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God Is Eternally Giving Away God

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Grace: Week 1

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National September 11 South pool, New York, New York, April 2012. Photograph by NormanB.

Monday, January 25, 2016 – (Feast of St. Paul, the Apostle of Grace)

It is by grace that you are saved, through faith, not by anything of your own, but by a pure gift from God, and not by anything you have achieved. Nobody can claim the credit. You are God’s work of art. –Ephesians 2:8

By grace you notice, nothing to do with good deeds, or grace would not be grace at all. –Romans 11:6

Happy are those servants whom the master finds awake. I tell you he will put on an apron, sit them down at table, and wait on them. –Luke 12:37

I think grace, arising from God’s limitless love, is the central theme of the entire Bible. It is the divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually undetected as such, and often even undesired. This grace was defined even in the old Baltimore Catechism as “that which confers on our souls a new life, that is, a sharing in the life of God himself [sic].” [1] We always knew it on paper, but much less in experience and conviction.

In the parable of the watchful servants (Luke 12:35-40), God is actually presented as waiting on us–in the middle of the night! In fact, we see God as both our personal servant inside our house and the divine burglar who has to “break through the walls of [our] house.” That’s really quite extraordinary and not our usual image of God. It shows how much God–the “Hound of Heaven,” as Francis Thompson says–wants to get to us and how unrelenting is the work of grace.

Unless and until you understand the biblical concept of God’s unmerited favor, God’s unaccountable love, most of the biblical text cannot be interpreted or tied together in any positive way. It is, without doubt, the key and the code to everything transformative in the Bible. People who have not experienced the radical character of grace will always misinterpret the meanings and major direction of the Bible. The Bible will become a burden, obligation, and weapon more than a gift.

Grace cannot be understood by any ledger of merits and demerits. It cannot be held to patterns of buying, losing, earning, achieving, or manipulating, which is where, unfortunately, most of us live our lives. Grace is, quite literally, “for the taking.” It is God eternally giving away God–for nothing–except the giving itself. I believe grace is the life energy that makes flowers bloom, animals lovingly raise their young, babies smile, and the planets remain in their orbits–for no good reason whatsoever–except love alone.


Gateway to Silence
Open me to grace upon grace upon grace.


References:
[1] The New Baltimore Catechism of yesteryear; the more recent catechisms say essentially the same thing.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2007), 155-156.

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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Where Do We Live… Really?

spiral-galaxy-ngc1300-nasa-1600Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. [Philippians 4:4-9]

Christians are (or should be) in the “Rejoicing Business”. Our task is to share the Gospel, the Good News of hope, loving one another unconditionally. Paul encourages us to joy. He addresses aloneness first, assuring us that the Lord is near. He addresses our fear and anxiety next, commending us to make our requests with prayer, supplication and thanks. Once we do so, he assures us, the incomprehensible peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

Isn’t that amazing? What a simple instruction… don’t be anxious but in everything, offer up prayer with thanks… and peace will guard our hearts and minds.

Then Paul follows up this incredible promise with a more specific instruction, that we dwell on excellent and praiseworthy things. That we are to practice what we’ve learned from Paul, focus on the good and excellent, and thus the God of peace will be with us.

This rings deep with me for two reasons, and has suggested a question to me. I thought I’d share the question, and see what you think.

Most of my ministry is counseling. People come to see me when they lack joy in unbearable ways. That is the first reason this rang in me. I realize a strange thing. The people I see, people who hurt, are not generally “hurting in the present”. That is, they are not hurting from things of the “here and now”. The pain they feel comes from ideas they dwell upon. Usually, these are either memories of the past, or fears of the future. Whether divorce, family troubles, business failures, all ghosts from the past. Then there are the anxieties of the future… job worries, children, financial strains, all fears of future misfortunes. OR, even if the concerns are of the present, they are often based on people and decisions that are not HERE. People and decisions made by others elsewhere, about which we can do nothing.

Here’s the question… How much of our time, do we actually spend dwelling on the here and now, where God and grace are accessible to us? And how much do we spend either in regrets of the past, fears of the future, or stressing on things well beyond our ability to affect?

Here’s an amazing thing I’ve realized. “Joyful people” live mostly in the here and now, and focus on excellent and good things. Miserable people, do not.

The second point that made this so ring for me was actually a bit funny. This blog is the “Postmodern Mystic”, and much of my focus is meditation, contemplation, mental prayer. I get lots of questions about what these mean, what IS this, when I speak on it… people are curious, sometimes hungry, to engage in prayer of this sort. It is easy enough to “describe” or “define”, but not so easy to help people understand.

But I realized that this little Philippians passage is a wonderful description. I’ve admitted from time to time my challenge with “cat-herding”. My mind sometimes bounds from one topic to another in a rather “out of the box” stream of consciousness that usually links up to a general theme, without necessarily making sense in a chain-link fashion.

Bottom Line: When one follows Paul’s instruction here, God fulfills His promise. When/if one chooses to “dwell” upon the excellent, lovely, and good… then the Excellent/Lovely/Good “dwells back” and the mind/heart is not only guarded, but experiences joy and peace. These tend to be addictive on their own, and reinforce the practice. “Meditation/Contemplation” may well BEGIN as an effort and a discipline… but with just a bit of perseverance, they become joyful, attractive, peaceful and… well, frankly… habit-forming.

What do you think, Gentle Reader?

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Mysticism, Spirituality, and Sanity

spiral-galaxy-ngc1300-nasa-1600This is a super quick note about “inspiration”, or the experience of any expression of immediate relationship with the Divine.

When anyone speaks of “private revelation” (something God has revealed to an individual personally), most listeners become uncomfortable. There are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is how easy it is to mistake “delusion” for “illumination”.

To create rituals around immediate interface with God, religious practice, makes such encounters less disturbing. The free movements of an unrestrained  mob can be chaotic and frightening. People lined up neatly and organized in rows and columns, walking quietly in step and standard directions, can be comforting because they are more predictable.

Let us presume that the Holy Spirit desires, intends, and constantly works to bring a Christian to immediate experience of the presence, the love, and the communion of/with God. Further, let’s posit that a part of that communion, a fruit of that encounter, will be the urge to gather together for mutual encouragement and urging to love and works of grace. If this is so, then Church (as intended by the Spirit), results from the interior action of grace and inspiration of the Spirit. Church, thus, becomes far more an effect of closeness with God, rather than a cause.

Now, as a mental health professional of many years, I cannot express the ease with which delusions of various sorts… power, grandeur, messianic… and far more distasteful… can be intertwined with religion and spiritual concepts. Everything from the occult to radical cults… involve mental health delusions wrapped in religious trappings and claims of divine contact and inspiration. Some such claims are sincere, and part of the fantasy architecture of the sufferer. Others are habitual cloaking, masking simple sociopathy and power games, by exploiting the authoritarian structures of biblical language (usually predominantly Old Testament), to manage victims through guilt, shame, and misplaced piety.

Horrible acts of unspeakable cruelty and madness have been perpetrated by the insane, while invoking “personal revelation” as granting the authority and power of God over the wills and freedom of others.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So… how do we… how do Christians… reconcile these concerns?

How do we remain open to intimate and immediate presence and dialogue with God through His Spirit proclaimed to speak to and teach us all we need to know… without risking delusion, misdirection, rupture of our boundaries of sanity? I mean, is every “interior voice” the voice of God?

No, we have the ability to hear many interior voices. There may be a voice to the Holy Spirit, but also inspiration of darkness, voice of memory, imagination of possibilities and internal argumentation of logic… Depending on how verbal we are in personality, we may have entire dialogues going on.

We are to “test the spirits”…

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. [1 John 4:1-6]

Our caution is based on the (appropriate) fear of being misled, deluded, by a spirit of error, of falsehood, of the world, of the antichrist. But John counsels us to courage, to wisdom, and discernment. He does not say to close off and ignore “prayer of locution” (the technical name for hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit), but that we learn to distinguish inspiration of God from other possibilities.

Here are some principles that can help one be confident in discernment and secure in grace and sanity.

  • The counsels of 1 Corinthians 13 all hold true for inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God never counsels contrary to His nature.
  • Prompting of holy inspiration glorifies God, exalts God, and humbles the self. When God inspires, you will not feel “puffed up” in the experience, but rather awestruck with wonder and amazement at His kindness and the grace of it all.
  • Prompting of holy inspiration fosters love and charity towards others, and a sense of (for lack of a better term) “heart of Christmas giving, rather than receiving” towards others. There is a sense of “communion” and “caritas… charity… towards others”, rather than any sense of entitlement.
  • Holy inspiration, spoken from the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, is always reflected in the walk and ministry of Christ as revealed in the Gospels. If an inspiration is not consistent with what Jesus does, did, or would do or say… it lacks consistency with Jesus, and is best dismissed.
  • There is a sense of authority and recognition to the inspiration. As Jesus said “I know My sheep and they know Me, and they hear My voice.” There is a sense of affirmation of spirit to direction of the Holy Spirit.

So, three questions to “test the spirits”…

  • Does the inspiration glorify God, or me? Does it appeal to my ego and leave me puffed up? Or does it give life more abundant to others?
  • Is the inspiration consistent with Jesus of the Gospels? His words? His walk?
  • Does the Spirit within me grant a sense of affirmation that this urging is of Him?

If any of those are missing, it may not mean that the inspiration is not of God, but it does mean that we are not yet attuned enough to its truth to act upon it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And here I will close. Lots more could be said, but I really just wanted to address that Christians can be so hesitant in “listening to Him” because of a healthy caution about delusion. We can trust Him. When we seek Him, determined to obey Him but not the enemy… He honors this, and will grant clarity.

Discussion more than welcome… Grace to thee, Gentle Reader! — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Whole Making

Weir, Julian Alden, Knitting for Soldiers, 1918. The Phillips Collection.

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Oneing

Whole-Making

Sunday, November 16, 2014

One of my favorite mystics is called Julian of Norwich. We don’t know her real name. She is simply named after the church in Norwich, England—St. Julian’s—where she had her little anchor-hold. One window of her small room looked into the sanctuary for mass and another opened to the street where the people would come by for her counsel and prayer. Julian experienced her “showings,” as she called them, on the night of May 8, 1373. Then she lived in the anchor-hold for twenty years, trying to process and communicate what she had experienced on that one night. Julian wrote about these showings in her book Revelations of Divine Love, the first book published in English by a woman.Julian experienced and wrote of a compassionate, relational, and joyful God. She writes: “For before he made us, he loved us; and when we were made, we loved him. And this is our substantial goodness, the substantial goodness in us of the Holy Spirit. It is nothing we create; it is our substance. God revealed to me that there may and there will be nothing at all between God and the soul. And in this endless love, the human soul is kept whole as all the matter of creation is kept whole.”Julian uses the Middle English word “oneing” to describe this whole-making work of God. God is always oneing everything: making twos and threes and fours and divisions and dichotomies and dualisms into one. As she explains, “God wants us to know that this beloved soul that we are is preciously knitted to him in its making by a knot so subtle and so mighty that it is oned with 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 united in this same union, and made holy in this one identical holiness.”

Adapted from Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 7
(CD, MP3 download)

Gateway to Silence:

We are one in God.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Participating in Divinity – Redux

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474I just reblogged Richard Rohr’s amazing post.

This one just stunned me… for two reasons.

Believe this or not, I do NOT tailor my writing to his posts. Nonetheless I am constantly amazed by how often we seem to be saying the same things at around the same time.

The first element that startled me was that Fr. Richard here expresses so very clearly the idea I try to communicate (with much less clarity)… that we ARE redeemed, transformed, adopted, embraced, miraculously fashioned children of God… quite awesome creatures in the tableau of the cosmos. But that we are not (for the most part) AWARE of this.

Why is this so? How can this be? How can someone be a divine and royal prince/princess and not know or experience it? Well, the easiest answer is that we just don’t know. Either we’ve not been told, or if we’ve been told, we don’t understand or believe the message.

For me, the Gospel is such incredibly Good News… vastly beyond our imaginings or expectations. Not only are we “saved”, “rescued” from bondage, made free when we had been enslaved… not only that… But having been fashioned initially by God, then tainted with the stain/illusions of Original Sin, we are then embraced… transmuted like lead to gold… and imbued with our legacy and adoption as children and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ by the implantation of the Holy Spirit within our core.

Jesus spent significant time and attention describing all this to his companion disciples/friends at the end of the Gospel of John. He took care to specify that these truths were to apply not only to them, but to all who believed because of their words.

And yet, why does this not seem to bring about the reality of the Kingdom of God on earth, in our societies, among our cultures? I mean, if the Lord’s salvation brings about this “repopulation” of our communities with living, breathing, walking vessels of Him… why don’t we see this, hear this, experience this happening all around us?

I think Symeon put his finger on it. There is this vast difference between the “IS” as God speaks it forth and makes it… and what WE subjectively perceive, believe, and experience.

How can this be true, you ask? How can a person be transformed into the living vessel of the resurrected Christ, and not know it, feel it, experience it?

It has always seemed this way to me…

What if a man walked up to you one day and handed you a lottery ticket as he said, “Here is a winning lottery ticket for you. You can redeem this for $25 Million. This is a gift from Me to you. Farewell.” He walks away as you stand there staring at this piece of paper in your hand, with an official state seal and some numbers printed on it.

Now… what ARE you?

You… are a millionaire. Assume that the ticket is valid, and you are a bona fide, official, millionaire.

That’s one way of looking at it.

But another way is…

You are a confused person, standing still, staring at a piece of paper, wondering if a crazy man has just walked up and handed you a bit of trash litter.

Are you a millionaire? Well… yes and no. You ARE, in an “objective” sense. What resources are now officially at your command, define you as a millionaire. Yet, by the same token, you are not. Because you don’t experience it, you don’t believe it, you don’t perceive any of that change.This is not yet true in a “subjective” sense.

There are steps you must now take to “actualize” this change, to make this change subjectively really true, actual, and experiential for yourself. Until you perceive this as true, it is not yet true to you and for you.

To me, a multitude of Christians walk all around us, every day… unconscious of their “adoption papers”, “new identity”, and “lottery ticket” in their pockets. Jesus has walked up to them, they have encountered and embraced Him (at least with a polite handshake), and He has handed them their new life documents. But with a sort of dazed look, one after another of us just have this “too good to be true! Cannot be!” reaction. Rather than grasping our new and regal status with both hands, we sort of talk ourselves out of it, back up to a vastly more comfortable position of much less responsibility and accountability, and settle back into a herd, to chant with a group to be made worthy to be admitted to this Kingdom wherein we’ve already been made nobility.

Like the story of Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus, one enters the presence of the King only by his sufferance. To enter unbidden is to invite death from which only his pardon can grant rescue. Here we are in the presence of The King, upon whose face it is death to look. And, beyond being granted grace to live, He grants us adoption as sons whereby we can cry out “Abba! Daddy!” and climb up into His lap! Whenever we choose! Who can imagine this?

This matter of our oneness, adoption, and inclusion into the divine nature is/was the first point of overlap I noticed between Fr. Richard’s notes on Symeon and some of my posts. The second was the illustration of the match flame, the fire, in “When One plus One equals One”.

When God draws us into Himself in moments of “identity-free prayer”… that some call contemplation, or mental prayer, or transcendental meditation… there can be  the phenomenon of entering into the divine very much like touching the Consuming Fire (by His invitation) with our own lamp on our lampstand. The question very much becomes, when two fires meld into one, where are the boundaries? When a match flame joins a conflagration, which one is which afterwards?

When a torch or lamp is lit from a mighty fire, how much of the “mighty” flamage enters into and onto the torch? To what extent is the torch changed, or the torchlight improved, from the encounter?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Comments welcome! This could be a fun discussion!

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2014 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Remember: Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

Sabbath Meditation

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Remember
: Compassion

The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it IS compassion already. (Sunday)

Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended” can we immediately stand with and for the other. (Monday)

The gaze of compassion, looking out at life from the place of Divine Intimacy, is really all I have, and all I have to give.
(Tuesday)

True prayer or contemplation is a leap into commonality and community. (Wednesday)

Compassion and patience are the absolutely unique characteristics of true spiritual authority. (Thursday)

The compassionate holding of seeming meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does in hanging on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all dualisms and dichotomies. (Friday)

Rest: Tonglen

Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön, shares the practice of tonglen as a way of holding suffering and awakening compassion:

“In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.

“In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean—you name it—to have compassion and to care for these people, means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves . . . . Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one’s heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.

“The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering—ours and that which is all around us—everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, no matter how cruel or cold we might seem to be.

“We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy, or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in others’ pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness, happens to be at that moment.

“At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it—a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness, or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in—for all of us and send out relief to all of us.

“. . . [You] can do tonglen for all the people who are just like you, for everyone who wishes to be compassionate but instead is afraid, for everyone who wishes to be brave but instead is a coward. . . .

“Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

“Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.”

Adapted from “The Practice of Tonglen” by Pema Chödrön,
Shambhala.org

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
 

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The Cross as Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

The Cross as Compassion

Friday, July 4, 2014

Each worldview has its own folly and its own form of wisdom, and Paul says the cross has challenged both and comes out with the best and most honest answer—precisely because it incorporates the tragic (the irrational, absurd, and sinful) and uses it for good purposes. The Christian perspective can absorb and appreciate paradox—which is order within disorder, redemption through tragedy, resurrection through death, divinity through humanity.

For Paul, therefore, the cross and its transformative power is his summary symbol for the depths of divine wisdom, which seems like mere “folly” to the “masters of every age” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The compassionate holding of essential meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all the dualisms and dichotomies that we ourselves must face in our own lives. We are thus “saved by the cross”!

Paradox held and overcome is the beginning of training in non-dual thinking or contemplation, as opposed to paradox denied, which forces us to choose only one part of any mysterious truth. Such a choice will be false because we usually choose the one that serves our small purposes. Who would ever choose the cross? Yet life often demands it of us anyway. Would anyone will or wish their child to be born with a mental or physical disability? Yet how many such families rise to very high levels of love and compassion? Paul offers a new wisdom that challenges both “Jews and Greeks” (read: religious conservatives and secular liberals) in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25.

Conversion, therefore, is not joining a different group, but seeing with the eyes of the crucified. The cross is Paul’s philosopher’s stone or “codebreaker” for any lasting spiritual liberation. God can save sincere people of faith inside of any system or religion, if only they can be patient,trusting, and compassionate in the presence of human misery or failure,especially their own. This is life’s essential journey. These trustful ones have surrendered to Christ, very often without needing to use the precise word “Christ” at all (Matthew 7:21). It is the active doing and not the correct saying that matters.

Adapted from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi,
pp. 75-76

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 

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