Archive for January, 2018

Jesus of Nazareth: Week 1

January 15th, 2018

Love Needs a Face

Monday, January 15, 2018

It was probably St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1182-1226) who first brought attention to the humanity of Jesus within organized Christianity. During its first thousand years, the Church was mainly concerned with proving that Jesus was God. Prior to St. Francis, paintings of Jesus largely emphasized Jesus’ divinity, as they still do in most Eastern icons. Francis is said to have created the first live nativity scene. Before the thirteenth century, Christmas was no big deal. The emphasis was on the high holy days of Holy Week and Easter, as it seems it should be. But for Francis, incarnation was already redemption. For God to become a human being among the poor, born in a stable among the animals, meant that it’s good to be a human being, that flesh is good, and that the world is good—in its most simple and humble forms.
In Jesus, God was given a face and a heart. God became someone we could love. While God can be described as a moral force, as consciousness, and as high vibrational energy, the truth is, we don’t (or can’t?) fall in love with abstractions. So God became a person “that we could hear, see with our eyes, look at, and touch with our hands” (1 John 1:1). The brilliant Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) said the only thing that really converts people is “an encounter with the face of the other,” [1] and I think he learned that from his own Hebrew Scriptures.
When the face of the other (especially the suffering face) is received and empathized with, it leads to transformation of our whole being. It creates a moral demand on our heart that is far more compelling than laws. Just giving people commandments on tablets of stone doesn’t change the heart. It may steel the will, but it doesn’t soften the heart like an I-Thou encounter can. Many of the Christian mystics talk about seeing the divine face or falling in love with the face of Jesus. We are mirrored into life, not by concepts, but by faces delighting in us, giving us the beloved self-image we can’t give to ourselves. Love is the gaze that does us in! How blessed are those who get it early and receive it deeply. (There is that dialogue of self-disclosure and response again!)

_________________________________________________

Do You Walk In White?

By Oswald Chambers

We were buried with Him…that just as Christ was raised from the dead…even so we also should walk in newness of life. —Romans 6:4
No one experiences complete sanctification without going through a “white funeral” — the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crucial moment of change through death, sanctification will never be more than an elusive dream. There must be a “white funeral,” a death with only one resurrection— a resurrection into the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing can defeat a life like this. It has oneness with God for only one purpose— to be a witness for Him.

Have you really come to your last days? You have often come to them in your mind, but have you really experienced them? You cannot die or go to your funeral in a mood of excitement. Death means you stop being. You must agree with God and stop being the intensely striving kind of Christian you have been. We avoid the cemetery and continually refuse our own death. It will not happen by striving, but by yielding to death. It is dying— being “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3).

Have you had your “white funeral,” or are you piously deceiving your own soul? Has there been a point in your life which you now mark as your last day? Is there a place in your life to which you go back in memory with humility and overwhelming gratitude, so that you can honestly proclaim, “Yes, it was then, at my ‘white funeral,’ that I made an agreement with God.”

“This is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Once you truly realize this is God’s will, you will enter into the process of sanctification as a natural response. Are you willing to experience that “white funeral” now? Will you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth? The moment of agreement depends on you.

Awe and Surrender

January 12th, 2018

Contemplative Consciousness

Awe and Surrender
Friday, January 12, 2018

To begin to see with new eyes, we must observe—and usually be humiliated by—the habitual way we encounter each and every moment. It is humiliating because we will see that we are well-practiced in just a few predictable responses. Not many of our responses are original, fresh, or naturally respectful of what is right in front of us. The most common human responses to a new moment are mistrust, cynicism, fear, defensiveness, dismissal, and judgmentalism. These are the common ways the ego tries to be in control of the data instead of allowing the moment to get some control over us—and teach us something new!

To let the moment teach us, we must allow ourselves to be at least slightly stunned by it until it draws us inward and upward, toward a subtle experience of wonder. We normally need a single moment of gratuitous awe to get us started. Look, for example, at the Judeo-Christian Exodus narrative: It all begins with a murderer (Moses) on the run from the law, encountering a paradoxical bush that “burns without being consumed.” Awestruck, he takes off his shoes and the very earth beneath his feet becomes “holy ground” (see Exodus 3:2-6) because he has met “Being Itself” (see Exodus 3:14). This narrative reveals the classic pattern, repeated in different forms in the varied lives and vocabulary of all the world’s mystics.

The spiritual journey is a constant interplay between moments of awe followed by a process of surrender to that moment. We must first allow ourselves to be captured by the goodness, truth, or beauty of something beyond and outside ourselves. Then we universalize from that moment to the goodness, truth, and beauty of the rest of reality, until our realization eventually ricochets back to include ourselves! This is the great inner dialogue we call prayer. We humans resist both the awe and, even more, the surrender. Both are vital, and so we must practice.

The way to any universal idea is to proceed through a concrete encounter. The one is the way to the many; the specific is the way to the spacious; the now is the way to the always; the here is the way to everywhere; the material is the way to the spiritual; the visible is the way to the invisible. When we see contemplatively, we know that we live in a fully sacramental universe, where everything is an epiphany.

While philosophers tend toward universals and poets love particulars, mystics and contemplative practice teach us how to encompass both.

_____________________________________________

Have You Ever Been Alone with God? (1)

By Oswald Chambers

When they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. —Mark 4:34

We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves. That is always the last bit of pride to go. The only One who understands us is God. The greatest curse in our spiritual life is pride. If we have ever had a glimpse of what we are like in the sight of God, we will never say, “Oh, I’m so unworthy.” We will understand that this goes without saying. But as long as there is any doubt that we are unworthy, God will continue to close us in until He gets us alone. Whenever there is any element of pride or conceit remaining, Jesus can’t teach us anything. He will allow us to experience heartbreak or the disappointment we feel when our intellectual pride is wounded. He will reveal numerous misplaced affections or desires— things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. Many things are shown to us, often without effect. But when God gets us alone over them, they will be clear.

Mirroring the Divine

January 11th, 2018

Richard Rohr
Thursday, January 11, 2018

In Christianity the inner self is simply a stepping stone to an awareness of God. Man [sic] is the image of God, and his inner self is a kind of mirror in which God not only sees Himself, but reveals Himself to the “mirror” in which He is reflected. Thus, through the dark, transparent mystery of our own inner being we can, as it were, see God “through a glass.” All this is of course pure metaphor. It is a way of saying that our being somehow communicates directly with the Being of God, Who is “in us.” If we enter into ourselves, find our true self, and then pass “beyond” the inner “I,” we sail forth into the immense darkness in which we confront the “I AM” of the Almighty. —Thomas Merton [1]
Your life is not about you; you are about Life. You are an instance of a universal, eternal pattern. The One Life that many call “God” is living itself in you, through you, and as you! You have never been separate from God except in your mind. Can you imagine that?!
This realization is an earthquake in the brain, a hurricane in the heart, a Copernican revolution in the mind, and a monumental shift in consciousness. Yet most of us do not seem interested in it. It is too big to imagine and can only be revealed slowly.
One of my favorite Eastern Fathers, Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), taught “What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as One, received not in essence but by participation.” [2] He’s not saying, “I am God.” No one can or wants to live up to that! He is saying that we objectively participate in the One Life of God (panentheism rather than pantheism).
We are much more prepared to understand this in a post-Einstein world—where energy, movement, or life itself is the one constant, and not an isolated substance. We don’t manufacture our core identity by good behavior, sacraments, or reading the Bible. We merely awaken it by letting loving people rub off on us, eating the Eucharist, enjoying an entirely sacramental universe, and fully recognizing God’s image in all creatures, without exception.

=================================

What My Obedience to God Costs Other People
By Oswald Chambers

As they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon…, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. —Luke 23:26

If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset. They will ridicule us as if to say, “You call this Christianity?” We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.

When our obedience begins to cost others, our human pride entrenches itself and we say, “I will never accept anything from anyone.” But we must, or disobey God. We have no right to think that the type of relationships we have with others should be any different from those the Lord Himself had (see Luke 8:1-3).

A lack of progress in our spiritual life results when we try to bear all the costs ourselves. And actually, we cannot. Because we are so involved in the universal purposes of God, others are immediately affected by our obedience to Him. Will we remain faithful in our obedience to God and be willing to suffer the humiliation of refusing to be independent? Or will we do just the opposite and say, “I will not cause other people to suffer”? We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but it will grieve our Lord. If, however, we obey God, He will care for those who have suffered the consequences of our obedience. We must simply obey and leave all the consequences with Him.

Beware of the inclination to dictate to God what consequences you would allow as a condition of your obedience to Him.

Contemplative Consciousness

January 10th, 2018

Contemplative Consciousness

Learning to See
Wednesday, January 10, 2017

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to [us] as it is, infinite. —William Blake [1]

Contemplation is about seeing, but a kind of seeing that is much more than mere looking because it also includes recognizing and thus appreciating. The contemplative mind does not tell us what to see, but teaches us how to see what we behold.

Contemplation allows us to see the truth of things in their wholeness. It is a mental discipline and gift that detaches us—neurologically and spiritually—from our addiction to our habitual way of thinking, usually in our left brain which likes to be in control. Through contemplative practice we stop identifying solely with our small binary, dualistic mind which strips things down to two choices and then usually identifies with only one of them. Gradually we begin to recognize the inadequacy and superficiality of that limited way of knowing reality. Only the contemplative, or the deeply intuitive, can start venturing out into much more open-ended horizons. The rational, dualistic mind does not have the capacity to hold the big questions of life like love, death, suffering, sexuality, God, or anything infinite.

We need a contemplative, non-dual mind to accept or even have an elementary understanding of what is meant by Jesus being fully human and fully divine—at the same time. Western Christianity has tended to overemphasize his divinity, and we thus lost sight of how Jesus holds these two together. When we couldn’t put together this paradox in Jesus, we couldn’t recognize the same truth about ourselves and others. We too are a paradox, a seeming contradiction that is not actually a contradiction at all. Yet we ended up being “only” human and Jesus ended up being “only” God. We missed the major point!

This is why we end the Daily Meditations with “Gateway to Presence,” an invitation to contemplative knowing. Only a non-dual mind can discover that to be human is to also be divine.

How do we learn contemplative consciousness—this deep, mysterious, and life-giving way of seeing, of being with, reality? Why does it not come naturally to us? Many people experience this knowing in small glimpses, in brief moments of intimacy, awe, or grief. But such wide-eyed seeing normally does not last. We return quickly to dualistic analysis and use our judgments to retake control. Contemplation is simply a way of maintaining the fruits of great love and great suffering over the long haul. And that takes a lot of practice. In fact, our whole life becomes one continual practice or a “school of union.”

_________________________________________________

The Opened Sight

By Oswald Chambers

 I now send you, to open their eyes…that they may receive forgiveness of sins… —Acts 26:17-18
This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament.

God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words, “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins….” When a person fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because he has never received anything. The only sign that a person is saved is that he has received something from Jesus Christ. Our job as workers for God is to open people’s eyes so that they may turn themselves from darkness to light. But that is not salvation; it is conversion— only the effort of an awakened human being. I do not think it is too broad a statement to say that the majority of so-called Christians are like this. Their eyes are open, but they have received nothing. Conversion is not regeneration. This is a neglected fact in our preaching today. When a person is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. People may make vows and promises, and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins.

This is followed by God’s second mighty work of grace: “…an inheritance among those who are sanctified….” In sanctification, the one who has been born again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s ministry to others.

 

January 9th, 2018

The Lost Tradition of Contemplation
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The awesome and even presumptuous message of divinization is found in the Judeo-Christian story of Creation: we are “created in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27 and 5:2). Many tomes of theology have been written to clarify this claim, and this is theologians’ primary consensus: “Image” is our objective DNA that marks us as creatures of God from the very beginning. “Likeness” is our personal appropriation and gradual realization of this utterly free gift of the image of God. It’s all too easy to recognize our daily unlikeness to God in ourselves and others, so we have a hard time believing this could be true in ourselves or others. But some form of contemplative practice will allow us to rest in and trust this deeper and truest self.
Actually, who you are in God and who God is in you is the only self that has ever existed. It’s the only self that exists right now. The trouble is, most people don’t know it. It’s not their fault; we just have not given them the tools they need to connect with who they really are. The dualistic and argumentative mind will never get you there. Thus we have an identity crisis on a massive scale!
The contemplative mind has not been systematically taught in the West for the last five hundred years. The Spanish Carmelites Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) and John of the Cross (1542-1591) were the last well-known teachers of contemplative awareness in European thought. With the so-called “Enlightenment” and the argumentative Reformation, Western Christianity almost abandoned contemplation in favor of dualistic thinking and its own strange form of “rational” thought, which actually produced fundamentalism in both its Catholic and Protestant forms. Thomas Merton (1915-1968) felt that even the monasteries no longer taught the contemplative mind in any systematic way, as monks just “said prayers” with their old dualistic minds. Without contemplation, there is not much depth or interiority to Christianity. It is just beliefs and belonging systems. That is probably why the Reformation was so necessary. Unfortunately, reacting to unjust or unhealthy systems with only dualistic thinking will produce more of the same.
You cannot know God the way you know anything else; you only know God or the soul of anything subject to subject, center to center, by a process of “mirroring” where like knows like and love knows love—“deep calling unto deep” (Psalm 42:7). The Divine Spirit planted deep inside each of us yearns for and responds to God—and vice versa (see James 4:5). The contemplative is deeply attuned and surrendered to this process.
We are not so much human beings trying to become spiritual. We’re already inherently spiritual beings and our job is learning how to be good humans! I believe that’s why Jesus came as a human being: not to teach us how to go to heaven, but to teach us how to be a fully alive human being here on this earth.

=======================

Prayerful Inner-Searching
By Oswald Chambers

May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless… —1 Thessalonians 5:23
“Your whole spirit….” The great, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is in the deep recesses of our being which we cannot reach. Read Psalm 139. The psalmist implies— “O Lord, You are the God of the early mornings, the God of the late nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea. But, my God, my soul has horizons further away than those of early mornings, deeper darkness than the nights of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks, greater depths than any sea in nature. You who are the God of all these, be my God. I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot discover, dreams I cannot realize. My God, search me.”

Do we believe that God can fortify and protect our thought processes far beyond where we can go? “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). If this verse means cleansing only on our conscious level, may God have mercy on us. The man who has been dulled by sin will say that he is not even conscious of it. But the cleansing from sin we experience will reach to the heights and depths of our spirit if we will “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). The same Spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirit. It is only when we are protected by God with the miraculous sacredness of the Holy Spirit that our spirit, soul, and body can be preserved in pure uprightness until the coming of Jesus-no longer condemned in God’s sight.

We should more frequently allow our minds to meditate on these great, massive truths of God.

Contemplative Consciousness

January 8th, 2018

Contemplative Consciousness

Divinization
Monday, January 8, 2018

By God’s divine power, God has given us all the things we need for life and for true devotion that allow us to know God, who has called us by God’s own glory and goodness. In this gift, God has given us a guarantee of something very great and wonderful. Through this gift, you are sharers in the divine nature itself. —2 Peter 1:3-4

Spirituality is primarily about human transformation in this life, not just salvation in a future realm. While Western Christianity lost much of this emphasis, and became rather practical and often superficial, the Eastern church taught theosis or divinization as the very real process of growing in union and likeness with God in this world. [1] This is one of the many losses Christianity experienced in the Great Schism of 1054, when the popes of East and West mutually excommunicated one another. The later Protestant Reformation, while needed, did not reclaim this wisdom and further split the church, each side losing something of value.

In fact, most of Judeo-Christian history reflects a split from depth and interiority (which some identify with the feminine). This led us to rely on dualistic thinking, which is incapable of comprehending, much less experiencing, the mystical, nonviolent, or non-dual level. With the rational mind, we literally could not imagine God and humanity being one, or being one with our neighbor, because the dualistic mind always splits things apart and takes sides. The contemplative mind or non-dual thinking allows us to see things in wholes instead of in parts.

Lest any Catholics or Protestants think I am dredging up some old condemned heresy, consider these words from Pope John Paul II: “The venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches, that is the teaching of the Cappadocian Fathers on divinization (theosis), passed into the tradition of all the Eastern Churches and is part of their common heritage. This can be summarized in the thought already expressed by St. Irenaeus at the end of the second century: God passed into man so that man might pass over to God.” [2]

Popes do not quote such statements unless they know they are part of the Perennial Tradition and go back to the early undivided church. Pope John Paul II was acknowledging that the Western church had largely lost its foundational belief in divinization, and in the practical order had even denied its possibility. Instead, we were just “sinners in the hands of an angry God” and even “totally depraved.” No wonder humans suffer from such lack of self-esteem today. We haven’t told them the central and foundational Good News! I believe this is the source of a lot of the anger and disillusionment with Christianity today.

Contemplation allows us to experience the reality of our participation in God’s nature for ourselves. Once we plug into the Divine consciousness, God can work through us for the good of the world.

__________________________________________________

Worship

By Oswald Chambers

He moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. —Genesis 12:8

Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard it for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded (see Exodus 16:20). God will never allow you to keep a spiritual blessing completely for yourself. It must be given back to Him so that He can make it a blessing to others.

Bethel is the symbol of fellowship with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abram “pitched his tent” between the two. The lasting value of our public service for God is measured by the depth of the intimacy of our private times of fellowship and oneness with Him. Rushing in and out of worship is wrong every time— there is always plenty of time to worship God. Days set apart for quiet can be a trap, detracting from the need to have daily quiet time with God. That is why we must “pitch our tents” where we will always have quiet times with Him, however noisy our times with the world may be. There are not three levels of spiritual life— worship, waiting, and work. Yet some of us seem to jump like spiritual frogs from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together as one. They were always together in the life of our Lord and in perfect harmony. It is a discipline that must be developed; it will not happen overnight.

Where Is God?

January 5th, 2018

Introduction: Image and Likeness

Where Is God?
Friday, January 5, 2018

When I was on retreat at Thomas Merton’s hermitage at Gethsemani Abbey in 1985, I had a chance encounter that has stayed with me all these years. I was walking down a little trail when I recognized a recluse, what you might call a hermit’s hermit, coming toward me. Not wanting to intrude on his deep silence, I bowed my head and moved to the side of the path, intending to walk past him. But as we neared each other, he said, “Richard!” That surprised me. He was supposed to be silent. How did he know who I was? “Richard, you get chances to preach and I don’t. Tell the people one thing.” Pointing to the sky, he said, “God is not ‘out there’!” Then he said, “God bless you,” and abruptly continued down the path.

The belief that God is “out there” is the basic dualism that is tearing us all apart. Our view of God as separate and distant has harmed our relationships with sexuality, food, possessions, money, animals, nature, politics, and our own incarnate selves. This loss explains why we live such distraught and divided lives. Jesus came to put it all together for us and in us. He was saying, in effect, “To be human is good! The material and the physical can be trusted and enjoyed. This physical world is the hiding place of God and the revelation place of God!”

Far too much of religion has been about defining where God is and where God isn’t, picking and choosing who and what has God’s image and who and what doesn’t. In reality, it’s not up to us. We have no choice in the matter. All are beloved. Everyone—Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Muslim, black and white, gay and straight, able-bodied and disabled, male and female, Republican and Democrat—all are children of God. We are all members of the Body of Christ, made in God’s image, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, whether or not we are aware of this gift.

Can you see the image of Christ in the least of your brothers and sisters? This is Jesus’ only description of the final judgment (Matthew 25). But some say, “They smell. They’re a nuisance. They’re on welfare. They are a drain on our tax money.” Can we see Christ in all people, even the so-called “nobodies” who can’t or won’t play our game of success? When we can see the image of God where we don’t want to see the image of God, then we see with eyes not our own.

Jesus says we have to love and recognize the divine image even in our enemies. Either we see the divine image in all created things, or we don’t see it at all. Once we see God’s image in one place, the circle keeps widening. It doesn’t stop with human beings and enemies and the least of our brothers and sisters. It moves to frogs and pansies and weeds. Everything becomes enchanting with true sight. We cannot not live in the presence of God. We are totally surrounded and infused by God. All we can do is allow, trust, and finally rest in it, which is indeed why we are “saved” by faith—faith that this could be true.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

_____________________________________________

The Life of Power to Follow
By Oswald Chambers

Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” —John 13:36

“And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me’ ” (John 21:19). Three years earlier Jesus had said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19), and Peter followed with no hesitation. The irresistible attraction of Jesus was upon him and he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him do it. Later he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit and Jesus said again, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). Now no one is in front of Peter except the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” was nothing mysterious; it was an external following. Jesus is now asking for an internal sacrifice and yielding (see John 21:18).
Between these two times Peter denied Jesus with oaths and curses (see Matthew 26:69-75). But then he came completely to the end of himself and all of his self-sufficiency. There was no part of himself he would ever rely on again. In his state of destitution, he was finally ready to receive all that the risen Lord had for him. “…He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (John 20:22). No matter what changes God has performed in you, never rely on them. Build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.
All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them. When we come to the end of ourselves, not just mentally but completely, we are able to “receive the Holy Spirit.” “Receive the Holy Spirit” — the idea is that of invasion. There is now only One who directs the course of your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Growing and Waking Up

January 4th, 2018

In the beginning, in our original unwoundedness (“innocence”), we lived in an unconscious state of full connection with the divine, like Adam and Eve walking naked in the garden with God. But it didn’t take long for us to think of ourselves as separate, and from that position outside the garden, we grabbed for an autonomous identity. This is the “false self.” Many people live most of their lives under this delusion, and confuse this concocted persona as the real deal.
How do I get back to union and innocence? Objectively I have never left the state of union, but it feels like I have. We already and always have the divine image (imago Dei) within us; but we hopefully grow into the divine likeness (similitude) as we begin to externally resemble the goodness of God. It usually takes us a long time to rediscover what has been true all along as we gradually find our unique way of embodying Love. Finding God and finding our True Self—which is letting go of our false self—are finally the same thing.
It’s not about being privately correct; it’s about being fully connected. It’s not about fulfilling requirements; it’s about a trusting relationship. It’s not so much about what we do; it’s about what God does. God and life itself eventually destabilize the boundaries of the small self so we can awaken inside of the Large Self. This usually happens through experiences of great love, suffering, or the forms of prayer that allow the private ego to collapse back into the True Self, where we gratefully shout with Jacob, “You were here all the time, and I never knew it!” (Genesis 28:16).
Our life is a dance between the loneliness and desperation of the false self and the fullness of the True Self, which is re-discovered and experienced anew as an ultimate homecoming. The spiritual journey is a path of deeper realization and transformation; it is never a straight line, but a back and forth journey that ever deepens the conscious choice and assent to God’s work in us. It is growing up, yes, but even more it is waking up. You can see why it will take us a year to even touch on this immense mystery.

Gateway to Presence:

If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
Why Can I Not Follow You Now?
==========================

By Oswald Chambers

Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now?” —John 13:37

There are times when you can’t understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings a time of waiting, and appears to be unresponsive, don’t fill it with busyness, just wait. The time of waiting may come to teach you the meaning of sanctification— to be set apart from sin and made holy— or it may come after the process of sanctification has begun to teach you what service means. Never run before God gives you His direction. If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt— wait.
At first you may see clearly what God’s will is— the severance of a friendship, the breaking off of a business relationship, or something else you feel is distinctly God’s will for you to do. But never act on the impulse of that feeling. If you do, you will cause difficult situations to arise which will take years to untangle. Wait for God’s timing and He will do it without any heartache or disappointment. When it is a question of the providential will of God, wait for God to move.
Peter did not wait for God. He predicted in his own mind where the test would come, and it came where he did not expect it. “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Peter’s statement was honest but ignorant. “Jesus answered him, ‘…the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times’ ” (John 13:38). This was said with a deeper knowledge of Peter than Peter had of himself. He could not follow Jesus because he did not know himself or his own capabilities well enough. Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His irresistible charm, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him.

How Can Everything Be Sacred?

January 2nd, 2018

Introduction: Image and Likeness

How Can Everything Be Sacred?
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) teach that one Creator formed all things. There is thus a radical unity at the heart of the universe’s pluriformity, resolving any conflict between diversity and the shared “divine DNA” found in creation. This theo-logic allows us to see “the hidden wholeness” in all things and to confidently assert that “everything belongs.” The distinction between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane, exists only as a mental construct.

You may be asking, as so many have over the years, “Richard, how can you make such naïve blanket statements like ‘Everything is sacred. Everything belongs?’ What about Hitler, nuclear bombings, ISIS, Westboro Baptists, and the United States’ epidemic of mass shooters?” I agree that we can and should name evil as evil. But unless we first name the underlying goodness and coherence of reality, along with our own imperfection, we will attack evil with methods and self-righteousness that will only deepen the problem. This is Nonviolence 101. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the importance of nonviolence became widely acknowledged.

Further, Christianity has far too easily called individual, private behaviors sins while usually ignoring or even supporting structural and systemic evils such as war, colonization, corporate greed, slavery, and abuse of the Earth. All of the seven capital sins were admired at the corporate level and shamed at the individual level. [1] This left us utterly split in our morality, dealing with symptoms instead of causes, shaming people while glorifying systems that were themselves selfish, greedy, lustful, ambitious, lazy, prideful, and deceitful. We can’t have it both ways. Evil lurks powerfully in the shadows, in our unconscious complicity with systems that serve us at others’ expense. It has created worldviews of entitlement and privilege that were largely unrecognized until rather recently.

Only contemplative, nondual consciousness is capable of seeing things like this without also being negative or self-righteous. Once you can clear away the web of illusion you will be able to see that every created thing is still made in the image of God; every being has the divine DNA or essence. There is no profane place, person, or creature. We can even find the sacred in seemingly secular human endeavors like sex, food, work, economics, and politics, as we’ll see later this year.

As we’ll explore next week (and in each Saturday’s “Practice”), contemplation helps us see “beyond the shadow and the disguise” of things (as Thomas Merton reflected) [2] so as to perceive reality at its depths. “Christ is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). To see this is to have “the mind of Christ.”

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

________________________________________________

Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

By Oswald Chambers

 He went out, not knowing where he was going. —Hebrews 11:8

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you “go out” in complete surrender to Him until you are not surprised one iota by anything He does?

Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.

World Day of Peace

January 1st, 2018

Beginning Again
Monday, January 1, 2018
World Day of Peace

Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing. —Saint Francis of Assisi near the end of his life [1]

My goal in the coming year of meditations is to offer new perspectives and applications of the foundational, mystical truth that we—and all of creation—are made in the image and likeness of God. There are always new vocabularies, fresh symbols, new frames and styles, but as my spiritual father St. Francis knew, there is only one enduring spiritual insight and everything else follows from it: The visible world is an active doorway to the invisible world, and the invisible world is much larger than the visible. This is “the mystery of incarnation,” the essential union of the material and the spiritual worlds, or simply “Christ.”
Our outer world and its inner significance must come together for there to be any wholeness—and holiness. The result is deep joy and a sense of coherent beauty. The Incarnation of Jesus manifested this one universal truth: Matter is, and always has been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew. Perhaps this is exactly what Jesus means when he says, “I am the gate” (John 10:7).
In the beginning, we knew this. The archetypal Creation story shows Adam and Eve walking in the garden, intimate with God. After “the eyes of both of them were opened” through the deception by the serpent, Adam and Eve saw a split universe of suspicion, subterfuge, doubt, and alienation (Genesis 3:7). “They realized that they were naked” and separate from the Source of their being. This is the delusion, the lie, and the “fall” from original grace and innocence.
By the age of seven, most of us have “left the garden” and have begun to live largely in our minds—looking over at the garden. Before that time, we exist in unitive consciousness, when “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30), or my mother and I are one, as we enjoy in the first months of life. Soon we see ourselves as separate from God, creation, others, and even our own bodies, standing apart and analytical. We no longer know by affinity, likeness, or natural connection (love), but we merely know things as objects out there and apart from us.
And so we spend our lives searching for the garden and, hopefully, learning to live from this place of union, not just once in a while, but as our primary way of being in the world. We must practice “beginner’s mind” to rediscover the reality of our union that is so simple and obvious that our dualistic, rational minds are blind to it.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

================

Let Us Keep to the Point
By Oswald Chambers

“…my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” —Philippians 1:20

My Utmost for His Highest. “…my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed….” We will all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus the areas of our lives He has asked us to yield to Him. It’s as if Paul were saying, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest— my best for His glory.” To reach that level of determination is a matter of the will, not of debate or of reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue amount of thought and consideration for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision, although we cover it up with the pretense that it is others we are considering. When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn’t know what our obedience will mean. Keep to the point— He does know. Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only— my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.
My Unstoppable Determination for His Holiness. “Whether it means life or death-it makes no difference!” (see Philippians 1:21). Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing exactly what God wanted. But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide— for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.