Being with Ourselves

October 10th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Being with Ourselves
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues reflecting on the Christian mystic Teresa of Ávila and The Interior Castle. Again, he invites you into a different kind of reading. Let your rational mind rest and allow your heart to awaken.

Teresa asks, “Wouldn’t it be a pity not to understand ourselves?” The pity is we tend not to. Teresa is writing about healing the sorrow that arises from being exiled from our soul.

Now let us return to our beautiful and delightful castle [which is our soul] and see how we can enter it. I seem rather to be talking nonsense; for, if this castle is the soul, there can clearly be no question of our entering it [since we are the soul we are going after]. For we ourselves are the castle: and it would be absurd to tell someone to enter a room when he was in it already! But you must understand that there are many ways of “being” in a place. [1]

All of us are here (wherever we may be), right here. But the degree to which each of us is here right now—in terms of a deeply awake, grateful awareness of the gift and miracle of being here—varies greatly from person to person. Another way of saying it is that everyone who’s married is married. Some people are more married than others.

The issue is our tendency to get stuck focusing on what my father or mother, wife or ex-wife, children or friends, pastor or boss thinks of me. What if instead we could join God in knowing who God knows I am eternally in God, before the origins of the universe, and know ourselves hidden with Christ in God forever? If I’m so caught up in perceptions of myself—projections and wounds—if I’m caught up in this labyrinth of confusion, it eclipses my view of the God-given godly nature of who I absolutely, invincibly am.

This is how Teresa of Ávila starts her book, The Interior Castle. We’re just on page two, and it’s clear this isn’t going to be a light read! But what’s also clear is it’s not theoretical. The pedagogy of the mystics slows us down enough to catch up with ourselves. How can we ponder the intimate immediacy of what matters most? How can we learn to not treat ourselves like someone we don’t want to spend time with? How can we settle into a quiet, prayerful pondering about who we deep down really are and are called to be? And how can we be more faithful to it?

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

_____________________________________________________

How Will I Know?

By Oswald Chambers

Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father…that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” —Matthew 11:25

We do not grow into a spiritual relationship step by step— we either have a relationship or we do not. God does not continue to cleanse us more and more from sin— “But if we walk in the light,” we are cleansed “from all sin” (1 John 1:7). It is a matter of obedience, and once we obey, the relationship is instantly perfected. But if we turn away from obedience for even one second, darkness and death are immediately at work again.
All of God’s revealed truths are sealed until they are opened to us through obedience. You will never open them through philosophy or thinking. But once you obey, a flash of light comes immediately. Let God’s truth work into you by immersing yourself in it, not by worrying into it. The only way you can get to know the truth of God is to stop trying to find out and by being born again. If you obey God in the first thing He shows you, then He instantly opens up the next truth to you. You could read volumes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when five minutes of total, uncompromising obedience would make things as clear as sunlight. Don’t say, “I suppose I will understand these things someday!” You can understand them now. And it is not study that brings understanding to you, but obedience. Even the smallest bit of obedience opens heaven, and the deepest truths of God immediately become yours. Yet God will never reveal more truth about Himself to you, until you have obeyed what you know already. Beware of becoming one of the “wise and prudent.” “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know…” (John 7:17).

 

Made in God’s Image

October 9th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

from Center For Action & Contemplation

CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring The Interior Castle in which Teresa of Ávila describes our soul as a beautiful castle with many rooms; at the center of the castle God dwells. As James shared yesterday, the mystics can’t be understood rationally, but must be read slowly, prayerfully, and with an open heart.
Teresa begins her book with the revelation that God creates us in God’s own image and likeness:
I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of a soul and its great capacity. In fact, however acute our intellects may be, they will no more be able to attain to a comprehension of this than to an understanding of God; for, as He Himself says, He created us in His image and likeness [Genesis 1:26]. Now if this is so—and it is­—there is no point in our fatiguing ourselves by attempting to comprehend the beauty of this castle; for, though it is His creature, and there is therefore as much difference between it and God as between creature and Creator, the very fact that His Majesty says it is made in His image means that we can hardly form any conception of the soul’s great dignity and beauty. [1]

Teresa then invites us to reflect with her on the far-reaching implications of this revelation. First, to recognize the fact that we’re created in the image and likeness of God is to know that creation is perpetual and absolute.
That is, at this very moment, a God who is Infinite Reality itself is giving reality to us right now. If God would stop creating you into your chair at the count of three, then at the count of three your chair would be empty—because you’re nothing, absolutely nothing, outside and other than God. If at the count of three, God would cease loving the universe into existence, the universe would disappear because the universe is God’s body. The world embodies the Infinite Love that is Reality giving itself away as this universe. This is true of all creation: Brother Sun and Sister Moon, stones and trees and stars and birds and so on.
Teresa says our soul refers to our God-given godly nature. Your God-given godly nature is the infinite reality of you. You’re worth all that God is worth. You are as precious as God is precious. You have a value that cannot be calculated. Teresa says this is why we don’t understand ourselves. To understand yourself you’d have to understand God, who right at this moment is loving you into existence as the very reality of yourself and your nothingness without God. This is crystal clear, isn’t it? No wonder we can’t figure ourselves out!
Although we might not be able to understand ourselves, as humans we do have the unique capacity to be conscious of Infinite Love embodied in us. And in realizing this reality, we’re empowered to assent to it. Love is never imposed; it’s always offered.
As Teresa says, “Let us now then enter this castle.”

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

———————–

Building on the Atonement
By Oswald Chambers

…present…your members as instruments of righteousness to God. —Romans 6:13

I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot make atonement for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot right what is wrong, purify what is impure, or make holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. Do I have faith in what Jesus Christ has done? He has made the perfect atonement for sin. Am I in the habit of constantly realizing it? The greatest need we have is not to do things, but to believe things. The redemption of Christ is not an experience, it is the great act of God which He has performed through Christ, and I have to build my faith on it. If I construct my faith on my own experience, I produce the most unscriptural kind of life— an isolated life, with my eyes focused solely on my own holiness. Beware of that human holiness that is not based on the atonement of the Lord. It has no value for anything except a life of isolation— it is useless to God and a nuisance to man. Measure every kind of experience you have by our Lord Himself. We cannot do anything pleasing to God unless we deliberately build on the foundation of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.
The atonement of Jesus must be exhibited in practical, unassuming ways in my life. Every time I obey, the absolute deity of God is on my side, so that the grace of God and my natural obedience are in perfect agreement. Obedience means that I have completely placed my trust in the atonement, and my obedience is immediately met by the delight of the supernatural grace of God.
Beware of the human holiness that denies the reality of the natural life— it is a fraud. Continually bring yourself to the trial or test of the atonement and ask, “Where is the discernment of the atonement in this, and in that?”

Thomas Merton, Part I

October 5th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Thomas Merton, Part I

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was born in France and lived most of his adult life as a Cistercian (Trappist) monk at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky. He died tragically in Bangkok of accidental electrocution. Merton has been a primary teacher and inspiration to me since I first read his book The Sign of Jonas in my high school seminary library around 1959. Merton almost single-handedly pulled back the veil and revealed the contemplative, mystical wisdom that had been lost in the Western Church for the last five centuries. He remains a spiritual master for many Christians and non-Christians to this day.
Scott Peck explains that Merton “‘left the world’ for the monastery . . . because he was afraid of being contaminated by the world’s institutionalized evil. . . . [But he] continued to consistently and passionately protest the sins of greater society. This burning desire to be in the world but not of the world is the mark of a contemplative.” [1] James Finley, who learned from Merton for six years as a monk in Gethsemani, says Merton would tell him, “We don’t come to the monastery to get away from suffering; we come to hold the suffering of all the world.” [2] This can only be done by plugging into a larger consciousness through contemplation. No longer focused on our individual private perfection—or what Merton called “our personal salvation project”—we become fully usable by God.
Merton wrote, “Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. . . . All life tends to grow like this, in mystery inscaped with paradox and contradiction, yet centered, in its very heart, on the divine mercy . . . and the realization of the ‘new life’ that is in us who believe, by the gift of the Holy Spirit.” [3]
It was in the power of this Spirit that Merton struggled against “the evil [that is also] in us all . . . [and] the blindness of a world that wants to end itself.” He fought against violence, war, racism, poverty, and consumerism. He said, “Those who continue to struggle are at peace. If God wills, they can pacify the world.” [4]
My friend, John Dear writes of Merton:
The contemplative work of inner conversion, inner disarmament, and inner peacemaking as the key to peace for the world held Merton’s interest throughout his life. It’s what he admired most about Mahatma Gandhi, and what he tried to achieve for himself. . . . Merton observed that Gandhi’s political revolution sprang from an inner, spiritual revolution of the heart. . . . Merton wrote . . . “The whole Gandhian concept of nonviolent action and satyagraha is incomprehensible if it is thought to be a means of achieving unity rather than as the fruit of inner unity already achieved.” [5]

Gateway to Silence:
We are all one with You.

————————

The Nature of Degeneration
By Oswald Chambers

Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… —Romans 5:12
The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man. But it also says that another Man took upon Himself the sin of the human race and put it away— an infinitely more profound revelation (see Hebrews 9:26). The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, “I am my own god.” This nature may exhibit itself in proper morality or in improper immorality, but it always has a common basis— my claim to my right to myself. When our Lord faced either people with all the forces of evil in them, or people who were clean-living, moral, and upright, He paid no attention to the moral degradation of one, nor any attention to the moral attainment of the other. He looked at something we do not see, namely, the nature of man (see John 2:25).
Sin is something I am born with and cannot touch— only God touches sin through redemption. It is through the Cross of Christ that God redeemed the entire human race from the possibility of damnation through the heredity of sin. God nowhere holds a person responsible for having the heredity of sin, and does not condemn anyone because of it. Condemnation comes when I realize that Jesus Christ came to deliver me from this heredity of sin, and yet I refuse to let Him do so. From that moment I begin to get the seal of damnation. “This is the condemnation [and the critical moment], that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light…” (John 3:19).

Thérèse of Lisieux, Part II

October 4th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Thérèse of Lisieux, Part II

I understand so very well that it is only through love that we can render ourselves pleasing to the good Lord, that love is the one thing I long for. The science of love is the only science I desire. —Thérèse of Lisieux [1]
Thérèse of Lisieux died just before the most violent century in human history. What if we had studied the “science of love” in the Little Way as she did? Harnessing the energy of love in the smallest interactions, moment by moment, we might have found that, indeed, “Love is as strong as Death” (Song of Songs 8:6). What if we had practiced confidence as Thérèse did—as deep trust in the mercy, love, and goodness of God? Maybe we would not have found ourselves in the position where good people participated in wars that killed over 100 million people in the twentieth century.
I am convinced that “the sin of the world” (John 1:29) is ignorant killing, and as we see today, we are destroying the world through our ignorance. We need to recognize our own personal and structural violence. The death instinct always comes from people who are unconscious, unaware, and indeed do not know what they are doing. Now we can hear Jesus on the cross and know why he said, “Forgive them, Father, they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). When we love, we do know what we are doing! Love, if it is actually love, is always a highly conscious act. We do evil when we slip into unconsciousness.
Thérèse learned the “science of love” not by willfully forcing herself to be loving, but by being aware of and learning from the times she was tempted to be unloving or overly attached to her own emotions. Brother Joe Schmidt brilliantly describes how God taught Thérèse to apply her initial weaknesses of self-consciousness and sensitivity to studying how to especially love the most unlovable of the sisters with whom she spent nine years in the convent. Then that widened to loving the whole world. Schmidt writes:
Through prayerful self-reflection on her spiritual journey, Thérèse came to know the depth of her self-centeredness, the extent of her God-inspired desires, and the role and significance of her thoughts, acts, and feelings in the spiritual life. Thérèse had a great self-confidence in her ability to be honest with herself and an enormous intuitive capacity about the ways of human and divine love. Under the microscope of prayer, in her self-awareness, she came to learn universal truths about love: how love originates, how it is nourished or blocked, and how it grows. Her life became a microcosm of love, her teaching, a school of love. [2]

Thérèse has emerged as a primary teacher for many Christians throughout the world, Catholic and Protestant, lay persons, ministers, and formal religious. Many of us just think she “got it!” And then she gets you!

Gateway to Silence:
We are all one with You.

——————

The Vision and The Reality
By Oswald Chambers

…to those who are…called to be saints… —1 Corinthians 1:2

Thank God for being able to see all that you have not yet been. You have had the vision, but you are not yet to the reality of it by any means. It is when we are in the valley, where we prove whether we will be the choice ones, that most of us turn back. We are not quite prepared for the bumps and bruises that must come if we are going to be turned into the shape of the vision. We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered into the shape of the vision to be used by God? The beatings will always come in the most common, everyday ways and through common, everyday people.

There are times when we do know what God’s purpose is; whether we will let the vision be turned into actual character depends on us, not on God. If we prefer to relax on the mountaintop and live in the memory of the vision, then we will be of no real use in the ordinary things of which human life is made. We have to learn to live in reliance upon what we saw in the vision, not simply live in ecstatic delight and conscious reflection upon God. This means living the realities of our lives in the light of the vision until the truth of the vision is actually realized in us. Every bit of our training is in that direction. Learn to thank God for making His demands known.

Our little “I am” always sulks and pouts when God says do. Let your little “I am” be shriveled up in God’s wrath and indignation— “I AM WHO I AM…has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). He must dominate. Isn’t it piercing to realize that God not only knows where we live, but also knows the gutters into which we crawl! He will hunt us down as fast as a flash of lightning. No human being knows human beings as God does.

Therese of Lisieux Mysticism Week 2

October 3rd, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Thérèse of Lisieux, Part I
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) has long been an important teacher for me. The French Catholic Church of her time emphasized an ideal of human perfection, which took the forms of legalism, perfectionism, and immense self-preoccupation. Yet Thérèse humbly trusted her own experience, as mystics must always do, and taught the spirituality of imperfection instead. She called it her “Little Way.”

Thérèse is one of my favorite mystics, perhaps because I am an Enneagram Type One. The trap for the One is a self-created perfectionism, which makes us always dissatisfied and disappointed in just about everything, starting with ourselves. Our inner critic is quite well-trained and practiced, and it takes years of inner work to recognize how completely this critical worldview impairs our perception and keeps us from our natural compassion. We eventually see that we are not really loving God or others, but merely our own self-image.

Thérèse has often helped me in this inner work. As Brother Joseph Schmidt writes:

Thérèse shifted her focus more and more from attaining perfection or acquiring holiness to the attitude of the publican (see Luke 18:9-14): She let God’s mercy be her perfection, her holiness. “I desire, in a word, to be a saint,” she prayed, “but I feel my helplessness and I beg you—Oh my God!—to be Yourself my Sanctity!” [All true holiness is mirrored and reflected, and Thérèse allowed herself to enjoy that.]

“Jesus, draw me into the flames of your love,” she wrote. “Unite me so closely with you that you live and act in me.” [1]

These prayerful sentiments expressed her solution to the problem of perfection. Thérèse came to a complete reversal of her original idea of what it means to be on the path of holiness and undid centuries of Catholic legalism. And against all odds, this 24-year-old, formally uneducated French woman, has now been declared a “Doctor of the Church” (meaning her teaching is entirely trustworthy). She showed many of us that Gospel holiness has little to do with moral achievements or the elimination of defects (those are ego needs). It is almost entirely about receiving God’s free gift of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. We know God by participation in God, not by trying to please God from afar. Please think long and happily about that! “Let the one who would boast, boast in God,” as Paul says (1 Corinthians 1:31). It is our faults and our weakness that bring us to God, not our perfection and our strength. What a surprise for most people! I believe this is the heart of the Gospel.

Gateway to Silence:
We are all one with You.

____________________________________________

The Place of Ministry By Oswald Chambers

 He said to them, “This kind [of unclean spirit] can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” —Mark 9:29
 “His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ ” (Mark 9:28). The answer lies in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “This kind can come out by nothing but” concentrating on Him, and then doubling and redoubling that concentration on Him. We can remain powerless forever, as the disciples were in this situation, by trying to do God’s work without concentrating on His power, and by following instead the ideas that we draw from our own nature. We actually slander and dishonor God by our very eagerness to serve Him without knowing Him.

When you are brought face to face with a difficult situation and nothing happens externally, you can still know that freedom and release will be given because of your continued concentration on Jesus Christ. Your duty in service and ministry is to see that there is nothing between Jesus and yourself. Is there anything between you and Jesus even now? If there is, you must get through it, not by ignoring it as an irritation, or by going up and over it, but by facing it and getting through it into the presence of Jesus Christ. Then that very problem itself, and all that you have been through in connection with it, will glorify Jesus Christ in a way that you will never know until you see Him face to face.

We must be able to “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31), but we must also know how to come down. The power of the saint lies in the coming down and in the living that is done in the valley. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and what he was referring to were mostly humiliating things. And yet it is in our power to refuse to be humiliated and to say, “No, thank you, I much prefer to be on the mountaintop with God.” Can I face things as they actually are in the light of the reality of Jesus Christ, or do things as they really are destroy my faith in Him, and put me into a panic?

Julian of Norwich, Part II

October 2nd, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Julian of Norwich, Part II (Richard Rohr)

The place which Jesus takes in our soul he will nevermore vacate, for in us is his home of homes, and it is the greatest delight for him to dwell there. . . . And the soul who thus contemplates is made like [the one] who is contemplated. —Julian of Norwich [1]
On that day, you will know that you are in me and I am in you. —John 14:20
“That day” John refers to has been a long time in coming, yet it has been the enduring message of every great religion in history. It is the Perennial Tradition. Divine and thus universal union is still the core message and promise—the whole goal and the entire point of all religion.
Lady Julian of Norwich uses the idea of “oneing” to describe divine union. She writes:
The soul is preciously knitted to him in its making, by a knot so subtle and so mighty that it is oned into God. In this oneing, it is made endlessly holy. Furthermore, he wants us to know that all the souls which are one day to be saved in heaven without end are knit in this same knot and oned in this oneing, and made holy in this one identical holiness. [2]
Julian says, “By myself I am nothing at all, but in general, I am in the oneing of love. For it is in this oneing that the life of all people exists.” [3] She continues: “The love of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another person” [4], and “In the sight of God all humans are oned, and one person is all people.” [5]
This is not some 21st century leap forward in theology. This is not pantheism or mere “New Age” optimism. This is the whole point and always has been. It was, indeed, supposed to usher in a new age—and it still can and will. Radical union is the recurring experience of the saints and mystics of all religions. Our job is not to first discover it, but only to retrieve what has been re-discovered—and enjoyed, again and again—by those who desire and seek God and love. When you think you have “discovered” it, you will be just like Jacob “when he awoke from his sleep” and shouted, “You were here all the time, and I never knew it!” (Genesis 28:16).

Gateway to Silence:
We are all one with You.

—————————————-

The Place of Humiliation
By Oswald Chambers

If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. —Mark 9:22
After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God— that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him. Peter thought it would be a wonderful thing for them to remain on the mountain, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mountain and into the valley, where the true meaning of the vision was explained (see Mark 9:5-6, Mark 9:14-23).
“If you can do anything….” It takes the valley of humiliation to remove the skepticism from us. Look back at your own experience and you will find that until you learned who Jesus really was, you were a skillful skeptic about His power. When you were on the mountaintop you could believe anything, but what about when you were faced with the facts of the valley? You may be able to give a testimony regarding your sanctification, but what about the thing that is a humiliation to you right now? The last time you were on the mountain with God, you saw that all the power in heaven and on earth belonged to Jesus— will you be skeptical now, simply because you are in the valley of humiliation?

Mysticism

September 29th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Mysticism: Week 1

Meister Eckhart, Part II
Friday, September 29, 2017

What is life? God’s being is my life. —Meister Eckhart [1]

Meister Eckhart illustrates the height of western non-dualism. This is why he is largely impossible to understand with our usual dualistic mind. When Eckhart says, “Let us pray to God that we may be free of God,” [2] our logical mind would see this as nonsense! It takes unitive consciousness to discover what Eckhart means. There is no concept of God that can contain God. Your present notion of God is never God. As Augustine said, “If you comprehend it, it is not God.” [3] We can only come to know God as we let go of our ideas about God, and what is not God, is slowly stripped away.

Before transformation, you pray to God. After transformation you pray through God, as official Christian prayers say: “Through Christ our Lord. Amen!” Before radical conversion, you pray to God as if God were over there, an object like all other objects. After conversion (con-vertere, to turn around or to turn with), you look out from God with eyes other than your own. As Meister Eckhart stated it in one of his sermons, “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love.” [4] All we humans are doing is allowing God to “complete the circuit” within us—until we see from the same perspective. This is the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which will be experienced as a “spiritual revolution” in thinking (Ephesians 4:22).

Michael Demkovich, a Dominican priest and scholar, explains: “It is through our coming to know the truest self that we are transformed into something divine. Eckhart’s notion of deiformity, a person’s conformity to this underlying reality of Godliness, is critical in his understanding . . . of the soul.” [5] Eckhart did not see the soul as dualistically opposed to the body, but as a guide to the body’s experience. Because God took on a human body in Christ and is present within humanity, the body is sacred. In his preaching, Eckhart uses a verbal illustration, exemplum, of eating to illustrate the body-soul relationship: “The food that I eat is united with my body just as my body is with my soul. My body and my soul are united in one being . . . and this typifies that great union we are destined to have with God, in one being.” [6]

You can see why much of the dualistic church was just not ready for dear Meister Eckhart, and thus he was never canonized a saint. But he is still a “Meister”! When copying one of Eckhart’s most famous sermons, an anonymous scribe praised him as “one from whom God hid nothing.” [7]

Gateway to Silence:
Practice being present.

__________________________________________________

Oswald Chambers

The Awareness of the Call

for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! —1 Corinthians 9:16

We are inclined to forget the deeply spiritual and supernatural touch of God. If you are able to tell exactly where you were when you received the call of God and can explain all about it, I question whether you have truly been called. The call of God does not come like that; it is much more supernatural. The realization of the call in a person’s life may come like a clap of thunder or it may dawn gradually. But however quickly or slowly this awareness comes, it is always accompanied with an undercurrent of the supernatural— something that is inexpressible and produces a “glow.” At any moment the sudden awareness of this incalculable, supernatural, surprising call that has taken hold of your life may break through— “I chose you…” (John 15:16). The call of God has nothing to do with salvation and sanctification. You are not called to preach the gospel because you are sanctified; the call to preach the gospel is infinitely different. Paul describes it as a compulsion that was placed upon him.

If you have ignored, and thereby removed, the great supernatural call of God in your life, take a review of your circumstances. See where you have put your own ideas of service or your particular abilities ahead of the call of God. Paul said, “…woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” He had become aware of the call of God, and his compulsion to “preach the gospel” was so strong that nothing else was any longer even a competitor for his strength.

If a man or woman is called of God, it doesn’t matter how difficult the circumstances may be. God orchestrates every force at work for His purpose in the end. If you will agree with God’s purpose, He will bring not only your conscious level but also all the deeper levels of your life, which you yourself cannot reach, into perfect harmony for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! —1 Corinthians 9:16

Hildegard of Bingen

September 27th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Hildegard of Bingen (Richard Rohr)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Throughout the ages, the mystics have kept alive the awareness of our union with God and thus with everything. What some now call creation spirituality, deep salvation, or the holistic Gospel was voiced long ago by the Desert Fathers and Mothers, some Eastern Fathers, in the spirituality of the ancient Celts, by many of the Rhineland mystics, and surely by Francis of Assisi. [1] Many women mystics were not even noticed, I am sorry to say. Julian of Norwich (c. 1343–c. 1416) and Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) would be two major exceptions (though even they have often been overlooked).

Hildegard of Bingen communicated creation spirituality through music, art, poetry, medicine, gardening, and reflections on nature. She wrote in her famous book, Scivias: “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.” [2]

This is key to understanding Hildegard and is very similar to Teresa of Ávila’s view of the soul. Without using the word, Hildegard recognized that the human person is a microcosm with a natural affinity for or resonance with the macrocosm, which many of us would call God. Our little world reflects the big world. The key word here is resonance. Contemplative prayer allows your mind to resonate with what is visible and right in front of you. Contemplation is the end of all loneliness because it erases the separateness between the seer and the seen.

Hildegard spoke often of viriditas, the greening of things from within, analogous to what we now call photosynthesis. She saw that there was a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform it into energy and life. She recognized that there is also an inherent connection between the physical world and the divine Presence. This connection translates into inner energy that is the soul and seed of everything, an inner voice calling you to “Become who you are; become all that you are.” This is our “life wish” or “whole-making instinct.”

Hildegard is a wonderful example of someone who lives safely inside an entire cosmology, a universe where the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner, where the individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. Hildegard says, “O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which every thing that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” [3] It is truly a Trinitarian universe, with all things whirling toward one another from orbits, to gravity, to ecosystems, to sexuality.

Gateway to Silence:
Practice being present.

————————–

The “Go” of Renunciation
By Oswald Chambers

…someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” —Luke 9:57

Our Lord’s attitude toward this man was one of severe discouragement, “for He knew what was in man” (John 2:25). We would have said, “I can’t imagine why He lost the opportunity of winning that man! Imagine being so cold to him and turning him away so discouraged!” Never apologize for your Lord. The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to be hurt or offended. Jesus Christ had no tenderness whatsoever toward anything that was ultimately going to ruin a person in his service to God. Our Lord’s answers were not based on some whim or impulsive thought, but on the knowledge of “what was in man.” If the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you can be sure that there is something in you that He wants to hurt to the point of its death.
Luke 9:58. These words destroy the argument of serving Jesus Christ because it is a pleasant thing to do. And the strictness of the rejection that He demands of me allows for nothing to remain in my life but my Lord, myself, and a sense of desperate hope. He says that I must let everyone else come or go, and that I must be guided solely by my relationship to Him. And He says, “…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Luke 9:59. This man did not want to disappoint Jesus, nor did he want to show a lack of respect for his father. We put our sense of loyalty to our relatives ahead of our loyalty to Jesus Christ, forcing Him to take last place. When your loyalties conflict, always obey Jesus Christ whatever the cost.
Luke 9:61. The person who says, “Lord, I will follow You, but…,” is the person who is intensely ready to go, but never goes. This man had reservations about going. The exacting call of Jesus has no room for good-byes; good-byes, as we often use them, are pagan, not Christian, because they divert us from the call. Once the call of God comes to you, start going and never stop.

Mysticism

September 26th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Full Participation
Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Jesus’ rather evident message of “full and final participation”—union with oneself, others, creation, and God—was probably only fully enjoyed by a small minority throughout history. Only contemplatives, whether conscious or “hidden,” know how to access unitive consciousness through their nondual and inclusive way of processing the moment.

Unfortunately, the monumental insights of the Axial Age (800-200 BC) began to wane, descending into the extreme headiness of some Scholastic philosophy (1100-1700), the antagonistic mind of most church reformations, and the rational literalism of the Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries). Although the reformations were inevitable, good, and necessary, they also ushered in the “desert of nonparticipation,” as Owen Barfield described, where hardly anyone belonged, few were at home in this world, and religion at its worst concentrated on excluding, condemning, threatening, judging, exploiting new lands and peoples, and controlling its own members by shame and guilt. This happened on the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant sides; the primary difference is what we shamed.

Despite some wonderful exceptions, we almost lost the “alternative processing system”—the nondual consciousness of the mystics. We just argued, proved, and disproved, the very opposite of the contemplative mind and heart. The ongoing and flowing life of the Trinity was unrecognized in most Christian spirituality, leaving us defeated at our very foundations.

Karl Jaspers, Owen Barfield, and Ewert Cousins (1927-2009), each in his own way, foresaw the coming of a Second Axial Consciousness, when the best of each era—pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational—would combine and work together. We live in such a time now! In this consciousness, we can make use of the unique contribution of every era to enjoy intuitive and body knowledge, along with rational critique and deeper synthesis, thus encouraging both intelligent and heartfelt participation “with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30).

Duane Elgin describes the difference between the first and second axial age as follows:

[T]he first axial age began with a view of separation and the “other.” In a world of growing individualism and differentiation [and violence], the religious emphasis on compassion served as a vital bridge between people [and the divine]. Now, a second major axis with a very different orientation is opening in the world. Religions of separation are becoming religions of communion as we realize there is no place to go where we are separate from the ever-generative womb of the living universe.

The second axial age begins with a recognition emerging from the combined wisdom of both science and spirituality; namely, that we are already home—that the living universe already exists within us as much as we live within it. In the words of theologian, Thomas Berry, “The universe is a communion and a community. We ourselves are that communion become conscious of itself.” Compassion remains a vital element of spirituality, but it is now being held increasingly within a context of communion rather than separation. [1]

Amen. May it be so.

__________________________________________________________________

The “Go” of Reconciliation

By Oswald Chambers

If you…remember that your brother has something against you… —Matthew 5:23

This verse says, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you….” It is not saying, “If you search and find something because of your unbalanced sensitivity,” but, “If you…remember….” In other words, if something is brought to your conscious mind by the Spirit of God— “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24). Never object to the intense sensitivity of the Spirit of God in you when He is instructing you down to the smallest detail.

“First be reconciled to your brother….” Our Lord’s directive is simple— “First be reconciled….” He says, in effect, “Go back the way you came— the way indicated to you by the conviction given to you at the altar; have an attitude in your mind and soul toward the person who has something against you that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing.” Jesus does not mention the other person— He says for you to go. It is not a matter of your rights. The true mark of the saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus.

“…and then come and offer your gift.” The process of reconciliation is clearly marked. First we have the heroic spirit of self-sacrifice, then the sudden restraint by the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit, and then we are stopped at the point of our conviction. This is followed by obedience to the Word of God, which builds an attitude or state of mind that places no blame on the one with whom you have been in the wrong. And finally there is the glad, simple, unhindered offering of your gift to God.

The Evolution of Consciousness

September 25th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

The Evolution of Consciousness
Monday, September 25, 2017 (Richard Rohr)

Let’s take a look at the history of mysticism to find our roots and see how we had it, how and why we largely lost it, and to recognize that now we are in the midst of a rediscovery and new appreciation for the mystical, nondual, or contemplative mind (use whichever word you prefer; they are all pointing in the same direction).
Before 800 BC, it seems most people experienced their union with the Divine and Reality through myth, poetry, dance, music, fertility, and nature. Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) called this Pre-axial Consciousness. Although living in an often-violent world and focusing on survival, people still knew that they belonged to something cosmic and meaningful. They inherently participated in an utterly enchanted universe where the “supernatural” was everywhere. This was the pre-existent “church that existed since Abel,” spoken of by St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, and the Second Vatican Council. Owen Barfield (1898-1997) called this state of mind “original participation.” [1] It is reflected in most of the indigenous religions to this day. As Pope John Paul II said, Native Americans have known from the beginning what it’s taking us Catholics a long time to realize: that the Great Spirit has always been available and loveable in the natural world. [2]
What Jaspers calls Axial Consciousness [3] emerged worldwide with the Eastern sages, the Jewish prophets, and the Greek philosophers, all coalescing around 500 BC. This consciousness laid the foundations of all the world’s religions and major philosophies. It was the birth of systematic and conceptual thought. In the East, it often took the form of holistic thinking—found in Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism—which allowed people to experience forms of participation with reality, themselves, and the divine. In the West, the Greek genius gave us a kind of mediated participation through thought, reason, and philosophy. Many people seemed to have enjoyed very real unity with the Divine on many levels. “The Presence” has been with us since “the Spirit hovered over the void” (Genesis 1:1). There is little evidence that God took a vacation from Creation anytime afterward.
Among the people called Israel there was a growing and dramatic realization, perhaps as early as 1200 BC, of intimate union and even group participation with God. They recognized enlightened persons like Moses or Isaiah, but they did something more. Many Hebrew prophets widened the notion of participation to the Jewish group and beyond. The people as a whole were being drawn into this “Divine Espousal”; participation was historical and communal, not just individual. Only the whole could hold and maintain the realization of union with the divine. It is, and always has been, too much for an isolated individual. Yet during recent centuries, we have constricted God and ourselves to a path for personal salvation, with tragic results.
Both the Hebrew Scriptures and experience created a matrix into which a new awareness could be communicated. Jesus soon offered the world full and final participation: union with God, union with neighbor, union with creation, union with oneself, and even union with enemy. The net and sweep of participation was total. Given this, it is so sad and strange that we created a Christian religion with many separate denominations; we are too often known for elitism, boundary-keeping, shaming, and exclusion. We have not been well practiced in union, yet it was meant to be our art form!

Gateway to Silence:
Practice being present.

——————————-

The “Go” of Relationship
By Oswald Chambers

Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. —Matthew 5:41
Our Lord’s teaching can be summed up in this: the relationship that He demands for us is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. Jesus Christ demands that His disciple does not allow even the slightest trace of resentment in his heart when faced with tyranny and injustice. No amount of enthusiasm will ever stand up to the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His servant. Only one thing will bear the strain, and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself— a relationship that has been examined, purified, and tested until only one purpose remains and I can truly say, “I am here for God to send me where He will.” Everything else may become blurred, but this relationship with Jesus Christ must never be.
The Sermon on the Mount is not some unattainable goal; it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has changed my nature by putting His own nature in me. Jesus Christ is the only One who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.
If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must be made disciples supernaturally. And as long as we consciously maintain the determined purpose to be His disciples, we can be sure that we are not disciples. Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). That is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we can never escape; we can disobey it, but we can never start it or produce it ourselves. We are drawn to God by a work of His supernatural grace, and we can never trace back to find where the work began. Our Lord’s making of a disciple is supernatural. He does not build on any natural capacity of ours at all. God does not ask us to do the things that are naturally easy for us— He only asks us to do the things that we are perfectly fit to do through His grace, and that is where the cross we must bear will always come.