Faith and Science

October 23rd, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Open to Change
Monday, October 23, 2017

God comes into the world in always-surprising ways so that the sincere seeker will always find. Is sincere seeking perhaps the real meaning of walking in darkness and faith? It seems to me that many scientists today are very sincere seekers. In fact, today’s scientists often seem to have more in common with the mystics than do many religious folks who do not seek truth but only assert their dogmas and pre-emptively deny the very possibility of other people’s God-experience.

The common scientific method relies on hypothesis, experiment, trial, and error. We might even call this “practice,” just like many of us have prayer practices. Yes, much of science is limited to the material, but at least the method is more open-ended and sincere than the many religious people who do no living experiments with faith, hope, and love, but just hang on to quotes and doctrines. They lack the personal practices whereby they can test the faithfulness of divine presence and the power of divine love.

Most scientists are willing to move forward with some degree of not-knowing; in fact, this is what calls them forward and motivates them. As new discoveries are affirmed, they remain open to new evidence that would tweak or even change the previous “belief.” Many religious folks insist upon complete “knowing” at the very beginning and then being certain every step of the way, which actually keeps them more “rational” and controlling than most scientists. This is the dead end of most fundamentalist religion, and why it cannot deal with thorny issues in any creative or compassionate way. Now I know why Paul dared to speak of “the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). Law reigns and discernment is unnecessary, which means there is little growth or change in such people. When you do not grow, you remain an infant.

The scientific mind today often has more openness to mystery than religion does!  For example, it is willing to speak of dark matter, dark holes, chaos theory, fractals (the part replicates the whole), string theory, dark energy, and the atomic structure of all material things, which seems totally counter intuitive. Scientists “believe” in many things like electromagnetism, radioactivity, field theory, and various organisms such as viruses and bacteria before they can actually “prove” they exist. They know them first by their effects, or the evidence, and then argue backward to their existence. Isn’t this how good theologians have often tried to “prove” the existence of God?

Even though the entire world was captivated by the logical cause-and-effect worldview of Newtonian physics for several centuries, such immediately verifiable physics has now yielded to quantum physics, which is not directly visible to the ordinary observer at all—yet ends up explaining much more—without needing to throw out the simple logic of Newtonian physics in the everyday world. True transcendence always includes the previous stages, yet somehow also reshapes and expands them—just like mysticism does with our old doctrines and dogmas.

It feels as if the scientists of each age are often brilliant, seemingly “right,” but precisely because they are also tentative and searching—which creates a practical humility that we often do not see in clergy and “true believers.” A great scientist will move forward with a perpetual “beginner’s mind.”

Thus many scientists end up trusting in the reality of things that are still “invisible” and secret. It keeps them on the search. This feels like faith to me, whereas what many church people want is perfect certitude and clarity before every step forward. This does not create great or strong people.

Gateway to Silence:
Divine Reality, endlessly knowable

_____________________________________________________

Nothing of the Old Life!

By Oswald Chambers

 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17Nothing of the Old Life!
By Oswald ChambersIf anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17 

Our Lord never tolerates our prejudices— He is directly opposed to them and puts them to death. We tend to think that God has some special interest in our particular prejudices, and are very sure that He will never deal with us as He has to deal with others. We even say to ourselves, “God has to deal with other people in a very strict way, but of course He knows that my prejudices are all right.” But we must learn that God accepts nothing of the old life! Instead of being on the side of our prejudices, He is deliberately removing them from us. It is part of our moral education to see our prejudices put to death by His providence, and to watch how He does it. God pays no respect to anything we bring to Him. There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender.
When we are born again, the Holy Spirit begins to work His new creation in us, and there will come a time when there is nothing remaining of the old life. Our old gloomy outlook disappears, as does our old attitude toward things, and “all things are of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18). How are we going to get a life that has no lust, no self-interest, and is not sensitive to the ridicule of others? How will we have the type of love that “is kind…is not provoked, [and] thinks no evil”? (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). The only way is by allowing nothing of the old life to remain, and by having only simple, perfect trust in God— such a trust that we no longer want God’s blessings, but only want God Himself. Have we come to the point where God can withdraw His blessings from us without our trust in Him being affected? Once we truly see God at work, we will never be concerned again about the things that happen, because we are actually trusting in our Father in heaven, whom the world cannot see.

 

 

The Work of Contemplation

October 20th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

The Work of Contemplation

Guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault continues reflecting on the classic, anonymous text of Christian mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing.
As I mentioned yesterday, I approach The Cloud in a different way than it is typically understood. While reading a variety of translations of the Middle English is helpful, I find Ira Progoff’s version particularly eye-opening. Progoff brings a very different spiritual and intellectual perspective. More than any editor I know, he understands that The Cloud is not simply speaking about a devotional pathway or even a permanent mystical state, as this text is often assumed to be referring to. Rather the author’s “work” is the systematic restructuring of consciousness so that it is able to perceive from oneness—i.e., without dividing the perceptual field into subject/object or opposites. Progoff realizes that The Cloud is laying out a whole different pathway of knowing from the heart that eventually allows one to perceive holographically—the “whole picture” at once.
We can think about this shift in the familiar terms of computer programming. The Cloud lays out not so much a “system update” to our usual mode of perception but a whole new operating system! Rather than thinking about the spiritual path as moving deeper into an experience or feeling of union with God, The Cloud reveals an entire “restructuring” of our consciousness so that we no longer see through separation and difference.
To introduce the text, Progoff brilliantly summarizes both the overall goal and method laid out in The Cloud:
The normal tendency of consciousness is to move outward toward the environment in terms of sensory contacts, social feelings, ideological beliefs, emotional attachments, and so on. . . . The first requirement of the work described in The Cloud of Unknowing is then to call a halt to this squandering of energy by outward diffusion; and it undertakes to accomplish this by means of disciplined attention to the activities of the mind. [1]

Classical mystical theology similarly emphasizes “recollection” (not to be confused with remembering) as a state of being energetically collected into a greater sense of selfhood. The real work of contemplation is to discover that our normal way of operating—finding our sense of selfhood in differentiation and opposition to those around us (I am me because I am not you)—is full of “energy leaks”! As we learn to move away from identifying ourselves as individuals—separate from the whole—we begin to plug those leaks and instead perceive from a new operating system that sees from the whole. As contemporary mystic Beatrice Bruteau (1930-2014) wrote, “I AM / MAY YOU BE!” [2]

Gateway to Silence:
Fall fearless into love.

———————-

Is God’s Will My Will?
By Oswald Chambers

This is the will of God, your sanctification… —1 Thessalonians 4:3
Sanctification is not a question of whether God is willing to sanctify me— is it my will? Am I willing to let God do in me everything that has been made possible through the atonement of the Cross of Christ? Am I willing to let Jesus become sanctification to me, and to let His life be exhibited in my human flesh? (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). Beware of saying, “Oh, I am longing to be sanctified.” No, you are not. Recognize your need, but stop longing and make it a matter of action. Receive Jesus Christ to become sanctification for you by absolute, unquestioning faith, and the great miracle of the atonement of Jesus will become real in you.
All that Jesus made possible becomes mine through the free and loving gift of God on the basis of what Christ accomplished on the cross. And my attitude as a saved and sanctified soul is that of profound, humble holiness (there is no such thing as proud holiness). It is a holiness based on agonizing repentance, a sense of inexpressible shame and degradation, and also on the amazing realization that the love of God demonstrated itself to me while I cared nothing about Him (see Romans 5:8). He completed everything for my salvation and sanctification. No wonder Paul said that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
Sanctification makes me one with Jesus Christ, and in Him one with God, and it is accomplished only through the magnificent atonement of Christ. Never confuse the effect with the cause. The effect in me is obedience, service, and prayer, and is the outcome of inexpressible thanks and adoration for the miraculous sanctification that has been brought about in me because of the atonement through the Cross of Christ.

Knowing From the Whole

October 19th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Exploring the Mystics with Cynthia Bourgeault

Knowing from the Whole
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault reflects on another significant element within the Christian mystical lineage. The Cloud of Unknowing is a 14th-century spiritual classic written by an anonymous English monk. Perhaps this shows ego in a subservient role. But the writer was also anonymous for practical reasons. Meister Eckhart had just been silenced by the Pope in 1329 for emphasizing independent study, thinking, and experience, to which this author was also committed. It took many generations for the Church to affirm the value of inner, personal experience. Today Centering Prayer—which was drawn from The Cloud of Unknowing—is practiced by many Christians around the world.

The Cloud of Unknowing is a mystical text, and like most mystical texts it can only ultimately be accessed at the level of consciousness from which it was written. “Like attracts like,” as the old hermetic saying goes. The best way to engage a text written from a state of deep contemplative stillness is to match that state as closely as you can in yourself by meditating your way into the text rather than diving in with your analytical mind. In my latest book, The Heart of Centering Prayer, I explore this text from a different angle than how The Cloud is typically interpreted. Traditionally, The Cloud is understood as focusing on mystical marriage where the goal is to direct desire away from earthly objects toward heavenly ones until spiritual union with God can be achieved. This approach, while certainly true of many other mystical texts, misses the subtle shift the author makes. Rather than emphasizing the seemingly obvious subject/object split between lover and beloved, the author invites us into an entirely different way of knowing and experiencing Love.

Consider the following lines from chapter 16, describing Mary Magdalene as a model of the contemplative transformation the author has in mind:

Instead, she hung up her love and her longing desire in this cloud of unknowing and she learned to love a thing that she might never see clearly in this life, neither by the light of understanding of her reason nor by a true feeling of sweet love in her affection. [2]

Clearly, the kind of love this author has in mind is of a fundamentally different quality than what we usually mean by love.

The love presented here is not affectivity or feeling, but describes what we would nowadays call nondual perception anchored in the heart. The heart’s energetic bandwidth is intimacy, the capacity to perceive things from the inside by coming into sympathetic resonance with them. In contrast to the mind, which perceives through differentiation (I am me, because I am not you), the heart takes its bearings directly from the whole (the “I” and the “you” drop out), through a process that scientists nowadays describe as “holographic resonance.” Imagine trying to describe that in the 14th century! Ahead of his time, the author gropes for metaphors to describe an entirely different mode of perception and understanding.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall fearless into Love.

_____________________________________________________

The Unheeded Secret

By Oswald Chambers

 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.” —John 18:36

We must get rid of the plague of the spirit of this religious age in which we live. In our Lord’s life there was none of the pressure and the rushing of tremendous activity that we regard so highly today, and a disciple is to be like His Master. The central point of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship with Him, not public usefulness to others.

It is not the practical activities that are the strength of this Bible Training College— its entire strength lies in the fact that here you are immersed in the truths of God to soak in them before Him. You have no idea of where or how God is going to engineer your future circumstances, and no knowledge of what stress and strain is going to be placed on you either at home or abroad. And if you waste your time in overactivity, instead of being immersed in the great fundamental truths of God’s redemption, then you will snap when the stress and strain do come. But if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in Him, which may appear to be impractical, then you will remain true to Him whatever happens.

Falling Fearless into Love

October 18th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault continues reflecting on the Christian mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The third and most powerful wellspring of hope that Teilhard has to offer us—for those with “eyes to see and hearts to hear”—is the assurance that this slow toiling of the planet toward what he calls the “Omega,” the convergent point of all evolution, is not merely some hypothetical, futuristic theory. Omega is neither abstract nor hypothetical; it is already present, actively permeating the earth with its energy. “I probably would never have dared to consider or form the rational hypothesis of it,” Teilhard writes, “if I had not already found in my consciousness as a believer not only the speculative model for it, but its living reality.” [1]

That “living reality,” is for Teilhard the radiant heart of Christ, which he first met as a child and which continued to grow in him throughout his life as a palpably real and personal presence. Not only his own heart but the entire planet was increasingly enfolded within the experiential realm of “the Christic.”

While the way in which Teilhard incorporates Christ into evolution makes some uncomfortable, in the grand tapestry of Teilhardian seeing, the warp of science and the weft of mysticism are inextricably intertwined. And it is just here, in fact, that Teilhard’s greatest gift to our own troubled times may lie waiting to be tapped.

Teilhard’s felt-sense conviction of the presence of Christ already at work in “the stuff of the universe”—directing the course of evolution from within its very planetary marrow—allowed him to “stay the course” over a lifetime of bearing untold personal suffering for the sake of a world that was already luminously inhabited by Christ.

For Teilhard, faith was never a matter of doctrines and principles. It is first and foremost an action—an “operative” as he calls it. Faith in this way becomes a wager: if the premise is true, you can only live into it through action. Rather than trying to do faith from the “top down,” by first convincing yourself of the logic of the argument in question, begin from the “bottom up,” by acting in alignment with it, and see what happens next!

Perhaps this is what Teilhard means by “harnessing the energy of love.” [2] In our own times, it is surely our best shot—perhaps our only shot—for acting in a way that does not merely compound the darkness. Teilhard’s conviction that faith is not something that we have but something that we do is perhaps the best antidote possible to the despair and distrust that paralyze so much of our postmodern moral resolve. It is a call to step out of the boat onto the ocean of love and discover—all our fear and skepticism to the contrary—that the water really does hold us up.

Gateway to silence:
Fall fearless into love.

———————-

The Key to the Missionary’s Devotion By Oswald Chambers

…they went forth for His name’s sake… —3 John 7

Our Lord told us how our love for Him is to exhibit itself when He asked, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:17). And then He said, “Feed My sheep.” In effect, He said, “Identify yourself with My interests in other people,” not, “Identify Me with your interests in other people.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 shows us the characteristics of this love— it is actually the love of God expressing itself. The true test of my love for Jesus is a very practical one, and all the rest is sentimental talk.
Faithfulness to Jesus Christ is the supernatural work of redemption that has been performed in me by the Holy Spirit— “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:5). And it is that love in me that effectively works through me and comes in contact with everyone I meet. I remain faithful to His name, even though the commonsense view of my life may seemingly deny that, and may appear to be declaring that He has no more power than the morning mist.
The key to the missionary’s devotion is that he is attached to nothing and to no one except our Lord Himself. It does not mean simply being detached from the external things surrounding us. Our Lord was amazingly in touch with the ordinary things of life, but He had an inner detachment except toward God. External detachment is often an actual indication of a secret, growing, inner attachment to the things we stay away from externally.
The duty of a faithful missionary is to concentrate on keeping his soul completely and continually open to the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. The men and women our Lord sends out on His endeavors are ordinary human people, but people who are controlled by their devotion to Him, which has been brought about through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t Co-Exist. Coalese!

October 17th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Don’t Co-Exist. Coalesce!
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault continues reflecting on the Christian mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The second hopeful resource that Teilhard brings to our unsettled times is his unshakable conviction that evolutionary progress will unfold its ultimate triumph in the realm of the personal. Our postmodern temperament has a well-ingrained tendency to regard the world through a filter of distrust, in which we inevitably view evolution as “random,” disconnected, and certainly impersonal. However, Teilhard encourages us to see our planetary home as a coherent and increasingly compassionate whole, steadily plying its way along an irreversible evolutionary trajectory.

In the big picture, there is nothing to suggest that evolution has gone off track. But there is plenty to suggest that we are entering a critical new phase in which some old-order survival strategies (read: the “fight or flight” mechanisms that have ruled our survival thus far) are giving way to a new and more intentional sense of mutual interdependence. The transition appears to already be underway. To continue this turning, it’s crucial that we humans make the evolutionary shift from “individuals” to “persons.”

What’s the difference?

We typically use these terms interchangeably, but for Teilhard they denote distinctly different, progressive evolutionary stages. An individual lives as an autonomous unit, subject to the old-order laws of “survival of the fittest” and planetary indifference. A person has come to understand themselves as belonging to greater relational field. They now sense their identity from a sense of wholeness in an entirely different order of coherence: a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In this greater whole both unity and differentiation are preserved; meanwhile the whole begins to be infused by a supremely personal tincture or essence. The universe is no longer random, but a system of relationships to which we all belong and are participating in!

A cautionary note: for Teilhard, oneness does not equate simply to some sentimental proclamation of “fellowship” or “let’s all just get along.”

For Teilhard this process of becoming unified is evident in the evolution of the smallest cell to the orbit of our very planet. In fact, says Teilhard, it’s the very direction of how consciousness evolved in the first place! As more complex forms emerged in unified units on our planet, consciousness was able to emerge with it. From this we can gather that the future of spirituality will not be found in the “enlightenment” of a select number of individuals, but will arrive through us collectively as a new “unit,” in the emergence of what we might call the mystical body of Christ.

The rising scent of our common humanity is already in the air, and as we consciously join hearts across the antiquated boundaries of the nationalities and denominations that once defined our identities, the blue biosphere of our planet Earth is being suffused with the gold and scarlet of our common human heart.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall fearless into Love.

____________________________________________________

The Key of the Greater Work

By Oswald Chambers

 …I say to you, he who believes in Me,…greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. —John 14:12

Teilhard for Troubled Times & Deep Hope Flows Over Deep Time

October 16th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Teilhard for Troubled Times

I’ve invited Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, to explore Christian mysticism in this week’s Daily Meditations.

When I was asked to reflect on a mystic’s life and work, for me the choice was clear. In the midst of our socio-political concerns, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)—a French philosopher, paleontologist, and Jesuit priest—enters the equation offering a vastly broader and more hopeful perspective in which to search for a new moral grounding. Writing in a historical era whose traumatic upheavals eerily foreshadow our own, he is yet able to paint a bigger picture where there is still room for optimism and coherence.

Just how is Teilhard able to find hope in such troubled times? I’d like to unpack that question over the next few days by presenting what I call the Teilhardian “waypoints.”

For many of us, the concept of a forward evolutionary journey may feel like a false hope. Perhaps it seems that such hope is bought at the cost of all sensitivity to individual suffering and pain, by setting the scale at so vast a magnitude that human lives register as no more than tiny pixels.

Teilhard himself was accused of false optimism, of an indifference to personal suffering after World War II when people and nations—still shaken from the horrors of the Holocaust and Hiroshima—struggled with personal and collective remorse. But Teilhard was by no means indifferent. His life-transforming vision of the oneness of humanity came to him in the midst of serving as stretcher bearer in the bloody trenches of World War I, and his writings on human progress rose from the untold depths of personal suffering he endured in faithfulness to a Church that actively blocked his path. He knew personal suffering only too well, and he looked straight into the face of the sorrow, the horror, and named it as such.

The haunting prayer woven into Teilhard’s reflection on faith in The Divine Milieu makes clear that it is no cheap optimism he is dispensing here, but a wrenchingly honest acknowledgement of our human predicament and an unfailing fidelity to seeing God in every aspect of the earth, even in our human suffering:

Ah, you know it yourself, Lord, through having borne the anguish of it as a man: on certain days the world seems a terrifying thing: huge, blind, and brutal. . . . At any moment the vast and horrible thing may break in through the cracks—the thing which we try hard to forget is always there, separated from us by a flimsy partition: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces—these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all our love.

Since my human dignity, O God, forbids me to close my eyes to this . . . teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within it. [1]

Gateway to Silence:
Fall fearless into Love.
———————————————–
Deep Hope Flows Over Deep Time

Guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault continues reflecting on the Christian mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The first of the Teilhardian “road signs” helps us reframe our sense of scale: Teilhard reminds us that deep hope flows over deep time. From his perspective as a geologist and paleontologist, Teilhard reassures us that evolution has not changed direction; it has always been and always will be “a rise toward consciousness.” [1] But rather than the very small snapshots represented in our short lifetimes, evolution’s span is measured in eons, not decades. When we lose sight of the cosmic scale, the result is anguish and impatience. If we measure human progress only by our usual historical benchmarks—the span of a presidential administration, the not-yet 250 years of the American democratic experiment, or the “mere” 2,500 years of Western civilization—we are still only catching the smallest snippet of the inevitable process of what Teilhard calls tatonnement, or “trial and error,” part of the necessary play of freedom on its way to new combinations and creativity.

Teilhard affirmed that even the emergence of human consciousness itself, as it reached its present configuration 125,000 years ago with the stunning debut of homo sapiens [current estimate is 200,000 years], followed a 10,000-year ice age, in which it appeared that all that had been gained prior to that point was irreversibly lost. It wasn’t. Paleontological discoveries reveal that humans kept and refined their skills of using fire and making tools—providing unmistakable evidence that even when hidden by ice and apparent desolation, the evolutionary journey was still unperturbedly marching forward.

“Deep hope” is not, however, an excuse to relax our vigilance in stewardship for the planet Earth. Teilhard does not permit himself to be used that way; his sense of the oneness of the world pervades everything he sees and writes. But he realizes as well that Creation has an intelligence and a resilience that meets us far more than halfway. Over the millennia our planet has endured meteor strikes, the rise and fall of sea levels, ice ages, the continual shifting of tectonic plates, the appearance and disappearance of species.

For sure, we need to fall on our knees every morning and beseech God to help us through this latest dark time of human greed and destructiveness. But our real task at this evolutionary cusp is not to lose sight of what is coming to us from the future, the vision of our common humanity that is indeed “groaning and travailing” to be born (Romans 8:22).

Gateway to Silence:
Fall fearless into Love.

———————————

The Key to the Master’s Orders
By Oswald Chambers

Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. —Matthew 9:38

The key to the missionary’s difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work— that is, not work as the word is commonly used today, which often results in the shifting of our focus away from God. The key to the missionary’s difficult task is also not the key of common sense, nor is it the key of medicine, civilization, education, or even evangelization. The key is in following the Master’s orders— the key is prayer. “Pray the Lord of the harvest….” In the natural realm, prayer is not practical but absurd. We have to realize that prayer is foolish from the commonsense point of view.
From Jesus Christ’s perspective, there are no nations, but only the world. How many of us pray without regard to the persons, but with regard to only one Person— Jesus Christ? He owns the harvest that is produced through distress and through conviction of sin. This is the harvest for which we have to pray that laborers be sent out to reap. We stay busy at work, while people all around us are ripe and ready to be harvested; we do not reap even one of them, but simply waste our Lord’s time in over-energized activities and programs. Suppose a crisis were to come into your father’s or your brother’s life— are you there as a laborer to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ? Is your response, “Oh, but I have a special work to do!” No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, “a servant [who] is not greater than his master” (John 13:16), and someone who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls us to no special work— He calls us to Himself. “Pray the Lord of the harvest,” and He will engineer your circumstances to send you out as His laborer.

Deep Hope Flows Over Deep Time

October 16th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Exploring the Mystics with Cynthia Bourgeault

Deep Hope Flows Over Deep Time
Monday, October 16, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault continues reflecting on the Christian mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The first of the Teilhardian “road signs” helps us reframe our sense of scale: Teilhard reminds us that deep hope flows over deep time. From his perspective as a geologist and paleontologist, Teilhard reassures us that evolution has not changed direction; it has always been and always will be “a rise toward consciousness.” [1] But rather than the very small snapshots represented in our short lifetimes, evolution’s span is measured in eons, not decades. When we lose sight of the cosmic scale, the result is anguish and impatience. If we measure human progress only by our usual historical benchmarks—the span of a presidential administration, the not-yet 250 years of the American democratic experiment, or the “mere” 2,500 years of Western civilization—we are still only catching the smallest snippet of the inevitable process of what Teilhard calls tatonnement, or “trial and error,” part of the necessary play of freedom on its way to new combinations and creativity.

Teilhard affirmed that even the emergence of human consciousness itself, as it reached its present configuration 125,000 years ago with the stunning debut of homo sapiens [current estimate is 200,000 years], followed a 10,000-year ice age, in which it appeared that all that had been gained prior to that point was irreversibly lost. It wasn’t. Paleontological discoveries reveal that humans kept and refined their skills of using fire and making tools—providing unmistakable evidence that even when hidden by ice and apparent desolation, the evolutionary journey was still unperturbedly marching forward.

“Deep hope” is not, however, an excuse to relax our vigilance in stewardship for the planet Earth. Teilhard does not permit himself to be used that way; his sense of the oneness of the world pervades everything he sees and writes. But he realizes as well that Creation has an intelligence and a resilience that meets us far more than halfway. Over the millennia our planet has endured meteor strikes, the rise and fall of sea levels, ice ages, the continual shifting of tectonic plates, the appearance and disappearance of species.

For sure, we need to fall on our knees every morning and beseech God to help us through this latest dark time of human greed and destructiveness. But our real task at this evolutionary cusp is not to lose sight of what is coming to us from the future, the vision of our common humanity that is indeed “groaning and travailing” to be born (Romans 8:22).

Gateway to Silence:
Fall fearless into Love.

_________________________________________________

The Key to the Master’s Orders

By Oswald Chambers

Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. —Matthew 9:38

The key to the missionary’s difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work— that is, not work as the word is commonly used today, which often results in the shifting of our focus away from God. The key to the missionary’s difficult task is also not the key of common sense, nor is it the key of medicine, civilization, education, or even evangelization. The key is in following the Master’s orders— the key is prayer. “Pray the Lord of the harvest….” In the natural realm, prayer is not practical but absurd. We have to realize that prayer is foolish from the commonsense point of view.

From Jesus Christ’s perspective, there are no nations, but only the world. How many of us pray without regard to the persons, but with regard to only one Person— Jesus Christ? He owns the harvest that is produced through distress and through conviction of sin. This is the harvest for which we have to pray that laborers be sent out to reap. We stay busy at work, while people all around us are ripe and ready to be harvested; we do not reap even one of them, but simply waste our Lord’s time in over-energized activities and programs. Suppose a crisis were to come into your father’s or your brother’s life— are you there as a laborer to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ? Is your response, “Oh, but I have a special work to do!” No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, “a servant [who] is not greater than his master” (John 13:16), and someone who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls us to no special work— He calls us to Himself. “Pray the Lord of the harvest,” and He will engineer your circumstances to send you out as His laborer.

Only Love Is Real

October 13th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Only Love Is Real

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues sharing insights from John of the Cross. Take a few moments in the midst of your busy day to slow down, to enter into the quiet, and to read these words from your heart center, without judgment or needing to fully understand with your logical brain.
Just as with Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle, by the very first paragraph of John of the Cross’ Prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel you get the sense that the words are coming from some very deep place from inside of him—or really through him—that intimately accesses a deep place in us:

A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark night through which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. [1]

One of the operative principles of love is that love does not rest as long as there is an inequality in love. In seeing the beloved down, the lover is moved to lift the beloved up. John says the infinite love of God will not rest until you are equal to God in love. Even though you would be absolutely nothing without God, God will not rest until you are as much God as God is God. God will not settle for a trace of inequality. In the “dark night of the soul,” we are weaned away from the ego’s finite ideas and feelings about God. We come to know that no idea about God is God. We are also weaned from our ideas about our self as being a finite, separate self apart from God.

Not everyone experiences this kind of union in this life. But in some lives God does not wait until death to begin the consummation through a dark night of the soul. In this nondual state, although I am not God, I am not other than God either. Although I am not you, I am not other than you either. Although I am not the earth, I am not other than the earth either. All things are unexplainably, invincibly one in endless diversity forever.

The awakening of this state on this earth does not mean you are holier than others. Rather, you awaken to how unexplainably holy everybody is. The mystic—that is, the person who is ripe with this love consciousness that’s born in the night—is not more holy but is granted a greater realization of the infinite holiness of the simplest of things.

Then, in some strange way, when you die, nothing will happen, because you’ve already died to the illusion that anything less than love is real; and you are aware that Infinite Love is loving you endlessly and giving itself away as your life.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

—————–

Individual Discouragement and Personal Growth
By Oswald Chambers

…when Moses was grown…he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. —Exodus 2:11
Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. After he launched his first strike for God and for what was right, God allowed Moses to be driven into empty discouragement, sending him into the desert to feed sheep for forty years. At the end of that time, God appeared to Moses and said to him, “ ‘…bring My people…out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go…?’ ” (Exodus 3:10-11). In the beginning Moses had realized that he was the one to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in his individual perspective, but he was not the person for the work until he had learned true fellowship and oneness with God.
We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and yet when we start to do it, there comes to us something equivalent to Moses’ forty years in the wilderness. It’s as if God had ignored the entire thing, and when we are thoroughly discouraged, God comes back and revives His call to us. And then we begin to tremble and say, “Who am I that I should go…?” We must learn that God’s great stride is summed up in these words— “I AM WHO I AM…has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). We must also learn that our individual effort for God shows nothing but disrespect for Him— our individuality is to be rendered radiant through a personal relationship with God, so that He may be “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We are focused on the right individual perspective of things; we have the vision and can say, “I know this is what God wants me to do.” But we have not yet learned to get into God’s stride. If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.

Experiencing God’s Love

October 12th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

xploring the Mystics with James Finley

Experiencing God’s Love
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues sharing insights from John of the Cross. Before you read, take a few deep, slow breaths. Feel yourself in your body, in this place. Attune to your heart’s wisdom and let your mind rest in the quiet. </em

John believed that substantial union is our God-given godly nature. It’s the inherent sacredness of life itself. This dance of infinite love is rhythmically playing itself out in the rhythms of our life standing up and sitting down, waking up and falling asleep. The concrete immediacy of life is the infinite love of God manifesting itself in the present moment.

All of life, distilled to its simplest essence, has to do with the intimate, utterly personal way that each of us serendipitously stumbles upon this great truth. When everything is said and done, only love is real; only love endures. Outside of love, there is nothing, nothing at all. We subsist in varying degrees of awareness from which flow gratitude and peace.

John of the Cross calls this growing awareness of affective union “the way of beginners.” At this stage, our belief is a finite idea about God which reveals something of the nature of the Infinite. Within the Scriptures, there are eloquent, beautiful, finite ideas of the Infinite. And we experience finite feelings of the Infinite. These consolations and solace are the felt sense of God’s abiding presence in our life. This is the ego illumined by faith.

This is just the beginning of our journey. We rightly learn at this stage how to live by this love that we are experiencing. What’s the most loving thing I can do right now for myself, for my body, for my mind, for the gift of my life? What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person, for this community of people, for this animal, for the earth?

The wonderful thing about being a beginner is that we can begin with a confidence that eventually we will arrive at union. When death comes, an extraordinary thing happens: through all eternity, we will no longer be knowing God through finite ideas of the Infinite. Rather, you will know God through God’s own knowledge of God which is Christ; and for all eternity, you will love God with God’s own love which is the Holy Spirit. Through all eternity, you and God will disappear as other than each other.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

__________________________________________________________________

Getting into God’s Stride

By Oswald Chambers

 Enoch walked with God… —Genesis 5:24

It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways. It was said of Jesus— “He will not fail nor be discouraged…” (Isaiah 42:4) because He never worked from His own individual standpoint, but always worked from the standpoint of His Father. And we must learn to do the same. Spiritual truth is learned through the atmosphere that surrounds us, not through intellectual reasoning. It is God’s Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible. Getting into God’s stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don’t give up because the pain is intense right now— get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.

Love Is Our Origin and Destiny

October 11th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Today James Finley will introduce us to another great mystic, John of the Cross. As with all of the mystics, a different kind of reading and perception is required. Remember that mysticism is simply experiential knowing, rather than intellectual knowing. Read today’s reflection with your heart wide open.

John of the Cross (1542-1591) met Teresa of Ávila—then fifty-two years old—when he was a newly ordained Carmelite priest at twenty-five. John was planning to join the Carthusians and become a hermit, but Teresa asked him to join her instead in reforming the Carmelites. Teresa and John shared a rich friendship and correspondence.

When I first read John at age eighteen, there was a certain resonance in realizing he was talking about something that I didn’t understand but I knew mattered very, very much. I’m seventy-four years old now, and I’m still reading him.

Like Teresa, John believed that Infinite Love is the architect of our hearts, and we are made in such a way that nothing less than an infinite union with Infinite Love will do. Love is our origin and our destiny. Creative love sustains us breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat. John writes:

God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it may be that of the greatest sinner in the world. This union between God and creatures always exists. By it He conserves their being so that if the union should end they would immediately be annihilated and cease to exist. Consequently, in discussing union with God, we are not discussing the substantial union that is always existing but the soul’s union with and transformation in God. This union is not always existing, but we find it only where there is likeness of love. We will call it “the union of likeness”; and the former, “the essential or substantial union.” The union of likeness is supernatural [meaning graced or given]; the other, natural. The supernatural union exists when God’s will and the soul’s are in conformity, so that nothing in the one is repugnant to the other. When the soul rids itself completely of what is repugnant and unconformed to the divine will, it rests transformed in God through love. [1]

God’s will for you is Godself. When you, in the freedom of your will, want nothing but what God wills—that is, you live by and for the ever-deepening consummation of this union in love—then these two wills are united in love.

Our spiritual task is to discern the ways in which our heart is at variance with God’s heart. We see how our own subjective perceptions and intentions are compromised or violate our ultimate destiny in love. By this graced recognition, we are released and liberated.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

————————-

God’s Silence— Then What?
By Oswald Chambers

When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. —John 11:6

Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).
A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.