Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

August 17th, 2022

Stay Where the Pain Is

Father Richard teaches about the trustworthy authority that belongs to those who have stood with and “held” the suffering of their lives and the world—rather than fled and avoided it. Jesus and Mary model such “staying power”

Jesus on the cross and Mary standing near him are powerful witnesses to transformative spirituality. They return no hostility, hatred, accusations, or malice directed at them. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection! That’s the core mystery of Christianity. It often takes our whole lives to begin to comprehend this. 

Unfortunately, our natural instinct is trying to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, attempting 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’s the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold contraries, until we are moved by grace to a much deeper level and a much larger frame. Our private pain does not take center stage, but is a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed and every tear wept since the beginning of time. Our pain is not just our own. The normal mind can’t deal with that. That’s why mature religion always teaches some form of contemplation—to break our addiction to this egoic, disconnected thinking. [1] 

CAC friend Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis reflects on a friend’s wise counsel shared in a time of need. “Stay where the pain is,” she said: 

Once, mourning the toughness of 2020—a year marked with political upheaval, racial violence, the isolation and death from a pandemic, raging environmental fires, and the fire that took my sanctuary—I was feeling very low and frankly so weighed down with grief, I didn’t really know how to move forward. I kept throwing myself into work, running fast to do something about the pain. But, ever wise, [my friend] Lyn said:  
 
“Wait, stay right there. Stay where the pain is, where the suffering is, where the struggle is. Stay there. That’s where it’s going to come. The insight. The knowing. The wisdom. Right there, Jacqui. It’s not here yet, but it’s coming. And when it comes, I’ll midwife it with you. It will come, we will do it together. Just wait for it. It will come.” . . . 
 
Right where you are, in the hurt and sorrow, that’s right where the insight is, that’s where the answer is, that’s where the wisdom is. The transformation is there, the rebirth is there. And you’re not alone. Your friend, your lover, your family, your helper—someone from your posse will midwife it with you. The healing will come, and you will emerge, shaped in the merciful womb of the fiercest love. The pain of birth is excruciating. But someone who loves you knows how to reach in and grab you and hold on to you until you make it through. You’ll emerge lighter, less encumbered, ready for new stories, transformed by old ones.

August 16th, 2022

Love and Suffering

Father Richard Rohr teaches that God uses love and suffering, and especially suffering, as universal paths to reach and change us.  

Two universal paths of transformation have been available to every human being God has created: great love and great suffering. These are offered to all; they level the playing fields of all the world religions. Only love and suffering are strong enough to break down our usual ego defenses, crush our dualistic thinking, and open us to Mystery. In my experience, they like nothing else exert the mysterious chemistry that can transmute us from a fear-based life into a love-based life. None of us are exactly sure why. We do know that words, even good words or fine theology, cannot achieve that on their own. No surprise that the Christian icon of redemption is a man offering love from a crucified position!  

Love and suffering are part of most human lives. Without any doubt, they are the primary spiritual teachers more than any Bible, church, minister, sacrament, or theologian. Wouldn’t it make sense for God to make divine truth so readily available? If the love of God is perfect and victorious, wouldn’t God offer every human being equal and universal access to the Divine as love and suffering do? This is what Paul seems to be saying to the Athenians in his brilliant sermon at the Areopagus: “All can seek the Deity, feeling their way toward God and succeeding in finding God. For God is not far from any of us, since it is in God that we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27–28). What a brilliant and needed piece of theology to this day! 

Love is what we long for and were created for—in fact, love is what we are as an outpouring from God—but suffering often seems to be our opening to that need, that desire, and that identity. Love and suffering are the main portals that open the mind space and the heart space (either can come first), breaking us into breadth and depth and communion. Almost without exception, great spiritual teachers will have strong and direct guidance about love and suffering. If we never go there, we will not know these essentials. We’ll try to work it all out in our heads, but our minds alone can’t get us there. We must love “with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and our whole strength” (Mark 12:30). 

Finally, there is a straight line between love and suffering. If we love greatly, it is fairly certain we will soon suffer, because we have somehow given up control to another. That is my simple definition of suffering: whenever we are not in control. 

Opening a Doorway

Father Richard describes two paths that suffering can take us down—a path that fills us with bitterness, resentment, and blame; or a path that softens our hearts to grow closer to God. For many of us, suffering is a cycle. We go back and forth, holding on and letting go, healing, hurting anew, and healing again.

When we are inside of great love and great suffering, we have a much stronger possibility of surrendering our ego controls and opening ourselves to the whole field of life. In great suffering, things happen against our will—which is what makes it suffering. Over time, we can learn to give up our defended state, because we seemingly have no choice. The situation is what it is, although we will invariably cycle through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, resignation, and (hopefully) acceptance. The suffering might feel wrong, terminal, absurd, unjust, impossible, physically painful, or merely beyond our comfort zone. Can you see why we must have a proper attitude toward suffering? So many things, every day, leave us out of control—even if it is just a long stoplight. Remember, however, that if we do not transform our pain, we will surely transmit it to those around us and even to the next generation. Father Richard Rohr teaches that God uses love and suffering, and especially suffering, as universal paths to reach and change us.  

The suffering might feel wrong, terminal, absurd, unjust, impossible, physically painful, or merely beyond our comfort zone. Can you see why we must have a proper attitude toward suffering? So many things, every day, leave us out of control—even if it is just a long stoplight. Remember, however, that if we do not transform our pain, we will surely transmit it to those around us and even to the next generation. 

Suffering, of course, can lead us in either of two directions: (1) it can make us very bitter and cause us to shut down, or (2) it can make us wise, compassionate, and utterly open, because our hearts have been softened, or perhaps because we feel as though we have nothing more to lose. Suffering often takes us to the very edge of our inner resources where we “fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), even when we aren’t sure we believe in God! We must all pray for the grace of this second path of softening and opening. My opinion is that this is the very meaning of the phrase “deliver us from evil” in the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer). In this statement, we aren’t asking to avoid suffering. It is as if we are praying, “When big trials come, God, hold on to me, and don’t let me turn bitter or blaming”—which is an evil that leads to so many other evils. 

Struggling with one’s own shadow self, facing interior conflicts and moral failures, undergoing rejection and abandonment, daily humiliations, or any form of limitation: all are gateways into deeper consciousness and the flowering of the soul. These experiences give us a privileged window into the naked now, the present moment, because impossible contradictions are staring us in the face. Much-needed healing, forgiving what is, and “weeping over” and accepting one’s interior poverty and contradictions are often necessary experiences that invite a person into the contemplative mind. (Paul does this in a memorable way from the depths of Romans 7:14–15 to the heights of his mystical poetry in Romans 8.)

Let Go and Let God

Womanist theologian Diana L. Hayes describes how Black women in her life rely on God to help carry their suffering. She draws on her upbringing in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, in which seemingly impossible difficulties are sustained with God’s help:  

The mothers of the black church, those elderly women who have worked hard all of their lives, often with so little reward, have a way of saying, whenever something goes wrong or someone is burdened more than they feel they can bear, “You just have to ‘let go and let God.’” As a child, I would look at these strong black women who I knew had been through so much in their lives, and who were still going through difficult times, and wonder what they meant. . . . 

They had experienced both the joys and the sorrows that human life has to bring. Yet, they could, when necessary, simply “let go and let God.” 

They could “let go” of the pain of losing a child through illness or misfortune or of watching another child or their husband slowly give up hope of getting a meaningful job, of having something tangible to produce at day’s end. They could “let go” of the racism that confronted them at every turn. . . . They could “let God” carry those sorrows for a while. God did not take over the pain, the frustration, or the anger—it was still there—but they could rest their burden with the Lord for just a little while until they found the strength to take it up and carry it again. Some would say they were passive. . . . But they would
be wrong. 

Through her own suffering, Hayes has come to understand what the mothers of the Black church meant by “let go and let God”: 

Today, as I battle with my own fears and doubts, my own frustrations (about who I am and where I am going) and yearnings for a life free from pain, free from prejudice and discrimination, free from the constant struggle to survive and simply be me, I have come to realize that there are times when life becomes infinitely more tolerable if the burden is shared, with human friends, yes, but even more important, shared with a God who loves and watches over me like a “mother hen brooding over her chicks” [Luke 13:34]. It is that same God who has said, “Behold, while you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you and I named you [Jeremiah 1:5]. How could I love you less now?”

To “let go and let God” is to put yourself into the hands of God, even for just a little while, until the challenges of life are more bearable. . . . It is not a form of “otherworldly” escape, for the pain, the anger, the fears, the frustrations are always, sadly, a part of life, not because God wants it so, but because of our own human failure to make it different.


Embodied Faith

August 12th, 2022

Episcopal priest and CAC teacher emerita Cynthia Bourgeault shares a story about the body’s integral role in sustaining our faith:

In many spiritual traditions of the world, the body is viewed with fear and suspicion, considered to be the seat of desire and at best a dumb beast that must be trained and brought into submission to the personal will. But what is missed here—and it is of crucial importance—is that the moving center [1] also carries unique perceptive gifts, the most important of which is the capacity to understand the language of faith encoded in sacred gesture.

There is a famous story attributed to Russian Orthodox archbishop Anthony Bloom [1914–2003] . . . that makes this point quite strikingly. A young man came to him for spiritual consultation, angry and distressed because he couldn’t make any sense out of his Christianity. The dogma and theology seemed like so much bunk, and the creeds frequently made him furious. He yearned for a life of faith. . . . What did Father Anthony suggest?

The archbishop listened intently and then made a rather surprising suggestion: that the young man simply go home and make one hundred full prostrations a day for a month.

Now in Orthodox practice a full prostration is not a simple bob-and-curtsy, as genuflection tends to be in the West. One goes flat out on the floor, face down, with arms outstretched; holds the position for at least a good long in-and-out breath; and then slowly rises to one’s feet. . . . When he returned a month later, [the young man’s] eyes were glowing with faith, and the creeds no longer made him angry. The reason, as the archbishop knew full well, is that through the deep, rhythmic gestures of bowing and emptying himself, the man came to understand something that could not be found by the mind. It lived in his body. In connecting with his body, he reconnected with the wellsprings of his faith.

According to Bourgeault, our bodies and their natural movements can offer us spiritual insights in a way that the intellectual mind simply cannot:

It’s amazing how those learning experiences invariably wind up among our most vivid childhood memories. From learning to ride a bicycle when I was seven, I came to know something about interior balance, getting the hang of something from the inside out. From learning to float, I discovered that trust means relaxing and letting something else hold you up. From ecstatic lovemaking, I learned not to fear dissolving into oneness. The language of spiritual transformation is already written deeply within our bodies. . . .

In terms of the spiritual journey, trying to find faith with the intellectual center is something like trying to play a violin with a saw: it’s simply the wrong tool for the job. This is one reason why all religious traditions have universally insisted that religious life cannot be done with the mind alone; that is the biggest single impediment to spiritual becoming.

Sarah Young….

Come to Me when you are weak and weary. I do not despise your weakness as it brings you closer to Me. It stirs my compassion. Surrender to your weariness and be connected knowing I understand and will become your strength through your weariness. I understand your difficult journey.

Allow Me to bless you through your weakness.

Isaiah 42:3
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.

Isaiah 54:10
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” …

Romans 8:6
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

Sacred Bodies

August 11th, 2022

Through her incarnational understanding of Mary and Jesus, writer Cole Arthur Riley honors her own embodied reality more deeply:

For me, the story of God becoming body is only matched by God’s submission to the body of a woman. That the creator of the cosmos would choose to rely on an embodied creation. To be grown, fed, delivered—God put faith in a body. In Mary’s muscles and hormones, bowels and breasts. And when Christ’s body is broken and blood shed, we should hold in mystery that first a woman’s body was broken, her blood shed, in order to deliver the hope of the world into the world…

I believe that the spiritual realm is so enmeshed with the physical that it is imperceptible. I believe in the mysterious nearness of my ancestors, but I believe they are located at the site of my own blood and bone.

The chasm between the spiritual and the physical is not greater than that between a thought and a word. They cannot be disconnected. And it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins, perhaps because there is no such place.

We were never meant to dismember our selfhoods. My face is my soul is my blood is my glory. When we neglect the physical, it inevitably suffocates the image of a God who ate, slept, cried, bled, grew, and healed. . . .

I want a faith that loves the whole of me. And if I make it to the table of God, I hope it has cornbread stuffing and comfortable chairs. I mean no offense to the desert mothers and fathers eating locusts and honey . . . but I hope God knows how my cousin’s baked mac and cheese tastes. I hope he puts ham hocks in his greens and feels no shame. [1]

Scholar and activist Christena Cleveland studied Black Madonnas around the world and describes how their diverse and inclusive bodies encouraged generous acceptance of her own body:

The Sacred Black Feminine . . . helped me choose to embrace my body despite what society said about it. As I began to turn to images of the Black Madonna to guide me, I noticed they are not small women. They look like they have never fasted a day in their life. They look like they eat more than my boarding school staples of plain bagels, honeydew melon, and nonfat cottage cheese. They proudly take up space. . . . The four-hundred-fifty plus Black Madonnas around the world encompass a wide range of skin colors, hair textures, body sizes, and ages. Some are pregnant. Some are breastfeeding with proudly exposed breasts. Some are gender nonconforming. The one thing they all have in common is that they are Black and they are holy. Seeing these diverse liberating images of the Sacred Black Feminine helped me relax into my body because I was able to relax into Her diverse and inclusive body.

Sarah Young………

Come to Me; this is my never ending and ongoing invitation. It requires no effort, simply surrender and to open your heart up to My presence. I want you to experience the magnitude of My love for you. It cannot be explained or intellectualized; it can only be experienced.

Revelation 22:17
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

John 6:37
The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them.

Ephesians 3:16-19
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all 

August 10th, 2022

A Source of Vital Information

Father Richard reminds us of the importance of listening to our body’s wisdom: 

Though we begin our lives immersed in unitive, kinesthetic knowing, we learn quickly to see distinctions and divisions in the world. As a toddler, I learned: “I am not my mother. My mother is not me.” The developing ego sees by differentiation and negation—who we are not. While such an ego structure is a natural, necessary part of growing up, it always gets in the way of the soul’s holistic, nondual consciousness. My identity—intelligence, moral sense, wealth, and social class—is unfortunately gained in contrast, comparison, and competition to the person next to me. 

My still center, my True Self, does not need to oppose, differentiate, or compare itself. It just is and is content. This must be “the pearl of great price.” To the extent that our soul is alive and connected, we are satisfied with the “enoughness” of who we are and the present moment. (In our consumeristic, competitive, and increasingly online world, I fear this is becoming harder and harder to experience.) 

Living solely out of our ego splits us off from our body and our soul. Western Christianity and culture have largely surrendered to the dualistic split of body vs. soul. Christians even speak of “saving their soul” instead of also saving their body. We often repress emotions and physical sensations for the sake of efficiency and success. There are appropriate times to let our thinking mind lead instead of immediately following our body’s instincts. But we must do so with awareness and appreciation for our body, rather than pushing feelings away and moving ahead with what we have to do in the next hour. Repressing feelings and sensations relegate them to our unconscious “shadow” self. They don’t go away. They come out in unexpected and often painful ways.

We need to understand kinesthetic, bodily knowing. We must learn to recognize our physical responses—be they fear, arousal, pleasure, or pain—because they reveal additional and important information. It may take a few minutes of intentional focus to become aware of tension in our shoulders, churning in our gut, a pounding heart, or goosebumps.

Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue (1956–2008) says this well

Your mind can deceive you and put all kinds of barriers between you and your nature; but your body does not lie. Your body tells you, if you attend to it, how your life is and whether you are living from your soul or from the labyrinths of your negativity. . . . The human body is the most complex, refined, and harmonious totality. . . .

Your body is, in essence, a crowd of different members who work in harmony to make your belonging in the world possible. . . . The soul is not simply within the body, hidden somewhere within its recesses. The truth is rather the converse. Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely.


August 9th, 2022

Knowing and Loving Our Bodies

After being diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, theologian and author Kate Bowler worked intensively to know and love her body and its ways of both serving and failing her. As part of her spiritual practice, she wrote this letter:  

Dear Body,

Sometimes, I hate you. You ache. You get tired sooner than I’d like to admit. You wake me in the night for no good reason. Your cells duplicate at unpredictable rates. New gray hairs and fine lines and silver stretch marks show up out of nowhere. You let me down just when I need you the most. . . .

Sometimes, I want a break from living with you. I’d prefer to trade you in for a newer model. A model that isn’t in constant pain, that fits better in that pair of jeans, that has more energy. With you, I am limited—bound by skin and bone and thinning hair.

With you, I am fragile. . . .

But God knows what it’s like to live in flesh. . . . If God too lived in a body, then God knows the ache of growing pains and the feeling of goosebumps on a brisk day and the comfort of a warm embrace. He felt the gurgle of a hungry stomach and the annoying prick of a splinter after a day of hard work. He wept over the death of a friend. Ours is a God who sneezed and rubbed His eyes when He was sleepy. Ours is a God who knew longing, heartbreak, excitement, frustration—the full range of what it means to be human . . . [and] live in a body.

So when my own body drags me down, when my muscles ache, when my worries keep me up at night, when my fear for the future leaves me motionless, when I feel lonely and exhausted and burdened, I do not worship a God who is far off.

This is a God who knows my humanity inside and out. God has counted every hair on my head (Matthew 10:30) and bottled up every tear I have shed (Psalm 56:8). Not simply because the Word formed us (Genesis 1:27), knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13), was there from the very beginning . . . but because God wore our skin.

By embracing the wisdom of the incarnation, Bowler learned to listen to her body’s messages and be kind to herself:

Dear, dear body, I get it. Or at least I am starting to. You do not have an unlimited supply. You run out, and I need to listen. Maybe I really should go to bed a little earlier or let you off the hook for craving those extra salty chips. I need to sense when you are struggling, and gently acknowledge that you are actually changing. That time and love and grief and life have worn themselves into my skin. Day by day. This is the beautiful, terrible evidence that we have lived.

August 8th, 2022

Knowing with Our Whole Being

Father Richard Rohr affirms that true “knowing” occurs within our bodies, not just our minds: 

Deep knowing and presence do not happen with our thinking minds. To truly know something, our whole being must be open, awake, and present. We intuitively knew how to be present as babies. The psychologist D. W. Winnicott (1896–1971) once said “There is no such thing as a baby.” [1] There’s only an infant/caregiver. In the first several months, from the infant’s perspective, they are one and the same. Infants see themselves entirely mirrored in their family’s eyes; they soon believe and become this vision. Contemplative prayer offers a similar mirroring as we receive and return the divine gaze.

In his book Coming to Our Senses, historian Morris Berman makes the point that our first experience of being alive is not through the visual or auditory experience of knowing ourselves through other people’s responses; it is primarily felt in the body. He calls this kinesthetic knowing. We know ourselves in the security of those who hold us, skin to skin. This early encounter is not so much heard, seen, or thought. It’s felt. That’s the original knowing. [2]

Psychologists say that when we begin to move outside of that first kinesthetic knowing, we hold onto things like teddy bears and dolls. My little sister, Alana, had the classic security blanket as a baby. She dragged it everywhere until it was dirty and ragged, but we could not take it away from her. Children do such things to reassure themselves that they are still connected and one. We all begin to doubt this primal union as the subject/object split of a divided world slowly takes over. Body/mind/world/self all start getting split apart. The basic fault lines in the world become real to us—and the rest of life will be spent trying to put it all back together again. True spirituality is always bringing us back to this original, embodied knowing that is unitive experience.

When primal knowing is wounded or missing, an immense doubt is often created about our own and God’s foundational goodness. Many people live with this doubt, and religious experience only comes to them with great difficulty. Most people don’t know how to surrender to God. How can we surrender unless we believe there is Someone trustworthy out there to surrender to?

Hopefully, our caregivers’ early gaze told us we were foundationally beloved. But when we inevitably begin to see ourselves through eyes that compare, judge, and dismiss, then we need spirituality to help heal the brokenness of our identity and our world. The gift of true religion is that it parts the veil and tells us that our primal experience was trustworthy. It tells us that we are beloved, whether we received that mirroring gaze or not. It reassures us that we live in a benevolent universe, and it is on our side. The universe, it assures us, is radical grace.


Body and Spirit as One

Father Richard describes how Christianity’s distrust of the body originates not from the Bible, but from Greek philosophy: 

I think my brilliant Franciscan history and liturgy professor, Father Larry Landini (1935–2005), may have given the best explanation for why so many Christians seem to be ashamed and afraid of the body. In 1969, after four years studying church history, Father Larry offered these final words to us: “Just remember, on the practical level, the Christian Church was much more influenced by Plato than it was by Jesus.” He left us laughing, but also stunned and sad, because four years of honest church history had told us how true this actually was.

For Plato, body and soul were incompatible enemies; matter and spirit were at deep odds with one another. Yet for Jesus, there is no animosity between body and soul. In fact, this is the heart of Jesus’ healing message and of the incarnation itself. Jesus, in whom “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14), was fully human, even as he was fully divine, with both body and spirit operating as one.

In the Apostles’ Creed, which goes back to the second century, we say, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” The creed doesn’t say we believe in the resurrection of the spirit or the soul—but so many people hear it this way! And, of course, it doesn’t say that because the soul cannot die. Instead, we profess in the creed that human embodiment has an eternal character to it. (Read all of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul tries to communicate this in endlessly mysterious ways.)

Christianity makes a daring and broad claim: God is redeeming matter andspirit, the whole of creation. The Bible speaks of the “new heaven and the new earth” and the descent of the “new Jerusalem from heaven” to “live among us” (Revelation 21:1–3). This physical universe and our own physicality are somehow going to share in the Eternal Mystery. Your body participates in the very mystery of salvation. In fact, it is the new and lasting temple (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 and throughout Paul’s letters).

Many Christians falsely assumed that if they could “die” to their body, their spirit would for some reason miraculously arise. Often the opposite was the case. After centuries of body rejection, and the lack of any positive body theology, the West is now trapped in substance addiction, obesity, anorexia, bulimia, plastic surgery, and an obsession with appearance and preserving these bodies. Our poor bodies, which Jesus affirmed, have become the receptacles of so much negativity and obsession.

The pendulum has now swung in the opposite direction, and the fervor for gyms and salons makes one think these are the new cathedrals of worship. The body is rightly reasserting its goodness and importance. Can we somehow honor both body and spirit together? When Christianity is in any way anti-body, it is not authentic Christianity. The incarnation tells us that body and spirit must fully operate and be respected as one.


Letting Go of Our Innocence

August 5th, 2022

In this talk, Richard shares about the freedom we gain from “letting go” of any false images of ourselves as totally innocent or pure. We find the courage to be who we are in God and to join God in the flow of grace: 

We come to God not by doing it right, but by doing it wrong. And yet the great forgiveness is to forgive ourselves for doing it wrong. That’s probably the hardest forgiveness of all: that I’m not perfect, that I’m not unwounded, I’m not innocent. “One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.” [1] If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, righteous, or saved, I can only do that at the cost of truth. I have to reject the mysterious side, the shadow side, the broken side, the unconscious side of almost everything.  

The art of letting go really is the way to heaven because when we fall down there to the bottom, we fall on solid ground, the great foundation. . . . On that foundation where we have nothing to prove, nothing to protect, we have met the enemy and the enemy is us. I am who I am who I am, and for some unbelievable reason, that’s what God has chosen to love. . . .

Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of it, we have to admit it. We have to own it. Letting go is different than turning it against our self. Letting go is different than projecting onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of our own self which are nonetheless true are seen for what they are, but not turned against self or against others, so letting go is not denial. It’s not pretend. The religious word for letting go is the word “forgiveness.” This is the positive way to deal with our own woundedness. We see it and we hand it over to God. We hand it over to history. . . . 

The mode of weeping, of crying, is different than fixing. It’s different than understanding. That’s why we often cry when we forgive. . . . When we can’t fix it, when we can’t explain it, when we can’t control it, when we can’t even understand it, we can only forgive it. Let go of it, weep over it. It’s a different mode of being. . . .

I can see why forgiveness is almost the heart of the matter, and Jesus’ prerequisite for being forgiven by God is simply to forgive one another. . . . Jesus said we will receive the forgiveness of God to the degree that we can be conduits of forgiveness for one another. In other words, forgiveness is of one piece. Those who give it can receive it. Those who receive it can give it. If we’re in the conduit of love, if we’re in the ocean of mercy, frankly, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

__________________

Sarah Young

Sit quietly in My presence while I bless you. Make your mind like a pool of water ready to receive whatever thoughts I drop int it. Do not worry about your ability to deal with today’s challenges. Keep looking at Me and rest in my omnipotence.

Psalm 37:7
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Romans 8: 16-17
16 The Spirit itself witnesses with our spirit and says that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. 

1Peter 2:9
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Contemplation Reveals Our Wounds

August 4th, 2022

Benedictine sister Joan Chittister reflects on a wisdom teaching from the Desert Fathers. We encourage you to read this teaching from Abba Moses on the illusion of innocence and the humbling truth that we are all wounded:

Once a brother committed a sin in Scetis, and the elders assembled and sent for Abba Moses. He, however, did not want to go. Then the priest sent a message to him, saying: “Come, everybody is waiting for you.” So he finally got up to go. And he took a worn-out basket with holes, filled it with sand, and carried it along. The people who came to meet him said: “What is this?” Then the old man said: “My sins are running out behind me, yet I do not see them. And today I have come to judge the sins of someone else.” When they heard this, they said nothing to the brother and pardoned him.

Sister Joan describes how contemplation helps us to recognize and to accept ourselves, and others, as we truly are: 

The desert monastics are clear: Self-righteousness is cruelty done in the name of justice. It is conceivable, of course, that we might find a self-righteous religious. . . . It is probable that I might very well find myself dealing with a self-righteous friend or neighbor or even family member. But it is not possible to find a self-righteous contemplative. Not a real contemplative.

Contemplation breaks us open to ourselves. The fruit of contemplation is self-knowledge, not self-justification. “The nearer we draw to God,” Abba Mateos said, “the more we see ourselves as sinners.” We see ourselves as we really are, and knowing ourselves we cannot condemn the other. We remember with a blush the public sin that made us mortal. We recognize with dismay the private sin that curls within us in fear of exposure. Then the whole world changes when we know ourselves. We gentle it. The fruit of self-knowledge is kindness. Broken ourselves, we bind tenderly the wounds of the other. . . . 

Cruelty is not the fruit of contemplation. Those who have touched the God who lives within themselves, with all their struggles, all their lack, see God everywhere and, most of all, in the helpless, fragile, pleading, frightened other. Contemplatives do not judge the heart of another by a scale on which they themselves could not be vindicated.  

The pitfall of the religion of perfection is self-righteousness, that cancer of the soul that requires more of others than it demands of itself and so erodes its own fibre even more. It is an inner blindness that counts the sins of others but has no eye for itself. . . .  

Real contemplatives receive the other with the open arms of God because they have come to know that for all their emptiness God has received them.  
To be a contemplative it is necessary to take in without reservation those whom the world casts out because it is they who show us most clearly the face of the waiting God. 

Sarah Young…

Walk with Me through the day and together we will savor the pleasures and endure the difficulties of the day. I am your guide and companion. Focus on Me and I will make your paths straight.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.…These words, written by the apostle Paul, assure those who worship God that they will receive power to accomplish His will.

Isaiah 58:11
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land. and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden,

John 14:6
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. This is said in reply to Thomas. Without him there would be no Way revealed; no divine and saving truth, no immortal life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Not only can no one enter the Father’s house without him, but no man can come to the Father on earth so as to enjoy his favor.

Colossians 4:2
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful, 

July 27th, 2022

The Gift of Deep Listening

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022 

Kay Lindahl, an author and founder of The Listening Center, writes of the inherently sacred nature of reflective listening:

Perhaps one of the most precious and powerful gifts we can give another person is to really listen to them, to listen with quiet, fascinated attention, with our whole being, fully present. This sounds simple, but if we are honest with ourselves, we do not often listen to each other so completely.

Listening is a creative force. Something quite wonderful occurs when we are listened to fully. We expand, ideas come to life and grow, we remember who we are. Some speak of this force as a creative fountain within us that springs forth; others call it the inner spirit, intelligence, true self. Whatever this force is called, it shrivels up when we are not listened to and it thrives when we are.

The way we listen can actually allow the other person to bring forth what is true and alive to them. Sometimes we have to do a lot of listening before the fountain is replenished. . . . Patience is required to listen to such a person long enough for them to get to their center point of tranquility and peace. The results of such listening are extraordinary. Some would call them miracles.

Listening well takes time, skill, and a readiness to slow down, to let go of expectations, judgments, boredom, self-assertiveness, defensiveness. I’ve noticed that when people experience the depth of being listened to like this, they also begin to listen to others in the same way.

Lindahl believes that the skills for deep listening share the same foundation as contemplative practice:

Over the years I have discovered that there is a basic context that nurtures and develops the practice of listening as a sacred art. Three qualities that are essential to this deep listening context are silence, reflection, and presence.

• Silence creates the space for listening to God. It provides time to explore our relationship to Source. The practice of being in this silence nurtures our capacity to listen to others.

• Reflection gives us access to listening for our inner voice. The practice of taking a few breaths before responding to a situation, question, or comment gives time for your true wisdom to reveal itself. It’s a slowing down, waiting, practicing patience.

 Presence is the awareness of listening to another, of connecting at the heart level. The practice of taking a mundane, ordinary activity and giving it your full attention, for example, washing your hands or brushing your teeth, trains your concentration and your ability to be in the present moment with another. . . .

Heart communication happens when we slow down, when we quiet down, look, and listen. Stop to take a breath. Become fully present with the person we’re with. Listen with all of our being. At this point, communication can occur without words. Being present is a gift that fills our hearts and spirits. We are in communion