Bodily Knowing

April 4th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Bodily Knowing
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
(50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.)

If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. —Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) [1]
Deep knowing and presence do not happen with our thinking minds. To truly know something, our whole being must be open, awake, and present. We intuitively knew how to be present as babies. Psychologists now say there is no such thing as an infant. There’s only an infant/caregiver. In the first several months, from the infant’s view, they are one and the same. Infants see themselves entirely mirrored in their family’s eyes; they soon believe and become this vision. Contemplative prayer offers a similar kind of mirroring, as we learn to receive and return the divine gaze.

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

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

It seems we all must leave the Garden of Eden, the state of innocence and blissful, unconscious union. We can’t stay there, letting mother gaze at us forever. Unfortunately, if that primal knowing never happened at all, immense doubt arises about whether there even is a garden (“God”) where all things are one and good. When family systems disintegrate, people live with doubt and uncertainty. I am sure God fully understands. It is surely why Jesus says, “It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2).

Hopefully, our parents’ early gaze told us we were foundationally beloved. But when we inevitably begin to see ourselves through eyes that compare, judge, and dismiss, then we need spirituality to help heal the brokenness of our identity and our world. True spirituality is always bringing us back to the original bodily knowing that is unitive experience, which is why you cannot do it all in the head!

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Upper Room

Let us not become weary in doing good, 
for at the proper time we will reap 
a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

I am a divorced woman with no children. You might think I have a lot of free time, but I have been taking care of my sister for 41 years. She has an illness called schizoaffective disorder, which requires medication in order to stabilize her mood.
Over the years, I have struggled alongside my sister as she battles her illness. When she has recurrences of mania or depression, I have to seek help from her psychiatrist to make sure her medication is appropriate. When her temper flares, I have to bear with her — secretly praying for her to calm down. Although I often do not enjoy this work, my sister has brought me closer to the Lord because of my constant prayers for help.
Here in Thailand, there are no institutions where people living with mental illness can be cared for indefinitely. So I have asked God, “Do I have the responsibility to take care of my sister for the rest of my life?” God’s answer has been that I am to patiently care for my sister for as long as I can. Therefore, if God puts me in this place and calls me to help my sister, I will gladly do so.

TODAY’S PRAYER
Helper of the weak, thank you for giving us the wisdom and patience to care for our loved ones. May we become your strength and peace for their lives. Amen.

Human Bodies: Week 1

April 3rd, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

 

Human Bodies: Week 1

 

Trusting Our Bodies
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Capable Flesh

The tender flesh itself
          will be found one day
—quite surprisingly—
          to be capable of receiving,
and yes, full
          capable of embracing
the searing energies of God.
         Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
          the humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
          one part became the eye,
another the ear, and yet
          another this impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
          is not to be excluded
from the wisdom and the power
          that now and ever animates
all things. His life-giving
          agency is made perfect,
we are told, in weakness—
          made perfect in the flesh.

 —Saint Irenaeus of Lyon (c.130-c.202) [1]

God knew that only humble vulnerability could be entrusted with spiritual power—and so God hid it like a treasure in the simple, largely anonymous body of Jesus. “God’s power is at its best in weakness,” Paul tells us. “For it is when I am weak that I am strong” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Unfortunately, much of Christianity has been negatively and uselessly trapped in guilt about being “flesh,” while the great messages of the Gospel—grace, healing, and restorative justice—have largely gone unheeded. Obsessive guilt about our embodiment has too often kept us “from the greater matters of the law: justice, mercy, and good faith,” as Jesus says to the Pharisees (Matthew 23:23).

We must begin by trusting what God has done in Jesus. We cannot return to a healthy view of our own bodies until we accept that God has forever made human flesh the privileged place of the divine encounter. We have had enough of dualism, enough of the separation of body and spirit, enough over-emphasis on the body’s excesses and addictions. We must reclaim the incarnation as the beginning point of the Christian experience of God. We are not followers of Plato, but must return to the Hebrew respect for this world and for all the wisdom and goodness of the body. The embodied self is the only self we have ever known. Our bodies are God’s dwelling place and even God’s temple (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

In some ways it may seem simpler to obey usually arbitrary rules about diet or sex than to truly honor the living incarnation we are. Show me a single ascetical or anti-body statement from Jesus. Yet, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) said, “Avoiding the risk of a transgression has become more important to us than carrying a difficult position for God.” [2]

I believe God has given us permission to learn wisdom and humility from our bodies and not just to repress them out of fear. Remember, the steps to maturity are necessarily going to be immature. God is an expert at working with mistakes and failure. In fact, that is about all God does. Mistakes do not seem to be a problem for God; they are only a problem for our ego that wants to be pure spirit. We first tend to do things wrong before we even know what right feels like. I am not sure there is any other way.

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The Upper Room

April 3, 2018
Not Growing Weary
Gary A. Miller (California)

My soul clings to the dust; revive me 
according to your word. – Psalm 119:25 (NRSV)

I remember a time when my body, mind, and spirit were completely drained. My mother had recently passed away; our church was experiencing some serious leadership issues, and my son’s hereditary illness had flared up. Some of these events were sudden, but others had lingered for many months. I went about my daily life, automatically putting one foot in front of the other. Life was drudgery, and I plowed through it painfully.
For some of us, weariness seems to be a way of life. I found my antidote to weariness in two places: in trusting that God would revive me and in serving others in tangible ways. I vowed to spend more time meditating on the Psalms, and I began to mentor a young man who had serious family problems. Soon my spirit was revived, and my soul was nurtured.
I’ve seen that God often provides relief from our weariness as we focus on the Lord, not on what we expect to receive. God can shift our focus away from our problems and toward helping those who are also struggling — bringing peace to ourselves and to others.

Today’s Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, renew us with your peace as we face challenges. Fill us with a desire to serve others. Amen.

Growing into Our Incarnation

April 2nd, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Jesus’ Bodily Resurrection
Sunday, April 1, 2018
(Feast of Easter)

The risen Christ is the standing icon of humanity in its full and final destiny. He is the pledge and guarantee of what God will do with all our crucifixions. At last we can meaningfully live with hope. It is no longer an absurd or tragic universe. Our hurts now become the home for our greatest hopes. Without such implanted hope, it is very hard not to be cynical, bitter, and tired by the second half of our lives.

It is no accident that Luke’s Resurrection account in the Gospel has Jesus saying, “I am not a ghost! I have flesh and bones, as you can see” (see Luke 24:39-43). To Thomas he says, “Put your finger in the wounds!” (John 20:27). In other words, “I am human!”—which means to be wounded and resurrected at the same time. Christ returns to his physical body, and yet he is now unlimited by space or time and is without any regret or recrimination while still, ironically, carrying his wounds. “Before God, our wounds are our glory,” as Lady Julian of Norwich reflected. [1]

That Jesus’ physical wounds do not disappear is telling. The mystical, counterintuitive message of death and resurrection is powerfully communicated through symbol. The major point is that Jesus has not left the human sphere; he is revealing the goal, the fullness, and the purpose of humanity itself, which is “that we are able to share in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), even in this wounded and wounding world. Yes, resurrection is saying something about Jesus, but it is also saying a lot about us, which is even harder to believe. It is saying that we also are larger than life, Being Itself, and therefore made for something good, united, and beautiful. Our code word for that is heaven.

Many do believe in the bodily resurrection, as do I. But, in a way, that asks little except a mere intellectual assertion of a religious doctrine. We can go much further than that. I choose to believe in some kind of bodily resurrection because it localizes the Christ mystery in this material and earthly world and in our own bodies, the only world we know and the world that God created and loves

————————————

Growing into Our Incarnation
Monday, April 2, 2018

Make ready for the Christ, Whose smile, like lightning,
Sets free the song of everlasting glory
That now sleeps, in your paper flesh, like dynamite.

—Thomas Merton [1]
When God gives of Godself, one of two things happens: either flesh is inspirited or spirit is enfleshed. It is really very clear. I am somewhat amazed that more have not recognized this simple pattern: God’s will is incarnation. And against all our expectations of divinity, it appears that for God, matter really matters.

This Creator of ours is patiently determined to put matter and spirit together, almost as if the one were not complete without the other. This Lord of life seems to desire a perfect but free unification between body and soul. So much so, in fact, that God appears to be willing to wait for the creatures to will and choose this unity themselves—or it remains unrealized. But if God did it any other way, the medium would not be the message: God never enforces or dominates, but only allures and seduces.

God apparently loves freedom as much as incarnation. This is the rub of time and history and our interminable groanings (see Romans 8:18-25). Jesus trusted God’s slow process of incarnation instead of demanding an immediate conclusion. The result was resurrection and the realization of eternal union between body and spirit, human and divine.

The reason we have trouble with the full incarnation in Jesus is probably because we have not been able to recognize and enjoy the incarnations everywhere and all the time. As poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:

For Christ plays in ten thousand places
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. [2]

Not even by ourselves will we honor the divine image. In the oft-quoted words of Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. . . . You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. [3]

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The Glory That’s Unsurpassed
By Oswald Chambers

…the Lord Jesus…has sent me that you may receive your sight… —Acts 9:17

When Paul received his sight, he also received spiritual insight into the Person of Jesus Christ. His entire life and preaching from that point on were totally consumed with nothing but Jesus Christ— “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul never again allowed anything to attract and hold the attention of his mind and soul except the face of Jesus Christ.
We must learn to maintain a strong degree of character in our lives, even to the level that has been revealed in our vision of Jesus Christ.
The lasting characteristic of a spiritual man is the ability to understand correctly the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life, and the ability to explain the purposes of God to others. The overruling passion of his life is Jesus Christ. Whenever you see this quality in a person, you get the feeling that he is truly a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22).
Never allow anything to divert you from your insight into Jesus Christ. It is the true test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you.
Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus,
I’ve lost sight of all beside,
So enchained my spirit’s vision,
Gazing on the Crucified.

Growing in Love’s Likeness

March 30th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Becoming Fully Human
Friday, March 30, 2018

The glory of God is a human being fully alive. —St. Irenaeus of Lyon [1]
Barbara Brown Taylor, an author and Episcopal priest, will be joining me at CONSPIRE 2018 (along with Barbara Holmes, Brian McLaren, and Mirabai Starr). [2] Taylor writes eloquently of the spiritual journey in her book Leaving Church:
Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith, not once or twice but over and over again. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again. [Matthew 16:25] In Greek the word is psyche, meaning not only “life” but also the conscious self, the personality, the soul. You do not have to die in order to discover the truth of this teaching, in other words. You only need to lose track of who you are, or who you thought you were supposed to be, so that you end up lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart. Do this, Jesus says, and you will live.
As hard as preachers may work to clarify this koan, I do not believe that it can be done. The promise contains truth that can only be experienced, and even when it is I do not know anyone who readily volunteers for loss again. Yet loss is how we come to surrender our lives—if not to God, then at least to the Great Beyond—and even those who profess no faith in anything but the sap that makes the green blade rise may still confess that losing really has helped them find their ways again. . . .
My losses have been chiefly in the area of faith, and specifically in the area of being certain who God is, what God wants of me, and what it means to be Christian in a world where religion often seems to do more harm than good. . . .
I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was, in other words, and it was not until this project failed that I began to wonder if my human wholeness might be more useful to God than my exhausting goodness. . . .
Committing myself to the task of becoming fully human is saving my life now. This is not the same as the job of being human, which came with my birth certificate. To become fully human is something extra, a conscious choice that not everyone makes. Based on my limited wisdom and experience, there is more than one way to do this. If I were a Buddhist, I might do it by taking the bodhisattva vow, and if I were a Jew, I might do it by following Torah. Because I am a Christian, I do it by imitating Christ. . . .
There are still a few [Christians] who believe that becoming fully human is the highest honor they can pay to the incarnate one who showed them how.

______________________________________________

Holiness or Hardness Toward God?

By Oswald Chambers

He…wondered that there was no intercessor… —Isaiah 59:16
 The reason many of us stop praying and become hard toward God is that we only have an emotional interest in prayer. It sounds good to say that we pray, and we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial— that our minds are quieted and our souls are uplifted when we pray. But Isaiah implied in this verse that God is amazed at such thoughts about prayer.

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other. Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”? This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?

Do you find yourself thinking that there is no one interceding properly? Then be that person yourself. Be a person who worships God and lives in a holy relationship with Him. Get involved in the real work of intercession, remembering that it truly is work— work that demands all your energy, but work which has no hidden pitfalls. Preaching the gospel has its share of pitfalls, but intercessory prayer has none whatsoever.

Growing into Belonging

March 29th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Growing in Love’s Likeness
Richard Rohr
Thursday, March 29, 2018

As we grow spiritually, we discover that we are not as separate as we thought we were. Separation from God, self, and others is a deep and tragic illusion. As we grow into deeper connection and union, the things that once brought meaning and happiness to our small self no longer satisfy us. We tried to create artificial fullness through many kinds of addictive behavior, but still feel empty and nothing, if we are honest. We need much more nutritious food to feed our Bigger Self. Mere entertainments, time-fillers, diversions, and distractions will no longer work.
At the more mature stages of life, we are able to allow the painful and the formerly excluded parts to gradually belong within a growing, unified field. This shows itself as a foundational compassion, especially toward all things different from us and the many beings who “never had a chance.” If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect, you can now do it for everybody else, too. If you have not forgiven yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others. “What goes around comes around.”
Many who are judgmental and unforgiving seem to have missed out on the joy and clarity of the first childhood containment, perhaps avoided the suffering of the mid-life complexity, and thus missed out on the great freedom and magnanimity of the second half of life. We need to hold together all the stages of life. For some strange, wonderful reason, it all becomes quite “simple” as we approach our later years. The great irony is that we must go through a lot of complexity and disorder (another word for necessary suffering) to return to the second simplicity. There is no nonstop flight from first to second naiveté, from initial order to resurrection. We must go through the pain of disorder to grow up and switch our loyalties from self to God. Most people just try to maintain their initial “order” at all costs, even if it is killing them.
As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why they are often called “holy fools.” These wise ones do not have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay (which does not mean you do not work for justice and truth, but this must be accompanied by a primal yes!). What is, is still the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always a deep abiding goodness, or what Merton called “the hidden wholeness.”

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Our Lord’s Surprise Visits

By Oswald Chambers

 You also be ready… —Luke 12:40
A Christian worker’s greatest need is a readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn. This is not easy, no matter what our experience has been. This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn. The greatest need is not facing our beliefs or doctrines, or even facing the question of whether or not we are of any use to Him, but the need is to face Him.

Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle— we must be spiritually real.

If you are avoiding the call of the religious thinking of today’s world, and instead are “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), setting your heart on what He wants, and thinking His thoughts, you will be considered impractical and a daydreamer. But when He suddenly appears in the work of the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. You should trust no one, and even ignore the finest saint on earth if he blocks your sight of Jesus Christ.

The Further Journey

March 28th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

The Further Journey
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The journey into the second half of our own lives awaits us all. Yet not everyone embarks or continues on the journey, even though most of us get older. The “further journey” seems to be a well-kept secret. Many people do not even know there is one. There are too few who are aware that there is more to life.
After decades as a Franciscan teacher, working in many settings, religions, countries, and organizations, I find that many, if not most, people and institutions remain stymied in the preoccupations of the first half of life. By that I mean that most people’s concerns remain those of establishing their personal identity, creating various boundaries, and seeking security and success. These tasks are good to some degree and even necessary. We are all trying to find what the Greek scientist Archimedes called a “lever and a place to stand” so that we can move the world just a little bit. The world would be much worse off if we did not do the important work of ego-development.
I believe that God gives us our soul—our deepest identity, our True Self, our unique blueprint—at our own conception. Our unique little bit of heaven is installed by the Manufacturer within the product, at the beginning! We are given a span of years to discover it, to choose it, and to live our own destiny to the full. If we do not, our True Self will never be offered again, in our own unique form—which is perhaps why almost all religious traditions present the subject with strong words like “heaven” and “hell.” The discovery of our soul is crucial and of pressing importance for each of us and for the world.
We do not “make” or “create” our souls; we just “grow” them up. We are the clumsy stewards of our own souls. Much of our work is learning how to stay out of the way of this rather natural growing and awakening. We need to unlearn a lot, it seems, to get back to that foundational life. This is why religious traditions call the process “conversion” or “repentance.”
Whether or not we find our True Self depends in large part on the moments of time we are each allotted and the choices we make at those moments. Life is indeed “momentous,” created by accumulated moments in which the deeper “I” is slowly revealed if we are ready to see it. Following our inner blueprint or soul and humbly serving others is indeed of ultimate concern. Each thing and every person must act out its nature fully, at whatever cost. This is our life’s purpose, the deepest meaning of “natural law.” We are here to give back freely what was first given to us! It takes both halves of our life to fulfill this calling.

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Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?
By Oswald Chambers

“Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “…are You going there again?” —John 11:7-8

Just because I don’t understand what Jesus Christ says, I have no right to determine that He must be mistaken in what He says. That is a dangerous view, and it is never right to think that my obedience to God’s directive will bring dishonor to Jesus. The only thing that will bring dishonor is not obeying Him. To put my view of His honor ahead of what He is plainly guiding me to do is never right, even though it may come from a real desire to prevent Him from being put to an open shame. I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything (see Matthew 14:29). But faithfulness to my own ideas means that I first clear the way mentally. Faith, however, is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.
Are you debating whether you should take a step of faith in Jesus, or whether you should wait until you can clearly see how to do what He has asked? Simply obey Him with unrestrained joy. When He tells you something and you begin to debate, it is because you have a misunderstanding of what honors Him and what doesn’t. Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him? “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5).

Growing in Love’s; Likeness Falling into Mercy

March 27th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Growing in Love’s Likeness
Falling into Mercy
Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The transition to the second half of life moves you from either/or thinking to both/and thinking: the ability to increasingly live with paradox and mystery. You no longer think in terms of win/lose, but win/win. It is a very different mind and strategy for life. In order for this alternative consciousness to become your primary way of thinking, you usually have to experience something that forces either/or thinking to fall apart. Perhaps you hate homosexuality and then you meet a wonderful gay couple. Or you meet a Muslim who is more loving than most of your Christian friends. Or you encounter a young immigrant who doesn’t match your stereotypes at all. Something must break your addiction to yourself and your opinions.
Your first reaction is a struggle: “What do I do now? I don’t like this. I can’t deal with this. I want to go back to my familiar and habitual world.” You know your lesbian daughter is good and you love her and don’t want to reject her. So you ask your minister, “What will I do?” (Hopefully you have a wise, nondual minister!) Inside such “liminal space” is where real change happens, where your self-serving little dualisms must fall apart. It might be called growing up.
Jesus always honored and often idealized good, holy non-Jews, like the Samaritan man (Luke 10:29-37), the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30). But even his disciples struggled to accept that the outsider could or should be accepted. If you’re stuck in the first half of life, with your explanation about why you or your group are the best, you will hold on strongly because it’s all you have, and any change feels like dying.
Often the only thing that can break down your natural egocentricity is discovering that the qualities you hate in others are actually within you. You’re not so moral after all. You’ve imagined doing “bad” things; and if you could get away with it, you know you’d do it. Perhaps the only reason you don’t is because you’re afraid. Fear is not enlightenment. Fear is not the new transformed state of the risen Christ that we’ve been promised. Fear keeps you inside of a false order and will not allow any reordering.
Unless you somehow “weep” over your own phoniness, hypocrisy, fear, and woundedness, you probably won’t let go of the first half of life. If you don’t allow this needed disappointment to well up within you, if you surround yourself with your orthodoxies and your certitudes and your belief that you’re the best, frankly, you will stay in the first half of life forever. Many religious people never allow themselves to fall, while many “sinners” fall and rise again. Our greatest sin is not falling or failing, but refusing to rise and trust ourselves—and God—again. Make sure you are always in need of mercy and you will never stop growing.

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Spiritual Vision Through Personal Character

By Oswald Chambers

 Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place… —Revelation 4:1
A higher state of mind and spiritual vision can only be achieved through the higher practice of personal character. If you live up to the highest and best that you know in the outer level of your life, God will continually say to you, “Friend, come up even higher.” There is also a continuing rule in temptation which calls you to go higher; but when you do, you only encounter other temptations and character traits. Both God and Satan use the strategy of elevation, but Satan uses it in temptation, and the effect is quite different. When the devil elevates you to a certain place, he causes you to fasten your idea of what holiness is far beyond what flesh and blood could ever bear or achieve. Your life becomes a spiritual acrobatic performance high atop a steeple. You cling to it, trying to maintain your balance and daring not to move. But when God elevates you by His grace into heavenly places, you find a vast plateau where you can move about with ease.

Compare this week in your spiritual life with the same week last year to see how God has called you to a higher level. We have all been brought to see from a higher viewpoint. Never allow God to show you a truth which you do not instantly begin to live up to, applying it to your life. Always work through it, staying in its light.

Your growth in grace is not measured by the fact that you haven’t turned back, but that you have an insight and understanding into where you are spiritually. Have you heard God say, “Come up higher,” not audibly on the outer level, but to the innermost part of your character?

“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…?” (Genesis 18:17). God has to hide from us what He does, until, due to the growth of our personal character, we get to the level where He is then able to reveal it.

Two Halves of Life

March 25th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Growing in Love’s Likeness Two Halves of Life

Sunday, March 25, 2018

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image that we reflect. This is the work of the Lord who is Spirit. —2 Corinthians 3:18

We are created in the image and likeness of God from the moment of our conception. The Creator gives us our core identity as sons and daughters of God, “from the beginning” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Throughout our lives we co-create our unique likeness as we grow and mature. Yes, we have a say in the process! God creates things with the freedom and permission to continue the act of creation. (See Romans 8:28-30.) Many people struggle to think this way without an evolutionary worldview. Religious folks often attribute transformation entirely to God, and secular folks think it’s all up to them. But of course, you who read these meditations are nondual thinkers and can say both/and!
Life gives us opportunities to discover our image and develop our likeness, often in the form of necessary stumbling and falling. Throughout it all we are always held inside of Love. Challenges and disruptions invite us to move from what I call the first half of life to the second half, from forming and serving the ego to the ego, in fact, serving the soul. With the guidance of the Spirit and the help of wise mentors and elders, all of life, including our “false” or small and separate self, can lead us to our True Self or “who we are hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Most of us tend to think about the second half of life in terms of getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life. But the transition can happen at any age. Moving to the second half of life is an experience of falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found its fullness and we are consciously connected to the whole.
It is not a loss but somehow a gain. I have met enough radiant people to know that this paradox is possible! Many have come to their human fullness, often against all odds, and usually through suffering. They offer models and goals for humanity, much more than the celebrities and politicos who get so much of our attention today.
Helen Keller (1880-1968)—an author, pacifist, suffragist, member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a woman who was deaf and blind—was such a model. Once she discovered her own depths, she seems to have leapt into the second half of life very early, despite considerable limitations. She became convinced that life was about service to others rather than protecting or lamenting her supposedly disabled body. Keller’s Swedenborgian mysticism surely helped her grow and “fall upward” despite—or maybe because of—her very constricted early experience. Helen had to grow; she had to go deep and broad. She clearly continued to create herself, even though she could have so easily complained about how little she had to work with. Where did God end and where did she begin? It is an impossible question to answer. Helen and God somehow worked together.

Human Development in Scripture
Monday, March 26, 2018

It is helpful for us to know about the whole arc of life and where it is leading. Walter Brueggemann, one of my favorite scripture scholars, brilliantly connects the development of the Hebrew Scriptures with the development of human consciousness. [1] Brueggemann identifies different stages in the three major parts of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wisdom literature.
The Torah, or the first five books, correspond, Brueggemann says, to the good and necessary “first half of life.” This is the period in which the people of Israel were given their identity through law, tradition, structure, certitude, group ritual, clarity, and chosenness. It’s helpful and easiest for children if they can begin in this way. Ideally, you first learn you are beloved by being mirrored in the loving gaze of your parents and those around you. You realize you are special and life is good—and thus you feel “safe.” Loving people help you form a healthy ego structure and boundaries.
The Prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures then introduce the necessary suffering, “stumbling stones,” and failures that initiate you into the second half of life. Prophetic thinking is the capacity for healthy self-criticism, the ability to recognize your own dark side, as the prophets did for Israel. Without facing their own failures, suffering, and shadow, most people never move beyond narcissism and group thinking. Healthy self-criticism helps you realize you are not that good, and your group is not the only chosen people. It begins to break down either/or, dualistic thinking as you realize all things are both good and bad. This makes idolatry of anything and war against anybody much less likely. The prophets do not have much good to say about Israel, and thus seem to have all been killed (Matthew 23:31-32). Thus the “charism” of prophecy in its deepest sense has never been much sought after by most Christian groups.
The leaven of self-criticism, added to the certainty of your own specialness, will allow you to move to the third section of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Wisdom Literature (many of the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Wisdom, and the Book of Job). Here you discover the language of mystery and paradox. This is what the second half of life is supposed to feel like. You are strong enough now to hold together contradictions in yourself, others, and the universe. And you can do so with compassion, forgiveness, and patience. You realize that your chosenness is for the sake of letting others know they are chosen too!
I call this classic pattern of spiritual transformation “order-disorder-reorder.” Paul calls it “the foolishness of the cross” (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). There is no nonstop flight from order to reorder. We have to go through a period of disruption and disordering. What we first call “order” is almost always too small and too self-serving. The nexus point, the crossover moment, is one that neither conservatives nor liberals like or even understand. It will always feel like folly.

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Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity
By Oswald Chambers

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. —Matthew 5:8

Purity is not innocence— it is much more than that. Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God. We have to grow in purity. Our life with God may be right and our inner purity unblemished, yet occasionally our outer life may become spotted and stained. God intentionally does not protect us from this possibility, because this is the way we recognize the necessity of maintaining our spiritual vision through personal purity. If the outer level of our spiritual life with God is impaired to the slightest degree, we must put everything else aside until we make it right. Remember that spiritual vision depends on our character— it is “the pure in heart” who “see God.”
God makes us pure by an act of His sovereign grace, but we still have something that we must carefully watch. It is through our bodily life coming in contact with other people and other points of view that we tend to become tarnished. Not only must our “inner sanctuary” be kept right with God, but also the “outer courts” must be brought into perfect harmony with the purity God gives us through His grace. Our spiritual vision and understanding is immediately blurred when our “outer court” is stained. If we want to maintain personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will mean refusing to do or even think certain things. And some things that are acceptable for others will become unacceptable for us.
A practical help in keeping your personal purity unblemished in your relations with other people is to begin to see them as God does. Say to yourself, “That man or that woman is perfect in Christ Jesus! That friend or that relative is perfect in Christ Jesus!”

Inner Light

March 23rd, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Thisness

Richard Rohr

Friday, March 23, 2018

I have the immense joy of being a [human being], a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. —Thomas Merton [1]

You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:14, 16
A mystic—like Merton, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, John Duns Scotus, and many others—is one who recognizes God’s image and likeness in this human being, in this creature, in this moment, and from that encounter with the sacred comes to see God everywhere and always. The mystic cannot help but love and have compassion for what is right in front of them. God’s indwelling presence—in every created thing—is inherent and cannot be earned or destroyed.
In her book, Scotus for Dunces, Mary Beth Ingham writes:
Haecceitas points to the ineffable within each being. . . . According to Scotus, the created order is not best understood as a transparent medium through which divine light [from the outside] shines (as Aquinas taught), but is itself endowed with an inner light that shines forth from within. [This is like the] difference between a window (Aquinas) and a lamp (Scotus). Both give light, but the source of light for Scotus has already been given to the being by the creator. Each being . . . possesses an immanent dignity; it is already gifted by the loving Creator with a sanctity beyond our ability to understand. . . .
Once we recognize the value of nature, of others, and of ourselves, we are called to act in imago Christi, as images of Christ who embodied divine love. [2]
At a CAC conference many years ago, Ingham reflected:
In the most concrete we discover the most ultimate. That is what it means for God to become one of us. The concrete individual who lived in the Middle East 2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, was both divine and human.
And so, what does this mean for us? We are called to see the greatness of God in the smallest of things. We see divinity within humanity. We discover in ourselves a light within, and we discover in every human being, and as Scotus teaches, in everything that exists, an inner light that is a gift from God. [3]
When we become open and receptive to the ordinary, we discover:
The one is the way to the many.
The specific is the way to the spacious.
The now is the way to always.
The here is the way to the everywhere.
The material is the way to the spiritual.
The visible is the way to the invisible.

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Am I Carnally Minded?
By Oswald Chambers

Where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal…? —1 Corinthians 3:3

The natural man, or unbeliever, knows nothing about carnality. The desires of the flesh warring against the Spirit, and the Spirit warring against the flesh, which began at rebirth, are what produce carnality and the awareness of it. But Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, carnality will disappear.
Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? Do you think that no one who is a Christian is ever like that? Paul said they are, and he connected these attitudes with carnality. Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens a spirit of malice or resentment in you? If so, that is proof that you are still carnal. If the process of sanctification is continuing in your life, there will be no trace of that kind of spirit remaining.
If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.
What is the proof that carnality has gone? Never deceive yourself; when carnality is gone you will know it— it is the most real thing you can imagine. And God will see to it that you have a number of opportunities to prove to yourself the miracle of His grace. The proof is in a very practical test. You will find yourself saying, “If this had happened before, I would have had the spirit of resentment!” And you will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.

Thisness

March 22nd, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

One of a Kind
Thursday, March 22, 2018

My friend, Sister of Saint Joseph and Professor Mary Beth Ingham, knows John Duns Scotus inside and out. Over a decade ago we spoke together at a conference in Albuquerque called Holding the Tension. Today I share her insights from Duns Scotus’ teaching of haecceity or thisness, drawn from that conference.

What is haecceity? It’s you. It’s the unique identity inherent in each being. Each one of us has been given our gift, and that’s our little “haec.” It’s what makes me, me, and not somebody else. Haec cannot be cloned. It’s the part of me that is not to be replicated.

So, I’m not just one of a kind, and you’re not just one of a kind, and we are each not just one of a kind; we are one of an eternity. No pressure! Each of us has come with a gift. And if we do not give our gift, the world misses out.

Haecceity is a term invented by Duns Scotus to capture the ineffable. It’s that which I cannot name within myself. No amount of self-help exercises will ever exhaust the mystery that is me. So, the good news is I can never figure myself out. I can always surprise myself.

Since before the foundation of the world, God has longed to be one with us. Jesus is the mutuality of God in creation. The incarnation is God’s presence in our world—not an event of the past. The incarnation is still going on in our lives. And our vocation is to join God’s dynamic, incarnate energy in the world and to be that presence wherever we find ourselves.

Duns Scotus writes: “You ask me, what is this haec? What is this thing from which the individual difference is taken? Is it matter or form or the composite? I give you this answer: . . . It’s just this.” [1]

You’re just yourself. Live with it. Here I am. I’m just me and all I can do is be me. That’s the only thing I can do, and I can do it better than anybody else. If I don’t do it, nobody will do it. So often we spend our lives trying to be other people. Yet God says, “I made you, and I like the you I’ve made, so just do your best and be yourself, and I’ll be there to help you.” It’s not something we have to do alone, but something we grow into.

Allan Wolter [a Franciscan theologian and philosopher] said that haecceity invests each person with a unique value as one singularly wanted and loved by God, quite apart from any trait that person shares with anybody else, or any contribution he or she might make to society. Haecceity is our personal gift from God. [2] Part of our vocation is to appreciate ourselves as the pearl of great price—because God does. We get to discover ourselves as the treasure in the field and to rejoice with God in the wondrous work that God does in each of our lives (Matthew 13:44-46), quite independent of any contribution we might make to society, any quantitative way of measuring.

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The Burning Heart

By Oswald Chambers

 Did not our heart burn within us? — Luke 24:32
 We need to learn this secret of the burning heart. Suddenly Jesus appears to us, the fires are kindled, we have wonderful visions; then we have to learn to keep the secret of the burning heart that will go through anything. It is the dull, bald, dreary, commonplace day, with commonplace duties and people, that kills the burning heart unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus.

Much of our distress as Christians comes not because of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature. For instance, the only test as to whether we ought to allow an emotion to have its way is to see what the outcome of the emotion will be. Push it to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something God would condemn, allow it no more way. But if it be an emotion kindled by the Spirit of God and you do not let that emotion have its right issue in your life, it will react on a lower level. That is the way sentimentalists are made. The higher the emotion is, the deeper the degradation will be if it is not worked out on its proper level. If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many things inevitable as possible, let the consequences be what they will. We cannot stay on the mount of transfiguration, but we must obey the light we received there; we must act it out. When God gives a vision, transact business on that line, no matter what it costs.

We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides;
But tasks in hours of insight will’d
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill’d.
*

*Matthew Arnold, Morality (1852)