; include Me in any imagery that comes to mind. This mental discipline does not come easily because you are accustomed to being god of your fantasies. However, the reality of My Presence with you, now and forevermore, outshines any fantasy you could ever imagine.

LUKE 12: 22– 26;
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

EPHESIANS 3: 20– 21
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Knowledge of Good and Evil

October 16th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Suffering: Week 1
Knowledge of Good and Evil
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

During our recent CONSPIRE 2018 conference, we explored how the path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers. We looked at personal and societal suffering including slavery, the oppression of Native Americans and African Americans, apartheid, the Holocaust, police brutality, exclusion of those seeking asylum, and sexual abuse. It was a painful and—hopefully for many—transformative experience.
The first step toward healing is truthfully acknowledging evil, while trusting the inherent goodness of reality. Poet and pastor John Philip Newell writes about the journey through suffering:
Knowing and naming brokenness is essential in the journey toward wholeness. We will not be well by denying the wrongs that we carry within us as nations and religions and communities. Nor will we be well by downplaying them or projecting them onto others. The path to wholeness will take us not around such awareness but through it, confronting the depths of our brokenness. . . . As Hildegard of Bingen [1098–1179] says, we need two wings with which to fly. One is the “knowledge of good,” and the other is the “knowledge of evil.” [1] If we lack one or the other, we will be like an eagle with only one wing. We will fall to the ground instead of rising to the heights of unitary vision. . . .
In one of her . . . visions of Jesus, Julian [of Norwich (1342–1416)] realizes that he is [a] “handsome mixture.” . . . [2] His face speaks of a knowledge of life’s delight and a knowledge of life’s pain. It is not a face that is naïve to the world’s sufferings or to the personal experience of sorrow. Nor is it a face that is so overwhelmed by sorrow that it loses its openness and wonder. . . . It is a soul that has experienced the heights and the depths of human life. . . .
In July 1942, the same month that the Nazis began their first big street roundups of Jews in Amsterdam, Etty Hillesum wrote in her diary, “I am with the hungry, with the ill-treated and the dying, every day, but I am also with the jasmine and with that piece of sky beyond my window; . . . It is a question of living life from minute to minute and taking suffering into the bargain. And it is certainly no small bargain these days.” [3] Etty was looking at suffering straight in the face. Her friends, her family, and she herself were under the sentence of extermination. It was now beginning to be carried out. And yet Etty held within herself the “handsome mixture” of pain at the plight of her people, and of what one people can do to another people, along with a continued delight in the gift of life and its ineffable wonder. “I have looked our destruction, our miserable end, which has already begun in so many small ways in our daily life, straight in the eye . . .” she writes, “and my love of life has not been diminished.” [4] To look life straight in the eye, to see its pain and to see its beauty—this is an essential part of glimpsing the way forward.

____________________________________________

Persecuted for My Sake

October 15th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Persecuted for My Sake
Sunday, October 14, 2018

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. . . . And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. —Matthew 5:10,12, The Message

Today Óscar Romero (1917–1980) will be named a saint by the Catholic Church. As Archbishop of San Salvador for the last four years of his life, Romero was a strong, public voice for the many voiceless and anonymous poor of El Salvador and Latin America. When he preached in the cathedral on Sunday mornings, I’m told that the streets were empty and all the radios where on full volume, to hear truth and sanity in an insane and corrupt world.

Here is a man who suffered with and for those who suffered. His loving heart shines through clearly in his homilies:

The shepherd must be where the suffering is. [1]

My soul is sore when I learn how our people are tortured, when I learn how the rights of those created in the image of God are violated. [2]

A Gospel that doesn’t take into account the rights of human beings, a Christianity that doesn’t make a positive contribution to the history of the world, is not the authentic doctrine of Christ, but rather simply an instrument of power. We . . . don’t want to be a plaything of the worldly powers, rather we want to be the Church that carries the authentic, courageous Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when it might become necessary to die like he did, on a cross. [3]

In his homily on March 23, 1980, the day before he was murdered, Romero addressed the Salvadoran military directly:

Brothers, we are part of the same people. You are killing your own brother and sister peasants and when you are faced with an order to kill given by a man, the law of God must prevail; the law that says: Thou shalt not kill. No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. And it is time that you recover your consciences. . . . In the name of God, then, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise up to heaven each day more tumultuously, I plead with you, I pray you, I order you, in the name of God: Stop the repression! [4]

The next day, following his sermon, a U.S.-supported government hit squad shot him through his heart as he stood at the altar.

Only a few weeks earlier, Romero had said:

I have often been threatened with death. I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. I say so without boasting, with the greatest humility. . . . A bishop will die, but God’s church, which is the people, will never perish. [5]

Romero’s epitaph reads “Sentir con la Iglesia” (“To be of one mind and heart with the Church”); these words were his episcopal motto, his promise to share the suffering and strength of the people he served.

Searching for Meaning
Monday, October 15, 2018

During the next two weeks I will reflect on suffering and how we might recognize God’s image and likeness in people even—and perhaps especially—during hard times. Some of the greatest wisdom has come from those who experienced unspeakable trauma and harm. Holocaust survivor and respected psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (1905–1997) offered guidance for anyone who suffers. Rabbi Harold Kushner explained in his foreword to Man’s Search for Meaning:

The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it. . . .

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you. [1]

Etty Hillesum (1914–1943), a young Jewish woman who died at Auschwitz, shared an intimate glimpse into her own experience through her journals:

June 14, 1941: More arrests, more terror, concentration camps, the arbitrary dragging off of fathers, sisters, brothers. We seek the meaning of life, wondering whether any meaning can be left. But that is something each one of us must settle with himself and with God. And perhaps life has its own meaning, even if it takes a lifetime to find it. . . .

June 15, 1941: For a moment yesterday I thought I couldn’t go on living, that I needed help. Life and suffering had lost their meaning for me; I felt I was about to collapse under a tremendous weight. . . . I said that I confronted the “suffering of mankind” . . . but that was not really what it was. Rather I feel like a small battlefield, in which the problems, or some of the problems, of our time are being fought out. All one can hope to do is to keep oneself humbly available, to allow oneself to be a battlefield. [2]

This is what it means to hold the contradictions and the pain of the world, as we do in contemplation. Hillesum accepted her destiny. She believed, as I do, that we are called to be both the agony and the ecstasy of God—for the life of the world. For me, to be a Christian means to accept that battlefield, to accept and to somehow participate in the mystery of death and resurrection in oneself and in the universe. It is a process of “oneing” with Foundational Reality, which some call at-one-ment.

Social psychologist Diarmuid O’Murchu writes:

Creation cannot survive, and less so thrive, without its dark side. There is a quality of destruction, decay, and death that is essential to creation’s flourishing. . . . And the consequence of this destructive dimension is what we call evil, pain, and suffering. Obviously, I am not suggesting fatalistic acquiescence. Indeed, I am arguing for the very opposite: an enduring sense of hope, which it seems to me is not possible without first coming to terms with . . . the great paradox. It is . . . the unfolding cycle of birth-death-rebirth. And it transpires all over creation, on the macro and micro scales alike. [3]

Yes, I know, sisters and brothers, suffering is and will always be a mystery, maybe the major mystery.

—————–

TRY TO STAY CONSCIOUS OF ME
as you go step by step through this day. My Presence with you is both a promise and a protection. My final statement just before I ascended into heaven was: Surely I am with you always. That promise was for all of My followers, without exception. The promise of My Presence is a powerful protection. As you journey through your life, there are numerous pitfalls along the way.
Many voices clamor for your attention, enticing you to go their way. A few steps away from your true path are pits of self-pity and despair, plateaus of pride and self-will. If you take your eyes off Me and follow another’s way, you are in grave danger. Even well-meaning friends can lead you astray if you let them usurp My place in your life. The way to stay on the path of Life is to keep your focus on Me. Awareness of My Presence is your best protection.

MATTHEW 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

HEBREWS 12: 1– 2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Unknowing: Week 2; The End of Knowing

October 12th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Unknowing: Week 2
The End of Knowing
Friday, October 12, 2018

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. . . . For now we see only a dim reflection as in a mirror; but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. —1 Corinthians 13:8-10, 12
Meditate on the following passages from The Cloud of Unknowing, holding them in your heart—beyond rational critique or intellectual understanding. Allow them to speak to you at a deeper level. [Bracketed words are mine.]
I know you’ll ask me, “How can I think on God as God, and who is God?” and I can only answer, “I don’t know.”
Your question takes me into the very darkness and cloud of unknowing that I want you to enter. We can know so many things. Through God’s grace, our minds can explore, understand, and reflect on creation and even on God’s own works [as we should!], but we can’t think our way to God. That’s why I’m willing to abandon everything I know, to love the one thing I cannot think. [God] can be loved, but not thought. [John of the Cross and many other mystics say the same thing. We could have saved ourselves so much fighting and division if we had just taught this one truth!]
By love, God can be embraced and held, but not by thinking. It is good sometimes to meditate on God’s amazing love as part of illumination and contemplation, but true contemplative work is something entirely different. Even meditating on God’s love must be put down [let go of] and covered with a cloud of forgetting. Show your determination next. Let that joyful stirring of love make you resolute, and in its enthusiasm bravely step over meditation [cognitive reflection] and reach up to penetrate the darkness above you. Then beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp arrow of longing and never stop loving, no matter what comes your way. . . .
No matter how sacred, no thought can ever promise to help you in the work of contemplative prayer, because only love—not knowledge—can help us reach God. . . .
Become blind during contemplative prayer and cut yourself off from needing to know things. Knowledge hinders, not helps you in contemplation. Be content feeling moved in a delightful, loving way by something mysterious and unknown, leaving you focused entirely on God, with no other thought than of [God] alone. Let your naked desire rest there. . . .
It doesn’t matter how much profound wisdom we possess about created spiritual beings; our understanding cannot help us gain knowledge about any uncreated spiritual being, who is God alone. But the failure of our understanding can help us. When we reach the end of what we know, that’s where we find God. That’s why St. Dionysius [5th/6th century] said that the best, most divine knowledge of God is that which is known by not-knowing.
Friends, you just received a post graduate course in Christian spirituality, a course which very few are ever taught.

___________________________________________________

Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

October 12, 2018

BEWARE OF SEEING YOURSELF through other people’s eyes. There are several dangers to this practice. First of all, it is nearly impossible to discern what others actually think of you. Moreover, their views of you are variable: subject to each viewer’s spiritual, emotional, and physical condition. The major problem with letting others define you is that it borders on idolatry. Your concern to please others dampens your desire to please Me, your Creator.

It is much more real to see yourself through My eyes. My gaze upon you is steady and sure, untainted by sin. Through My eyes you can see yourself as one who is deeply, eternally loved. Rest in My loving gaze, and you will receive deep Peace. Respond to My loving Presence by worshiping Me in spirit and in truth.

HEBREWS 11: 6; And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly (seek Him).

ROMANS 5: 5; And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

JOHN 4: 23– 24; But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people.

 

 

Unknowing: Week 2; The Power of Love

October 11th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Unknowing: Week 2
The Power of Love
Thursday, October 11, 2018

The anonymous, 14th century author of The Cloud of Unknowing conveys the fathomless mystery of God and that God can only be known by loving presence—contemplation. The Cloud of Unknowing was the inspiration for practices such as centering prayer and Christian meditation. Today and tomorrow I will share some of my favorite excerpts from Carmen Acevedo Butcher’s translation of the old English text. [Bracketed words are my own.]
Lift up your heart to God with a gentle stirring of love. Focus on [God] alone. . . . Don’t let anything else run through your mind and will. Here’s how. Forget what you know. Forget everything God made and everybody who exists and everything that’s going on in the world, until your thoughts and emotions aren’t focused on or reaching toward anything, not in a general way and not in any particular way. Let them be. For the moment, don’t care about anything. . . .
The first time you practice contemplation, you’ll only experience a darkness, like a cloud of unknowing [which now happily envelops you]. You won’t know what this is [and will have to learn how to live there by “forgetting” your previous methods of knowing]. You’ll only know that in your will you feel a simple reaching out to God. You must also know that this darkness and this cloud will always be between you and your God, whatever you do. They will always keep you from seeing [God] clearly by the light of understanding in your intellect and will block you from feeling [God] fully in the sweetness of love in your emotions. So, be sure you make your home in this darkness. Stay there as long as you can, crying out to [God] over and over again, because you love [God]. It’s the closest you can get to God here on earth, by waiting in this darkness and in this cloud. Work at this diligently, as I’ve asked you to, and I know God’s mercy will lead you there. . . .
[God] measures us and makes . . . divinity fit our souls, and our souls are able to take the measure of [God] because [God] created us in [God’s] image and made us worthy. [God] alone is complete and can fulfill our every longing. God’s grace restores our souls and teaches us how to comprehend [God] through love. [God] is incomprehensible to the intellect. . . . Nobody’s mind is powerful enough to grasp who God is. We can only know [God] by experiencing [God’s] love.
Look. Every rational creature, every person, and every angel has two main strengths: the power to know and the power to love. God made both of these, but [God is] not knowable through the first one. To the power of love, however, [God] is entirely known, because a loving soul is open to receive God’s abundance. . . . [God’s] very nature makes love endless and miraculous. God will never stop loving us. Consider this truth, and, if by grace you can make love your own, do. For the experience is eternal joy; its absence is unending suffering.

______________________________________________

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

October 11, 2018

I AM THE CULMINATION of all your hopes and desires. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last: who is and was and is to come. Before you knew Me, you expressed your longing for Me in hurtful ways. You were ever so vulnerable to the evil around you in the world. But now My Presence safely shields you, enfolding you in My loving arms. I have lifted you out of darkness into My marvelous Light.

Though I have brought many pleasures into your life, not one of them is essential. Receive My blessings with open hands. Enjoy My good gifts, but do not cling to them. Turn your attention to the Giver of all good things, and rest in the knowledge that you are complete in Me. The one thing you absolutely need is the one thing you can never lose: My Presence with you.

PSALM 62: 5– 8; Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (He is) My salvation.

REVELATION 1: 8; I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

1 PETER 2: 9 NKJV; But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you.

JAMES 1: 17; Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

Unknowing: Week 2; The God Particle

October 10th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Unknowing: Week 2
The God Particle
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

By: Richard Rohr, OFM

Rick Hocker, a friend and author of the delightful allegory Four in the Garden, recently shared this reflection with me. I hope it will give you a taste of the “unknowing” experience I am trying to describe.
And even for those who seek, God often seems to be elusive. Why? Perhaps it is because God is closer than we can objectively or outwardly see.
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). This same God who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) chooses to dwell inside creation.
Let’s consider a drop of water as a metaphor for God’s indwelling presence. Waterdrops in the atmosphere are created when water vapor condenses on tiny particles of dust. At the center of every waterdrop is a particle. Similarly, every soul is wrapped around a particle of God, but this particle, although small, is boundless since the infinite God isn’t confined. God is found at your innermost center . . . and beyond.
It’s not just that God dwells inside you, but God is at the center of your spiritual makeup, an integral and enduring part of who you are. God is not added to you, but you are added to God. God is the foundation onto which your soul is built. Everyone you meet is also a God-particle wrapped in a soul.
Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) describes the soul as a castle with a series of mansions through which we journey. She wrote that God’s mansion “is the center of the soul itself.” [1] If we were to plunge into our innermost center, we would find God. The practice of contemplation or “centering” ourselves is, in essence, reconnecting with God as our center.
So how do we encounter God when God is found at our center? First, we must believe that our connection to God already exists. Our belief in connection creates connection from our side (we can never not be connected to God). Second, we quiet our minds and peer inward with our heart’s eyes, placing our consciousness at our innermost center as best we can. This inward gazing is like diving into a well, but the well is full of debris. When we encounter debris, we lay hold of it, bring it to the surface, and deal with it courageously. Otherwise, it will block our way. We find God by peeling away ourselves. God is hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44) buried in the center of our souls, and we can find God when we tear away the onionskin layers of self.
If we persevere in clearing this well of its clutter, we’ll discover that the water of this inner well—the water in which we’re swimming—is God. We’ll find ourselves floating in God, encompassed by love. In a wonderful reversal, soul is now wrapped in God, and God moves to the outside as described in John 7:37: From our “innermost being will flow rivers of living water,” which is God’s self spilling out into our life and into the lives of those we touch.

_______________________________________________

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

October 10, 2018

TRUST ME ENOUGH to let things happen without striving to predict or control them. Relax, and refresh yourself in the Light of My everlasting Love. My Love-Light never dims, yet you are often unaware of My radiant Presence. When you project yourself into the future, rehearsing what you will do or say, you are seeking to be self-sufficient: to be adequate without My help. This is a subtle sin— so common that it usually slips by unnoticed.

The alternative is to live fully in the present, depending on Me each moment. Rather than fearing your inadequacy, rejoice in My abundant supply. Train your mind to seek My help continually, even when you feel competent to handle something by yourself. Don’t divide your life into things you can do by yourself and things that require My help. Instead, learn to rely on Me in every situation. This discipline will enable you to enjoy life more and to face each day confidently.

PSALM 37: 3– 6; Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

PHILIPPIANS 4: 19 NKJV; And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

 

Transcendence

October 9th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Unknowing: Week 2
Transcendence
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

God, it seems, cannot really be known, but only related to. Or, as the mystics would assert, we know God by loving God, by trusting God, by placing our hope in God. It is a nonpossessive, nonobjectified way of knowing. It is always I-Thou and never I-It, to use Martin Buber’s wonderfully insightful phrases. God allows us to know God only by loving God. God, in that sense, cannot be “thought.” [1]
Karen Armstrong, a religious historian and creator of the Charter for Compassion, reflects on this theme across humanity and religious traditions [brackets contain my additions]:
Our scientifically oriented knowledge seeks to master reality, explain it, and bring it under the control of reason, but a delight in unknowing has also been part of the human experience. Even today, poets, philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists find that the contemplation of the insoluble is a source of joy, astonishment, and contentment.
One of the peculiar characteristics of the human mind is its ability to have ideas and experiences that exceed our conceptual grasp. We constantly push our thoughts to an extreme, so that our minds seem to elide naturally into an apprehension of transcendence. . . . Language has borders that we cannot cross. When we listen critically to our stuttering attempts to express ourselves, we become aware of an inexpressible otherness. “It is decisively the fact that language does have frontiers,” explains the British critic George Steiner, “that gives proof of a transcendent presence in the fabric of the world. It is just because we can go no further, because speech so marvellously fails us, that we experience the certitude of a divine meaning surpassing and enfolding ours.” [2]
Religion is complex; in every age, there are numerous strands of piety. No single tendency ever prevails in its entirety. People practice their faith in myriad contrasting and contradictory ways. But a deliberate and principled reticence about God [talk] and/or the sacred was a constant theme [at the more mature levels] not only in Christianity but in the other major faith traditions until the rise of modernity in the West. People believed that God exceeded our thoughts and concepts and could be known only by dedicated practice. We have lost sight of this important insight, and this, I believe, is one of the reasons why so many Western people find the concept of God so troublesome today. . . .
We are seeing a great deal of strident dogmatism today, religious and secular, but there is also a growing appreciation of the value of unknowing [and unsaying]. We can never re-create the past, but we can learn from its mistakes and insights. There is a long religious tradition that stressed the importance of recognizing the limits of our knowledge, of silence, reticence, and awe. . . . One of the conditions of enlightenment has always been a willingness to let go of what we thought we knew in order to appreciate truths we had never dreamed of. We may have to unlearn a great deal about religion before we can move on to new insight.
It is not easy to talk about what we call “God,” and the [mature] religious quest often begins with the deliberate dissolution of ordinary thought patterns [and the ordinary egoic self].

_____________________________________________

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

October 9, 2018

YOU HAVE BEEN on a long, uphill journey, and your energy is almost spent. Though you have faltered at times, you have not let go of My hand. I am pleased with your desire to stay close to Me. There is one thing, however, that displeases Me: your tendency to complain. You may talk to Me as much as you like about the difficulty of the path we are following. I understand better than anyone else the stresses and strains that have afflicted you. You can ventilate safely to Me because talking with Me tempers your thoughts and helps you see things from My perspective. Complaining to others is another matter altogether. It opens the door to deadly sins such as self-pity and rage. Whenever you are tempted to grumble, come to Me and talk it out. As you open up to Me, I will put My thoughts in your mind and My song in your heart.

JEREMIAH 31: 25; For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.”

PHILIPPIANS 2: 14– 15; Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked (world).

PSALM 40:3; He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.

 

 

Dying by Brightness & Knowing that We Don’t Know

October 8th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Unknowing: Week 2

Dying by Brightness
Sunday, October 7, 2018

I die by brightness and the Holy Spirit. —Thomas Merton (1915-1968) [1]
For most of us, growth is a long process of being drawn “by brightness and the Holy Spirit,” as Merton says. I interpret this brightness as being overwhelmed and undone by Immense Mystery and Goodness. Yet the Holy Spirit leads and must direct this undoing. We cannot take control, and this is our “dying” as we have to gradually let go of our need for control, our small self-serving worldviews, and our comforting certitudes about which we are really not certain at all. It is a dying that we must both allow from our side and also allow to be done to us—in other words, both an active and a receptive surrender.
For example, Jesus said, “When you pray, do not babble on like the pagans do” (Matthew 6:7). Contemplation instead waits for the moments, accepts the moments, and trusts the moments that come like a “creation out of nothing” instead of filling the silence with our own words and ideas. Contemplation is essentially a nondual consciousness that overcomes the gap between being and doing. It allows us to live trustfully in our naked being-in-God, without dressing it up with performance of any kind.
The reason why the true contemplative-in-action is still somewhat rare is that most of us, even and often in religion, are largely educated in dualistic thinking (quick, certain, and smug judgments). Judgmentalism and dismissiveness does not overcome distinctions but actually magnifies them. When we try to use this limited tool of differentiation and critique in prayer and relationships, we quickly see its limitations. The fatal mistake of ego “consciousness” is that it excludes and eliminates the unconscious (where both deep goodness and deep badness lie hidden)—which ironically means our common consciousness is actually not conscious at all! But the human ego prefers knowing and being certain over being honest. “Don’t bother me with the truth, I want to be in control,” it invariably says. Most people who think they are fully conscious or “smart” and in control, have a big iron manhole cover over their unconscious. It does give them a sense of being right and in charge, but it seldom yields compassion, community, or wisdom.
We are led forward by brightness, a larger force field, that is willing to include the negative, the problematic, the difficult, the unknown—all of which I do not fully understand. “Take the log out of your own eye first and then you will see clearly,” Jesus says (Luke 6:42). By the log, I think he is referring to the big thing we do not want to see, which many of us call “the shadow self.” God’s brightness does not exclude or deny anything. Divine perfection is precisely the ability to include imperfection; whereas we think we must exclude, deny, and even punish it! The flow of grace is an increasing ability to forgive reality for being what it is—instead of what we want it to be!
The beauty of the unconscious, whether personal or collective, is that it knows a great deal, but it also knows that it does not know, cannot say, dare not try to prove or assert too strongly. What it does know is that there is always more—and all words will fall short and all concepts will be incomplete. The contemplative is precisely the person who agrees to live in that kind of blinding brightness. The paradox, of course, is that it does not feel like brightness at all, but what John of the Cross (1542-1591) called a “luminous darkness” and others identify as “learned ignorance.”
We cannot grow in the integrative dance of action and contemplation without a strong tolerance for ambiguity, an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and a willingness not to know—and not even to need to know. What else would give us peace and contentment?

_________________________

Unknowing: Week 2
Knowing that We Don’t Know
Monday, October 8, 2018
I encourage you, then, to make experience, not knowledge, your aim. Knowledge often leads to arrogance, but this humble feeling never lies to you. —Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing [1]
In meditation, we move beyond doctrines and dogmas to inner experience. When we move to the level of experience, we see that this self, which is primarily a “radio receiver,” is not to be taken too seriously, for it is always changing stations and is filled with static and interference. When I am faithful to meditation, I quickly overcome the illusion that my correct thinking, or thinking more about something, can ever get me there. If that were so, every good PhD would be a saint!
You see, information is not the same as transformation. Even good and correct thinking is trapped inside my little mind, my particular culture, my form of education, my parental conditioning—all of which are good and all of which are bad. Great mysteries are naturally experienced and known within our small and limited contexts, so we should be much more humble about our own opinions and thoughts. How could the Infinite ever be fully or rightly received by the mere finite?
Alongside all our knowing must be the equal and remaining “knowing that I do not know.” That’s why the classic schools of prayer spoke of both kataphatic knowing—through images and words—and apophatic knowing—through silence, symbols, and beyond words. Apophatic knowing is the empty space around the words, allowing God to fill in all the gaps in an “unspeakable” way. The apophatic way of knowing was largely lost to the West by the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, and Western Christianity has suffered because of it. We wanted to match the new rationalism with what felt like solid knowing, and we mimicked the secular mind instead of what Paul calls “knowing spiritual things in a spiritual way” (1 Corinthians 2:13). We lost the unique access point of the mystics, the poets, artists, and saints (who usually did not even know they were using this alternative consciousness).
Strangely enough, this unknowing is a new kind of understanding. We do have a word for it: the old word faith. Faith is a kind of knowing that doesn’t need to know for certain and yet doesn’t dismiss knowledge either. With faith, we don’t need to obtain or hold all knowledge because we know that we are being held inside a Much Larger Frame and Perspective. As Paul puts it, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known myself” (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is a knowing by participation with—instead of an observation of from a position of separation. It is knowing subject to subject instead of subject to object.
It took me years to understand this, even though this is straight from the Franciscan school of philosophy. Love must always precede knowledge. The mind alone cannot get us there (which is the great arrogance of most Western religion). Prayer in my later years has become letting myself be nakedly known, exactly as I am, in all my ordinariness and shadow, face to face, without any masks or religious makeup. Such nakedness is a falling into the unified field underneath reality, what Thomas Merton called “a hidden wholeness,” [2] where we know in a different way and from a different source. This is the contemplative’s unique access point: knowing by union with a thing, where we can enjoy an intuitive grasp of wholeness, a truth beyond words, beyond any need or capacity to prove anything right or wrong. This is the contemplative mind which religion should have directly taught, but which it largely lost.

______________________________________________

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

October 8, 2018

I LOVE YOU WITH an everlasting Love. The human mind cannot comprehend My constancy. Your emotions flicker and falter in the face of varying circumstances, and you tend to project your fickle feelings onto Me. Thus you do not benefit fully from My unfailing Love. You need to look beyond the flux of circumstances and discover Me gazing lovingly back at you. This awareness of My Presence strengthens you as you receive and respond to My Love. I am the same yesterday, today, and forever! Let My Love flow into you continually. Your need for Me is as constant as the outflow of My Love to you.

JEREMIAH 31: 3; The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

EXODUS 15: 13; In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.

HEBREWS 13: 8; Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.