Archive for February, 2018

Evolutionary Thinking

February 28th, 2018

Evolutionary Thinking
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The debate about evolution took center stage in the United States during the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes). With typical dualistic thinking, science was simplistically pitted against religion, and people took one side or the other, with little clarification of terms, meaning, or purpose.
The Scopes Monkey Trial might symbolize the beginning of the culture wars we still suffer today, with naïve presentations of two seeming opposite positions—neither well-defined, but simply providing banners and loyalty tests for both groups. In my parents’ generation, when many people often had fewer years of formal education, this false dilemma was commonly presented as, “Did we come from monkeys or did God create us?” Good Christians righteously shouted “God!” thinking God needed their support, and scientific-minded people who had a bone to pick with religion shouted “Monkeys!” What a waste of good minds and hearts!
In 1925, there was little knowledge of contemplation and few were teaching or exemplifying non-dual thinking in Western Christianity (though Native Americans, Buddhists, and other traditions were well acquainted with it). We missed out on what could have been decades of fruitful discussion and enlightenment. We had all been trained to argue and prove ourselves right—both believers and scientists—rather than to dialogue with and truly understand each other. For most of the last century, in many Christian circles, the very term evolution was a code word used to expose and condemn enemies and infidels. It was a false test-case.
A little calm, clear, and biblical thinking could have come up with a third response beyond the two false “alternatives.” What if God creates things that continue to create themselves? That seems like Divine Imagination to me! In such a paradigm, God “turns everything to good by working together with all things. . . . The ones God chose so long ago, which God intended to become true images of God’s Son” (Romans 8:28-29).
Contemplative practice allows us to be content and even happy without fully resolving a seeming problem. It allows us to tolerate ambiguity and mystery. How else can we ever know God? Contemplative practice allows something much better and more healing for all concerned. We can learn how to hold a creative tension as we patiently wait for more insight, compassion, scholarship, and a larger or different frame for the question. The contemplative person can observe and love with their mind, heart, and body at the same time. The reduction to purely rational knowing didn’t begin until the seventeenth century. Now science can observe neural activity, revealing that there is a “heart mind” and a “body mind.” [1]
Evolutionary thinking is actually contemplative thinking because it leaves the full field of the future in God’s hands and agrees to humbly hold the present with its current, tentative knowledge. Evolutionary thinking agrees to both knowing and not knowing, at the same time.
Evolutionary thinking sends us on a trajectory, where the ride is itself the destination, and the goal is never clearly in sight. To stay on the ride, to trust the trajectory, to know it is moving somewhere better is just another way to describe the biblical notion of faith. This is the best and truest way to think.

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.

“Do You Now Believe?” By Oswald Chambers

“By this we believe….” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?” —John 16:30-31

“Now we believe….” But Jesus asks, “Do you…? Indeed the hour is coming…that you…will leave Me alone” (John 16:31-32). Many Christian workers have left Jesus Christ alone and yet tried to serve Him out of a sense of duty, or because they sense a need as a result of their own discernment. The reason for this is actually the absence of the resurrection life of Jesus. Our soul has gotten out of intimate contact with God by leaning on our own religious understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6). This is not deliberate sin and there is no punishment attached to it. But once a person realizes how he has hindered his understanding of Jesus Christ, and caused uncertainties, sorrows, and difficulties for himself, it is with shame and remorse that he has to return.
We need to rely on the resurrection life of Jesus on a much deeper level than we do now. We should get in the habit of continually seeking His counsel on everything, instead of making our own commonsense decisions and then asking Him to bless them. He cannot bless them; it is not in His realm to do so, and those decisions are severed from reality. If we do something simply out of a sense of duty, we are trying to live up to a standard that competes with Jesus Christ. We become a prideful, arrogant person, thinking we know what to do in every situation. We have put our sense of duty on the throne of our life, instead of enthroning the resurrection life of Jesus. We are not told to “walk in the light” of our conscience or in the light of a sense of duty, but to “walk in the light as He is in the light…” (1 John 1:7). When we do something out of a sense of duty, it is easy to explain the reasons for our actions to others. But when we do something out of obedience to the Lord, there can be no other explanation— just obedience. That is why a saint can be so easily ridiculed and misunderstood.


February 27th, 2018


An Unfolding Future
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

To fight the concept of evolution is to fight the core meaning of biblical faith, which is a generous balancing act between knowing and not knowing. Unbelief is to insist on total knowing now—by myself! As people of faith, we believe that God is guiding this mysterious universe, although much is hidden from us, both in the past and the future. “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and the human heart has not conceived, what God has prepared for those who love God” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Judeo-Christian believers, in particular, should have been the first to understand and promote a philosophy of progress because they had an Absolute Source and Goal to ground the trajectory.

In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) published his findings that revealed the universe was expanding. Many began to imagine that if the biggest frame of reference—the cosmos—was still unfolding, then maybe that is the pattern of everything. The latest evidence shows that this expansion is even happening at an ever-increasing rate! It seems to mirror the increasing rate of change with each new technological and scientific breakthrough. This rapid change is scary and unsettling. I can see why people are panicking and trying to find some solid ground, a fixed point to the turning world. Fundamentalist religion and identity politics seem to be running the show now, and I can even understand that. But God has never “circled the wagons” to regain control and stability. God only moves in every larger spheres and orbits, which is what we mean by calling God infinite, eternal, or almighty.

I have no knowledge of where the universe story might be fully or finally heading, but I can see what it has already revealed with great clarity—that knowledge builds on itself, is cumulative, and is always moving outward toward ever-greater discovery. People who cling to the past and resist change have a hard time participating in God’s and their own future. Perhaps this is an appropriate application of Jesus’ somewhat problematic words, “Anyone who has will be given more . . . but anyone who has not, will lose what little he has” (see Matthew 25:29). This is only true in the realm of spirit and wisdom which increase and evolve with use. Material reality decreases with usage, which is why our consumer worldview is unsustainable.

In the words of Thomas Keating,

There seems to be an intent or a plan in creation to bring into manifestations revelations of the Unknowable One that awaken in us the greater and greater capacity to love. . . . Evolutionary consciousness is extremely important . . . and science has vastly increased the understanding of how the immensity of the universe continues to expand and how its infinitesimal quality continues to unfold.

God is more and more trying to move the human race to the next stage of consciousness beyond the rational, technological, dominating worldview . . . recognizing the truth that there is only one self ultimately and this is God manifesting in us. [1]


The Impoverished Ministry of Jesus

By Oswald Chambers

Where then do You get that living water? —John 4:11

The reason some of us are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment or surrender to Jesus Christ. When we get into difficult circumstances, we impoverish His ministry by saying, “Of course, He can’t do anything about this.” We struggle to reach the bottom of our own well, trying to get water for ourselves. Beware of sitting back, and saying, “It can’t be done.” You will know it can be done if you will look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness runs deep, but make the effort to look away from yourself and to look toward Him.

All Things Change and Grow

February 26th, 2018

Creation Continues
Sunday, February 25, 2018

Karl Rahner said that we are “pressured” from within to evolve. That pressure is what we have always called the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is creatively at work in this moment, urging us to evolve, to become a new kind of human being such as the world has rarely seen before. But what has been rare must now become commonplace. —Judy Cannato [1]
Science today—particularly physics, astrophysics, anthropology, and biology—is confirming many of religion’s deep intuitions. The universe is not inert, but is “inspirited matter.” We might call this driving force instinct, evolution, nuclear fusion, DNA, hardwiring, the motherboard, healing, growth, or springtime. Nature clearly renews itself from within. God seems to have created things that continue to create and recreate themselves from the inside out. A fully incarnate God creates through evolution.
The very meaning of the word universe is to “turn around one thing.” There is either some Big Truth in this universe, or it is an incoherent universe. We are hardwired for the Big Picture, for transcendence, for ongoing growth (another name for evolution), for union with ourselves and everything else. [2] Either God is for everybody and the divine DNA is somehow in all creatures, or this God is not God. Humans are driven, hopefully even drawn, toward ever higher levels of conscious union and the ability to include (to forgive others for being “other”). “Everything that rises must converge,” as Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) observed. [3].
Unfortunately, many people view God as a deity who tortures and excludes forever those people who don’t agree with “him” or get “his” name right. How could you possibly trust such a small God or ever feel loved, safe, and free? Jesus undid the stingy, violent view of God when he said, “You, evil as you are, know how to give good things to your children. . . . If you, then how much more, God!” (Matthew 7:11). The God I have met and been loved by is always an experience of “how much more!” If we are created in the image and likeness of God, then whatever good, true, or beautiful things we can say about humanity or creation we can also say of God—but they’re even more true! God is the beauty of creation and humanity multiplied to the infinite power.
For me, this wondrous universe cannot be an incoherent and accidental cosmos, nor can it be grounded in evil, although I admit that this intellectual leap and bias toward beauty is still an act of faith and trust. I further believe that a free and loving God desires our participation in co-creation. The Great Work is ours too.

All Things Change and Grow
Monday, February 26, 2018

It is hard for me to understand why some Christians are so threatened by the notion of evolution. Are they not observing reality? Why this stalwart attachment to inertness? Perhaps static things appear more controllable? I suspect such resistance largely comes from our ego and our unconscious. I do recognize the human psyche’s need for stability, security, and superiority. These ego-needs are so strong that they allow people to ignore or misinterpret what is visible all around them, and even to ignore their own obvious “growing up” and healing processes. Even our cuts and bruises heal themselves—by themselves.
Today, every academic, professional discipline—psychology, anthropology, history, the various sciences, social studies, art, drama, music, and the business world—recognizes change, development, growth, and some kind of evolving phenomenon. But then we go to church and think we must switch heads. Somehow, Scripture study and systematic theology thought themselves above the fray, untouched by our constantly changing context. In its search for the Real Absolute, theology made one fatal mistake: It imagined that any notion of God had to be static and unchanging, an “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it.
Yet there is little evidence that this rigid god is the God presented in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and even less in our Christian understanding of God as Trinity, who is clearly much more an active verb than a noun. But then, this central doctrine of the Trinity had very little effect on practical theology or the ordinary lives of most Christians. We preferred a stable notion of God as an old white man, sitting on a throne—much like the Greek God Zeus (which became the Latin word for God or “Deus”), a critical and punitive spectator to a creation that was merely a mechanical clock of inevitable laws and punishments, ticking away until Doomsday. What a negative world view!
This is not a God you fall in love with, because humans are not programmed to fall in love with mere principles and forces. Love demands both give and take, which is what we mean by a “personal” God. And this is exactly what people of deep prayer invariably experience—an inner dialogue of give and take, of giving and being received. This is why the mystics consistently use words like mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, and healing to describe what they experience as God. These all imply a God who does not just impose rules, but in fact changes them for us! If God is Trinity, then God is Absolute Relationship, even inside of God. And every time God forgives, God is saying that relationship is more important than God’s own rules! Did you ever think about that?
I am convinced we are still in the early years of Christianity! Our appreciation for the Gospel is evolving too, as we learn to honor context as much as text. The Christ Mystery itself is still “groaning in one great act of giving birth . . . as we ourselves groan inwardly, waiting for our bodies to be set free” (see Romans 8:22-25).

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.

Our Misgivings About Jesus
By Oswald Chambers

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw [water] with, and the well is deep.” —John 4:11

Have you ever said to yourself, “I am impressed with the wonderful truths of God’s Word, but He can’t really expect me to live up to that and work all those details into my life!” When it comes to confronting Jesus Christ on the basis of His qualities and abilities, our attitudes reflect religious superiority. We think His ideals are lofty and they impress us, but we believe He is not in touch with reality— that what He says cannot actually be done. Each of us thinks this about Jesus in one area of our life or another. These doubts or misgivings about Jesus begin as we consider questions that divert our focus away from God. While we talk of our dealings with Him, others ask us, “Where are you going to get enough money to live? How will you live and who will take care of you?” Or our misgivings begin within ourselves when we tell Jesus that our circumstances are just a little too difficult for Him. We say, “It’s easy to say, ‘Trust in the Lord,’ but a person has to live; and besides, Jesus has nothing with which to draw water— no means to be able to give us these things.” And beware of exhibiting religious deceit by saying, “Oh, I have no misgivings about Jesus, only misgivings about myself.” If we are honest, we will admit that we never have misgivings or doubts about ourselves, because we know exactly what we are capable or incapable of doing. But we do have misgivings about Jesus. And our pride is hurt even at the thought that He can do what we can’t.
My misgivings arise from the fact that I search within to find how He will do what He says. My doubts spring from the depths of my own inferiority. If I detect these misgivings in myself, I should bring them into the light and confess them openly— “Lord, I have had misgivings about You. I have not believed in Your abilities, but only my own. And I have not believed in Your almighty power apart from my finite understanding of it.”

Our Work in Co-Creating

February 23rd, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Great Work now . . . is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner. —Thomas Berry [1]
Again, I offer insights from the late theologian Beatrice Bruteau:
In the case of the cosmos, we can say that God as Creator is incarnate as self-creating universe, including self-creating creatures within that universe. . . . Creativity itself is what is evolving in the cosmos, and we are the growing edge as the Trinitarian Life Cycle moves from Transcendent to Incarnate to Realized. We are in a position to realize ourselves as incarnate divine creativity. This has two effects.
It makes the whole thing intensely meaningful. The universe is not some blind and uncaring organization of atoms. . . . It can easily be seen as a gigantic artwork, full of whatever it is that comes out as “feeling” when it becomes incarnate. We are part of this, creative contributors to this.
And this is the other effect: we bear some responsibility. We have to take our part in the work. We, for instance, are now in a position to do something about all the suffering. . . . We are agents within the system and can have causal effects on other parts of the system. We have intelligence, we have empathy and capacity to feel for others and to care about them, we even have insight into the Ground present in every being and calling for an appropriate form of absolute respect.
What will we do? . . . What does “God want us to” do? Not a good way of putting the question, because it distances God from the world, but the answer I propose is Be! Be creative, be interactive, be agape, give being, unite, be whole, be in every possible way, be new. The self-creating world is unpredictable. It’s like a musician’s improvisation. . . . But the artwork will always resemble the artist. So the cosmos will somehow be like the Trinity, the vast Person-Community that is Agape, inter-being. . . .
Does the contemplative have some special role? I say to the contemplative: Feel at home in the universe, study it, try to understand at least some of its innumerable marvels, including ourselves who are more and more capable of this understanding—marvel at that! Rejoice in the cosmos. In spite of all its hurtful ways, look at what it has done, is doing, is capable of doing. . . . And be active in it, contribute to it, participate in the building, in the artwork, in the healing, in the understanding. This is where Reality is. You yourself are both a member of the Finite and a member of the Infinite. You are a participant in the Trinitarian Life Cycle, for you are doing the incarnating and the creating and the realizing and the rejoicing. God’s ecstasy creates the world, and the world’s ecstasy realizes God.


The Determination to Serve

By Oswald Chambers

 The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve… —Matthew 20:28
 Jesus also said, “Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27). Paul’s idea of service was the same as our Lord’s— “…ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). We somehow have the idea that a person called to the ministry is called to be different and above other people. But according to Jesus Christ, he is called to be a “doormat” for others— called to be their spiritual leader, but never their superior. Paul said, “I know how to be abased…” (Philippians 4:12). Paul’s idea of service was to pour his life out to the last drop for others. And whether he received praise or blame made no difference. As long as there was one human being who did not know Jesus, Paul felt a debt of service to that person until he did come to know Him. But the chief motivation behind Paul’s service was not love for others but love for his Lord. If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and broken-hearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from other people. But if we are motivated by our love for God, no amount of ingratitude will be able to hinder us from serving one another.

Paul’s understanding of how Christ had dealt with him is the secret behind his determination to serve others. “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…” (1 Timothy 1:13). In other words, no matter how badly others may have treated Paul, they could never have treated him with the same degree of spite and hatred with which he had treated Jesus Christ. Once we realize that Jesus has served us even to the depths of our meagerness, our selfishness, and our sin, nothing we encounter from others will be able to exhaust our determination to serve others for His sake.

The Universe Is Love

February 22nd, 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The future can exist only when we understand the universe as composed of subjects to be communed with, not as objects to be exploited. —Thomas Berry [1]
Cynthia Bourgeault, a faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation, writes about how the ancient Wisdom tradition views creation:
Contrary to our usual theological notion, which sees God as “having” certain qualities—such as love, truth, and justice—Wisdom correctly perceives that there are certain states, or qualities of being, that cannot be known (or even truly said to exist) in potential but only in actual manifestation. God “has” these qualities by virtue of enacting them. “I was a hidden treasure and longed to be known,” says God, according to an ancient Islamic teaching, “and so I created the world.” [2]
Foremost among these qualities . . . is love. In the Christian West we are accustomed to rattling off the statement “God is love” [1 John 4: 8, 16]. . . . Love is a relational word, and that relationship presumes duality, or twoness, “because,” in the words of Valentin Tomberg (1900-1973), “love is inconceivable without the Lover and the Loved, without ME and YOU, without One and the Other.” [3] In order for love to manifest, there must first be duality. . . . In the words of another Sufi maxim whose truth is apparent to anyone who has ever experienced the sublime dance of recognition and mutual becoming at the heart of all love: “You are the mirror in which God sees himself.”
. . . As we begin orienting ourselves on the Wisdom road map, it is with the recognition that our manifest universe is not simply an “object” created by a wholly other God out of the effluence of [God’s] love but is that love itself, made manifest in the only possible way that it can, in the dimensions of energy and form. The created realm is not an artifact but an instrument through which the divine life becomes perceptible to itself. It’s the way the score gets transformed into the music.


The Discipline of Spiritual Perseverance

By Oswald Chambers

Be still, and know that I am God… —Psalm 46:10
Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen. Perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling. Perseverance is our supreme effort of refusing to believe that our hero is going to be conquered. Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated. Also, our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us. Then there is the call to spiritual perseverance. A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated.

If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified. Every hope or dream of the human mind will be fulfilled if it is noble and of God. But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God. He brings fulfillment, “because you have kept My command to persevere…” (Revelation 3:10).

Continue to persevere spiritually.

The Universe Story

February 21st, 2018

The Universe Story
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The New Story of the universe is a biospiritual story as well as a galactic story and an Earth story. . . . Each particular being in the universe is needed by the entire universe. With this understanding of our profound kinship with all life, we can establish the basis for a flourishing Earth community. —Thomas Berry (1914-2009) [1]
Judy Cannato (1949-2011)—an author, spiritual director, and visionary of a “new cosmology”—writes:
Thomas Berry has said that our generation is one that is in-between stories. We are caught between the story that religion tells and the story that science tells. . . . During the last several decades, a new story has indeed emerged, a new cosmology that brings matters of science and matters of faith into a space where they no longer need collide, but can complement each other and render a fuller picture of what is true. [If it’s true, it’s true everywhere and all the time.] Ironically, in modern times it is science that has told us the story of how all life is connected in a fundamental way—a story that the world’s mystics have been telling for centuries. . . . [2]

In their book, Journey of the Universe, philosopher Brian Swimme and historian Mary Evelyn Tucker write:
With our empirical observations expanded by modern science, we are now realizing that our universe is a single immense energy event that began as a tiny speck that has unfolded over time to become galaxies and stars, palms and pelicans, the music of Bach, and each of us alive today. The . . . universe is not simply a place but a story—a story in which we are immersed, to which we belong, and out of which we arose.
This story has the power to awaken us more deeply to who we are. For just as the Milky Way is the universe in the form of a galaxy, and an orchid is the universe in the form of a flower, we are the universe in the form of a human. And every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself. . . .
With the emergence of humans, we have arrived at an evolutionary breakthrough for being able to develop compassion, not just for our offspring, but for all beings of every order of existence. . . .
Our human destiny is to become the heart of the universe that embraces the whole of the Earth community. We are just a speck in the universe, but we are beings with the capacity to feel comprehensive compassion in the midst of an ocean of intimacy. That is the direction of our becoming more fully human. [3]

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.


Do You Really Love Him?
By Oswald Chambers

She has done a good work for Me. —Mark 14:6

If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning. This may describe affection and it may bring us a warm feeling, but it is not a true and accurate description of love.
Have you ever been driven to do something for God not because you felt that it was useful or your duty to do so, or that there was anything in it for you, but simply because you love Him? Have you ever realized that you can give things to God that are of value to Him? Or are you just sitting around daydreaming about the greatness of His redemption, while neglecting all the things you could be doing for Him? I’m not referring to works which could be regarded as divine and miraculous, but ordinary, simple human things— things which would be evidence to God that you are totally surrendered to Him. Have you ever created what Mary of Bethany created in the heart of the Lord Jesus? “She has done a good work for Me.”
There are times when it seems as if God watches to see if we will give Him even small gifts of surrender, just to show how genuine our love is for Him. To be surrendered to God is of more value than our personal holiness. Concern over our personal holiness causes us to focus our eyes on ourselves, and we become overly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, out of fear of offending God. “…but perfect love casts out fear…” once we are surrendered to God (1 John 4:18). We should quit asking ourselves, “Am I of any use?” and accept the truth that we really are not of much use to Him. The issue is never of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time.

Reframing Our Cosmology

February 20th, 2018

Reframing Our Cosmology

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

If you wear glasses, perhaps you’ve experienced receiving a new prescription and suddenly you see the world in a new way. We often get used to “seeing the world” with an inadequate or outdated prescription. It is only when we go in for a check up that we realize we need a lens update, and what a difference it makes!
Cosmology—our understanding of the origins of our world and how our world works—is just like that. How we understand the universe comprises a “lens” through which we tend to understand everything else in life. Many of us who grew up in the church don’t realize that we’ve inherited a pretty blurry cosmology: a usually male God, separate from our world, who stands back and judgmentally observes the goings on of our universe and humanity’s faults and failings. This just does not work, and I do not apologize for saying it.
This view has gone a long way in perpetuating the idea that we are isolated from each other and from God and that there is something inherently wrong with us and the world. Christianity’s adherence to Greek philosophical ideas that matter and spirit are separate has perpetuated a split between theology (or “God-talk”) and science.
Beatrice Bruteau (1930-2014), who brings such profound spiritual intelligence to our necessary conversation, can help us update our cosmology to a lens that is more compatible with science and the world around us. Rather than a God that is removed from us, she explains how the Trinity reveals God as actively moving in and through our world:
What we now call complexity, and recognize as doing its creative work on the very edge of chaos, is at the heart of this miraculous picture. There may not be an external Designer and a micro-managing Providence from the outside, but neither is the world devoid of divinity. The divinity is so intimately present in the world that the world can be regarded as an incarnate expression of the Trinity, as creative, as expansive, as conscious, as self-realizing and self-sharing.
I have called this creative act God’s ecstasy. Ecstasy means standing outside oneself. It is kin to the kenosis of Philippians 2:6—being God is not a thing to be clung to, so God empties Godself, taking the form of limitation in finitude, and is born as a universe. It is the defining divine act: self-giving, being-bestowing. Ecstasy has the connotations of extreme love and supreme joy. That is right for the creation of the universe.
. . . We need a new theology of the cosmos, one that is grounded in the best science of our day. It will be a theology in which God is very present, precisely in all the dynamisms and patterns of the created order, in which God is not rendered absent by the self-organizing activities of the natural world, but in which God is actual as the one who makes and the one who is incarnate in what is made by these very self-making activities. [1]


Taking the Initiative Against Daydreaming

By Oswald Chambers

 Arise, let us go from here. —John 14:31
 Daydreaming about something in order to do it properly is right, but daydreaming about it when we should be doing it is wrong. In this passage, after having said these wonderful things to His disciples, we might have expected our Lord to tell them to go away and meditate over them all. But Jesus never allowed idle daydreaming. When our purpose is to seek God and to discover His will for us, daydreaming is right and acceptable. But when our inclination is to spend time daydreaming over what we have already been told to do, it is unacceptable and God’s blessing is never on it. God will take the initiative against this kind of daydreaming by prodding us to action. His instructions to us will be along the lines of this: “Don’t sit or stand there, just go!”

If we are quietly waiting before God after He has said to us, “Come aside by yourselves…” then that is meditation before Him to seek His will (Mark 6:31). Beware, however, of giving in to mere daydreaming once God has spoken. Allow Him to be the source of all your dreams, joys, and delights, and be careful to go and obey what He has said. If you are in love with someone, you don’t sit and daydream about that person all the time— you go and do something for him. That is what Jesus Christ expects us to do. Daydreaming after God has spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him.

Creation Reflects God’s Glory

February 19th, 2018

Creation Reflects God’s Glory
Sunday, February 18, 2018

The universe itself can be understood as the primary revelation of the divine. —Thomas Berry [1]
The Divine Presence is happening in, through, and amidst every detail of life. . . . [It] penetrates all that exists. Everything in virtue of coming into existence is in relationship to this Source. —Thomas Keating [2]
The incarnation of God did not only happen in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. It began approximately 14 billion years ago with a moment that we now call “The Big Bang” or what some call “The Great Radiance.” At the birth of our universe, God materialized and revealed who God is. Ilia Delio writes: “Human life must be traced back to the time when life was deeply one, a Singularity, whereby the intensity of mass-energy exploded into consciousness.” [3] This Singularity provides a solid basis for inherent reverence, universal sacrality, and a spiritual ecology that transcends groups and religions.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) stated, “The immense diversity and pluriformity of this creation more perfectly represents God than any one creature alone or by itself.” [4] However, most Christians thought humans were the only creatures that God cared about, and all else—animals, plants, light, water, soil, minerals—was just “food” for our own sustenance and enjoyment. I do not believe that the Infinitely Loving Source we call God could be so stingy and withholding, and only care about one species—unless that care would lead to care for everything else too, which I would call full consciousness. That is the unique human gift.
God created millions of creatures for millions of years before Homo sapiens came along. Many of these beings are too tiny for us to see or have yet to be discovered; some have seemingly no benefit to human life; and many, like the dinosaurs, lived and died long before we did. Why did they even exist? A number of the Psalms say that creation exists simply to reflect and give glory to God (e.g., Psalm 104). The deepest meaning of creation and creatures is their naked existence itself. God has chosen to communicate God’s very Self in multitudinous and diverse shapes of beauty, love, truth, and goodness, each of which manifests another facet of the Divine. (See Job 38-39, Wisdom 13:1-9, Romans 1:20.) Once you can see this, you live in an enchanted and spiritually safe world.
Christians have gotten ourselves into a muddle by not taking incarnation and creation as the body of God seriously. As theologian Sallie McFague writes, “Salvation is the direction of creation, and creation is the place of salvation.” [5] All is God’s place, which is our place, which is the only and every place.
I hope that our very suffering now, our crowded presence in this nest that we have largely fouled, will bring us together politically and religiously. The Earth and its life systems, on which we all entirely depend, still have the potential to convert us to a universal maturity. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. There are no Native, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim versions of the universal elements. The periodic table is the same in every country, or as Shakespeare and musician Mandisa expressed it, we all bleed the same. Animals do not care whether they are on the Mexican or the American side of our delusional wall.

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.


Creation Is the Body of God
Monday, February 19, 2018

This week I’m drawing from several theologians and spiritual teachers I respect. I hope these introductions will inspire you to seek out their work and learn more! Today I offer Sallie McFague’s (b. 1933) excellent model of creation as God’s body. I could never say it as well as she does:
[This model of the universe as the body of God invites] . . . us to do something that Christians have seldom done: think about God and bodies. What would it mean, for instance, to understand sin as the refusal to share the basic necessities of survival with other bodies? to see Jesus of Nazareth as paradigmatic of God’s love for bodies? to interpret creation as all the myriad forms of matter bodied forth from God and empowered with the breath of life, the spirit of God? to consider ourselves as inspirited bodies profoundly interrelated with all other such bodies and yet having the special distinction of shared responsibility with God for the well-being of our planet? Such a focus causes us to see differently, to see dimensions of the relation of God and the world that we have not seen before.
. . . Incarnation (the belief that God is with us here on this earth) [goes] beyond Jesus of Nazareth to include all matter. God is incarnated in the world. . . . [This] suggests that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, for God is the breath or spirit that gives life to the billions of different bodies that make up God’s body. But God is also the source, power, and goal of everything that is, for the creation depends utterly upon God. . . .
What postmodern science is telling us—that the universe is a whole and that all things, living and nonliving, are interrelated and interdependent—has been, for most of the world’s history, common knowledge. That is, people living close to the land and to other animals as well as to the processes that support the health of the land and living creatures have known this from their daily experience. We, a postindustrial, urbanized people, alienated from our own bodies and from the body of the earth, have to learn it, and most often it’s a strange knowledge. It is also strange because for the past several hundred years at least, Christianity, and especially Protestant Christianity, has been concerned almost exclusively with the salvation of individual human beings, (primarily their “souls”), rather than with the liberation and well-being of the oppressed, including not only oppressed human beings, body and soul (or better, spirit), but also the oppressed earth and all its life-forms.
In the model of the universe as God’s body, not only does postmodern science help us understand the unity and diversity of the body in liberating ways, but divine embodiment makes sacred all embodiment: neither perspective alone is as rich as both together.

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.


Taking the Initiative Against Drudgery
By Oswald Chambers

Arise, shine… —Isaiah 60:1

When it comes to taking the initiative against drudgery, we have to take the first step as though there were no God. There is no point in waiting for God to help us— He will not. But once we arise, immediately we find He is there. Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue— a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. If we will arise and shine, drudgery will be divinely transformed.
Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. Drudgery is work that is far removed from anything we think of as ideal work. It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery— washing fishermen’s feet. He then says to them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). The inspiration of God is required if drudgery is to shine with the light of God upon it. In some cases the way a person does a task makes that work sanctified and holy forever. It may be a very common everyday task, but after we have seen it done, it becomes different. When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer’s body has become “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

It Is Not Just About Us

February 16th, 2018

It Is Not Just About Us
Friday, February 16, 2018

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, things visible, things invisible. . . . He is before all things and in him all things hold together. . . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God reconciled all things. —Colossians 1:15-17, 19-20
Not redemption from sin, but the unification of the world in itself and with God is the ultimate motivating cause for the Incarnation and, as such, the first idea of the Creator, existing in advance of all creation. —Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) [1]
Franciscans have always believed that Christ was Plan A, not a Plan B mop-up effort needed because of Adam and Eve’s sin. Franciscan philosopher John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) believed that the Christ Mystery was the first idea in the mind of God. The manifestation of the inner life of God in a physical universe was God’s plan from the very beginning. So, the Christ is manifest from the very first moment of the Big Bang (Ephesians 1:3,9-10). Jesus is the later personal personification of what was already true from the beginning. Most Christians were never told to make that distinction, and so their Jesus was often far too small because he was not also the Universal Christ.
Duns Scotus saw Jesus as a revelation of this positive, proactive message: “I say that the incarnation of Christ was not foreseen as occasioned by sin, but was immediately foreseen from all eternity by God as a good more proximate to the end.” [2] Contemporary Franciscan professor William Short explains:
The end here refers to God’s purpose or goal for the whole of creation. That goal, according to Scotus, is the sharing of God’s own life, one so fruitful that it constantly seeks expression. The ultimate goal must be sharing the life of the Trinity itself. . . . The Son may be called the heart of, or the way into the Trinity. [3]

This may seem like abstract theology, but without it, we end up with Jesus being a mere problem-solver for sin, appeasing a God who seems to be much less than love. God “the Father” ends up looking quite small, and the Christ has nothing to do for 14 billion years until Jesus appears. This leaves most of known time—before humans appeared—empty of God, the universe not yet a revelation of God. Mainstream Christian theology made humans the whole show; worse, human sin was the engine and motive for everything that God did.
Building on St. Francis’ teaching, Duns Scotus laid the theological foundation for a creation that was good, true, whole, and already the glory and freedom of God—before conscious humans even existed. To put it frankly, “salvation” is not just about us! If this ever sinks in, it will be the second Copernican Revolution in decentering this one small planet. The irony, of course, is that this decentered humanity is also even more the glory of God because it can see and say what I just said.

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 Inspiration of Spiritual Initiative
By Oswald Chambers

Arise from the dead… —Ephesians 5:14

Not all initiative, the willingness to take the first step, is inspired by God. Someone may say to you, “Get up and get going! Take your reluctance by the throat and throw it overboard— just do what needs to be done!” That is what we mean by ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes to us and says, in effect, “Get up and get going,” suddenly we find that the initiative is inspired.
We all have many dreams and aspirations when we are young, but sooner or later we realize we have no power to accomplish them. We cannot do the things we long to do, so our tendency is to think of our dreams and aspirations as dead. But God comes and says to us, “Arise from the dead….” When God sends His inspiration, it comes to us with such miraculous power that we are able to “arise from the dead” and do the impossible. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power comes after we “get up and get going.” God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, “Arise from the dead…,” we have to get ourselves up; God will not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand” (Matthew 12:13). As soon as the man did so, his hand was healed. But he had to take the initiative. If we will take the initiative to overcome, we will find that we have the inspiration of God, because He immediately gives us the power of life.

Christ Is the Template for Creation

February 15th, 2018

Christ Is the Template for Creation
Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Franciscan philosopher and Doctor of the Church, St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274) was an exemplary mystic because he so effectively pulled his brilliant mind down into his passionate heart. [1] In Bonaventure’s writings, you will find little or none of the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and atonement, even the dualistic notions of heaven or hell, which later took over. Etienne Gilson (1884-1978), a noted medieval scholar, said that Bonaventure’s philosophical synthesis might be the most perfect and complete ever created.

Bonaventure summed up his entire life’s theology in three central and sacred ideas:

Emanation: We come forth from God bearing the divine image, and thus our inherent identity is grounded in the life of God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27).

Exemplarism: Everything in creation is an example, manifestation, and illustration of God in space and time (Romans 1:20). No exceptions.

Consummation: All returns to the Source from which it came (John 14:3). The Omega is the same as the Alpha; this is God’s supreme and final victory.

For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is quite simply a full circle, and to be perfect the circle must and will complete itself. He knows that Alpha and Omega are finally the same. The lynchpin holding it all in unity is the “Christ Mystery,” or the essential unity of matter and spirit, humanity and divinity. The Christ Mystery—the crucified and resurrected Christ—becomes the visible template for the pattern of all creation. Christ reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things moving toward ever further life. The death and birth of every star and atom is this same pattern of loss and renewal, yet this pattern is invariably hidden, denied, or avoided, and therefore must be revealed by Jesus—through his passion, death, and resurrection.

Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant or angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He is all cosmic optimism and hope! Once we lost this kind of mysticism, Christianity became preoccupied with fear, unworthiness, and guilt much more than being included in—and delighting in—God’s positive, all-pervasive plan.

The problem is solved from the beginning in Franciscan theology: “Before the world was made, God chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4). If more of the Church believed St. Francis and Bonaventure, they could have helped us move beyond the inherently negative notion of history being a “fall from grace.” Bonaventure invited us into a positive notion of history as a slow but real emergence/evolution into ever-greater consciousness of a larger and always renewed life (“resurrection”).


“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”
By Oswald Chambers

None of us lives to himself… —Romans 14:7

Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? For instance, if I allow any turning away from God in my private life, everyone around me suffers. We “sit together in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 2:6). “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” (1 Corinthians 12:26). If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer. But you ask, “Who is sufficient to be able to live up to such a lofty standard?” “Our sufficiency is from God…” and God alone (2 Corinthians 3:5).
“You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). How many of us are willing to spend every bit of our nervous, mental, moral, and spiritual energy for Jesus Christ? That is what God means when He uses the word witness. But it takes time, so be patient with yourself. Why has God left us on the earth? Is it simply to be saved and sanctified? No, it is to be at work in service to Him. Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him? Am I willing to be of no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone— to be used to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ. My life of service to God is the way I say “thank you” to Him for His inexpressibly wonderful salvation. Remember, it is quite possible for God to set any of us aside if we refuse to be of service to Him— “…lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).