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Almost all the great teachers say something to this effect: “Do not judge.”

But great teachers aren’t asking us to turn off our common sense and our rational minds; they are pointing to something deeper.

The great teachers are saying  that you cannot start seeing or understanding anything if you start with “No.”

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now

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We must be first open to life.  For life is the gift we receive and we are (everyone one of us) recipients of life.

Life teaches.  Life is the pre-eminent teacher.  To live life is to start with “Yes.”  “Yes” affirms life and the gift and Give-Giver and our basic shared identity as human beings … sacred vessels.

It has been said that one only knows what one has first loved.  It is in the “Yes” to life itself that allows us to see, and know, and grow, understand and experience more fully.  The “Yes” avows that in receiving life, we love life and the Gift-Giver.

Absent “Yes” one tracks to divide, distort and isolate.  The need to hide or control, deceive and argue soon flourishes when the fundamental “Yes” is denied, ignored.

Absent the primary “Yes,” as Rohr reminds, we are confinded to the shallows of fickled infatuation (from the Latin meaning “false fire”) not the indispensible breath of Love.

You see nothing can be known in its proper form without that First “Yes.”

The “First Yes” brings us to the fullness of human experience – life itself, our True Self, others, The Gift and The Gift Giver.

Shalom.

 

The life of the spirit is not your life, but the life of God within us.

St. Teresa of Availa, in Life Written by Herself

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Spirirual growth is aided significantly when we allow questions to arise in us.  What might that mean?

When something happens to us that we cannot quite understand, or when we experience something that is puzzling, even hurtful or disorienting – or something quite suprising and quite unexpected, it is good to pause and spend time asking yourself – what just happened?  Ask – why did that happen and what does it mean or what does it tell or teach me about life, others, interactions, me and the nature and history of my personal journey and the themes that have thus far emerged in my life?

In becoming familiar with your spiritual journey, you become familiar with yourself, your potential, your present personal settings as they orient you (most likely) partially to what is within you, what is your whole and presently unlived story.  And more to the point, in this questioning, you become wiser, more secure and find a relationship with God – your Creator.

Our journey is not so much about complete comprehension as it is about mystery – allowing the presence of mystery, and gaining stability in knowing not all things, but rather that – in growing in Spirit we need not know all things but only that all things are possible, even the things that we least expect and cannot predict.  In this state, we depart from the common installation of those things that are not certain – our identity in politics, career, education, title, wealth, status, political party, ideology, possessions, habits, gender, sexuality “identity,” etc.

Remember as to the Spirit and spiritual development – we do not and cannot unilaterally craft a life; to attempt to do so is bound to lead to frustration, chaos, unhappiness and failure.

In parting, I remind you of Mother Mary: “[Mary] was deeply disturbed [by the words of the angel] and wondered what they might mean.  Luke: 1:29 (Emphasis added.)

Ask questions.  Aim them particularly at yourself.  In this, you grow in the Spirit and peace, understanding and wisdom emerge.

Shalom.

 

It is living in the naked moment, the “sacrament of the present moment,” that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us.  Words by themselves will invariably divide the moment; pure present lets it be what it is, as it is.

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now

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There are many things in our present culture that day by day, hour by hour keep us from the full experience of the human experience.  Yes, words can distract and the voices of ideologues always do damage – as do the torrent of visual images present in our lives and relentless intrusion of technology and all things digital taken to extremes.

Life is far simpler.  Not all meals need be excessive indulgences that morph us into shapes and sizes heretofore not known in human history.

Fix you eye, and heart and mind on the experience of human experience as known throughout the ages by mystics and peasants alike.  Stay in the moment, beware of all the yesterdays in your life and in time that hath come before us … yes, those moments long before your mortal birth and all that awaits you beyond this mortal life … be at peace – angelic peace prevails and sits above all that is digression and divisive, alienating and destructive of self and others.

Shalom.

3:03 a.m. – how nice it is to awake in the full night of silence to think about faith

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Faith is a backward-looking virtue.  It concerns who we are … “the mystical chords of memory.”

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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In faith you are connected with those who have come before you – with a stream of being that reaches to the very distant past, the sacrifice of others, their fidelity.  Their story is our story.

In faith we belong to others – to Saint Peter and Saint John – to Abraham and Martha and Mary and Lazarus … to Aquinas, St. Augustine, to Simon of Cyrene, the men on the road to Emmaus – to centuries of faithful Jews and Christians.

In faith we have identity … a place in a long story that has no end.

In a world too often focused on the immediate, the immaterial, on desire, immersed in anxiety, loneliness, doubt and worry – we have in faith: certainty, confidence, cause, connection, and a call to life.

In faith we have as Aristotle says “another self,” – in faith is solidarity and union with one another now, in the past and in what is to come.  In faith we know love – a love that runs to what has come before, what is now, and what will be in all the tomorrows yet to come.

In faith, particular differences do not matter for the faith others possess is the faith we possess.  Ethnicity, race, age, social status, wealth and such do not matter to those who share a faith.

The broad identity of faith is the union of belief.  We are, in faith, what we believe.  Therein is our solace, our identity, our purpose, our meaning, our stability and our happiness.

Shalom.

1:05 a.m. – an early morning post … writing is like that … especially when you wonder about God and your relationship with Him … Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

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Holiness consist in simply doing God’s will, and being just what God wants you to be.

St. Therese de Lisieux

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The world today is a very troubling place.  I often feel overwhelmed by the division and hatred on display here.  For me, it is hard to comprehend why others choose to be so selfish, so lacking in patience and humility – so prone to anger and assertion, antagonism, hostility and discontent.

Yes, I ask myself: what is it to be holy in the world that surrounds me?  In the chaos, I ask – what can I do to live a holy life day in and day out?  How can I sustain a witness for Christ?  Find daily contentment?  Be in regular relationship with God?

How can I be holy amid the chaos and evil I see, I hear each day?

I believe St. Therese has supplied the answer.  We maintain holiness in the world we find today my doing God’s will … by being who God made us to be.

The irony follows.  It is NOT our job to change the slant of the axis of the world in order to be holy.  No, it is something far simpler that is requires of us, something more fundamental – more intimate, more personal and it is this: do God’s will and be who God made you to be.  It is this which provides the access to holiness in a chaotic and godless hour we now occupy.

Do His will and be who he made you to be.  This is the path to holiness today and always.

Shalom.

Thank God we are the imperfect image of a perfect God.  With this in mind I ask those who read the blog to forgive me for anything I may have written that might be off-putting.  And I ask you to think of me as the whole body of my writing and my desire to ask the questions that must be asked, speak as bluntly as is needed, risk being wrong in order to try to be right.  I ask you to see in me this core: I wish that we might speak candidly and seek a good and healthy result for one another, our self and our family, friends and neighbors – known and unknown.

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Friends are always chance meetings.

Steve Guttenburg

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There is a grace in the “chance meeting.”  I had such a meeting today.

By total chance I encountered a fine man seated next to me at the local coffee shop.  And what an informative and delightful conversation ensued!

Yes, chance meetings are gifts – in some sense divine in nature.  There is in life always things that suggest the mystery of life itself … how fate finds us, messengers appear, friends emerge in the guise of strangers.

In my circumstances today, I had a delightful conversation with a man who has embraced life, let it come to him … a man who studied the experience of his life and enkindled in this insights, wisdom and the deep experiences of living fully.

It follows that we spoke of many things – but one in particular was our care for children, those younger than us who seem less able to ask questions that give them meaning, understanding, maturity, insight, belief, stability, courage and gratitude.  Like me, my breakfast mate has been a father to successful children, had a mother who imparted to him great care, sacrifice, critical lessens, encouragement and love.

Here we were two who shared much that is common to all people but too often overlooked by many.  In this we lamented that others (even those who do not know personally) suffer without insight and direction, without clear purpose and meaning.

You know you have a friend when one you meet is one who lives in care of others, in gratitude for what he has, and compassion for those who seem lost, in need of care and confidence.

Yes, today God was present in the gift of a chance meeting. 

Look around you.  We have more family than we recognize.  More brothers and sisters than we realize.  The sanctity of Chance Meetings make this so.

So today, I have had the care of God in this chance meeting.

Be of good cheer.  Life is better than you may realize.  We need one another to know what it is to be fully grown and eternally grateful.

Shalom.

 

Theology is not made by mystics; mystics are formed by theology.

Thomas Merton, in Ascent to Truth

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In a sense the above proposition raises the question as to one’s journey to God.  Is this trajectory intellectual or does it require an ascetic disposition?  Does one think oneself to God, or is there a personal disposition that brings one to God?

As to the latter question, I suppose that when one’s life is absorbed by, and full of, the satisfaction of all personal desires then one might think of the importance of an ascetic disposition – a sparser life.  That is to say – a life void of multiple distractions and endless obligations, a simple life of few attachments and tasks – one with privacy and quiet might be better than a fully engaged life if one desires God.

As to intellect, it seems that thinking alone will not of itself bring us God for God is not a mental proposition but far more the totality of all that a human is, and can be by their mere (divine) creation.

So where does that leave us – or at least – me?  A modest life fully lived, accepting of all that comes one’s way (good or bad) is necessary for the experience of God.

By a life fully lived, I mean one that is examined so one comes to know one’s faults, short-comings, personal history honestly seen, one’s gifts and deficits and the mysterious joys of having been helped, nurtured, taught, loved and accepted by those placed in one’s life without whom each of us would be far poorer and more likely lost than found.

What am I saying?  Yes, intellect plays a part in our journey to God – we learn from our narrative and all those who over the Ages unbundle the mystery of a Loving God.  Yes, maintaining a life that is prepared in its honesty and humility to find God is also essential.  And yes, the acceptance of life as it is presented is the essential ingredient of obedience that brings us to God for this acceptance says clearly – “I accept my gift of being … I trust in the Gift-Giver.” In this, it seems to me one meets God …

Do not underestimate the value of acceptance and obedience.  Is that not the humbling road we must choose?

Friends, journey well and wisely this year.

Shalom.

 

Merry Christmas!

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A little child is born for us today; little and yet called the mighty God, alleluia.

Antiphon III, Morning Prayer – Christmas Day

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Today we are given the Gift of the Christ Child … and all the world is changed by this one, great gift from God.

In commemoration of this gift we exchange gifts with one another and the children in particular are showered with gifts as if they are the Baby Jesus.  It is as it should be.  But a larger question lurks.  What gift do we desire?  Is it Christ or are we given to other desires, other things, other gifts?  Stated yet another way – Can you receive the gift of the Christ child or God when other desires call out to you?

The Great Doctor of the Church St. Thomas Aquinas held the view that our happiness can be found in the contemplation of God.  The Great Mystic St. John of the Cross seeks union with God through a detachment from all other things.  Each is saying that our ultimate experience of God comes at the expense of all other desires.  Wherein is today’s age-old question – Can one possess Christ when desires for other things call to us?  On this Christmas Day is that not the question?  I think it is.

Today I will sit alone in silence.  Read Morning and Evening Prayer and remember Aquinas and St. John of the Cross and know in being alone one desire emerges above any other.  Today is the day that says – seek above all the Gift of the Christ Child for nothing satisfies as God satisfies.

Shalom.

 

We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded.  We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing.  Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.

Milan Kundera, in Laughable Loves

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I often say to people that life happens to us more than we happen to life.

What do I mean?  We are not the architect of our existence.  Things happen that we cannot control and cannot anticipate.  More to the point: our life, if we just live it as it comes to us, has a coherence, a continuity that overtime becomes clear to us.

I will soon be 73 years old.  This seems to have triggered in me thoughts of yesterdays, all my yesterdays – the people, places, things, events and experiences of yesterdays.

Yes, the blindfold have been lifted.  I can see the coherence of my life, the purpose of it, its theme and its meaning.

I give you an illustration.  Having suffered losses from my most early years I have come to know what being alone is like and, having accepted that reality, I have come to know how to be alone and to find meaning in relationship with God and others.  Indeed I have grown in strength, faith and wisdom because I have lost and been both deceived and betrayed.

Likewise, I often wondered why I was a “real world” guy – why I always insisted on seeing all that was before me including the harsh reality that posed a wound or injury.  I was, too, always willing to stand up and speak up even if I was the only one willing to do so.

Additionally, I was always willing to fight – to respond to injustice, insult, injury, threat or challenge.  I wondered how that was such a part of my being.  The answer – I was made to be that person who stood firm when travail, threat and injury loomed.

Just a Kundera says – I have come to a point where I have a retrospective that affirms who I am and was made to be.  I have an identity – a divinely given meaning, purpose and identity.  Those who knew me as a 12-year-old, a 20-year-old or a 40-year-old know the same man today as they knew then.

A blessed life is one of consistency … of identity that does not falter and is not denied.  Yes, I have had the grace of consistency … of living as I was called into being.

Now I see and I am – and my soul is at peace.  I wish the same for you.  By living what God gave me I have come to know who I am and why I have been here.

This long journey is not over and it continues in the whole.  What a grace it is.

Shalom.

 

 

 

Another late post – ‘Tis the season for visits with family and friends.  My time alone only now as the darkness of Sunday night encases me.

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To be beautiful means to be yourself.  You don’t need to be accepted by others.  You need to accept yourself.

Thich Naht Hanh

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Buddhist Monk Thich Naht Hanh is returning to his native Vietnam from his place of service in France for medical reasons.  Prayers of him are welcome.

His work has been beneficial to many.  I offer but one of his observations.

What he says I wish to say to my son, my daughter-in-law, my grandson and my granddaughter, my friends and those I encounter who are far from accepting who they are.

For my family and friends I seek only that they may know their sacred being and live life in humility making contributions which align with their gifts and their heart.

For those who do not trust their divine being, I say – you cannot make perfect what The Perfect One has made in order to teach us Heavenly Perfection and help us see the small slivers of divinity that we carry in this mortal life.

There is no need for us to carry the thought that we are “not good enough” – for being good enough is our best … it is, after-all, as good as we are capable of being by design.

We are but imperfect images of the Perfect One and to be just that is to be as we are made to me.  We are not good at out-doing our generous Creator – and all attempts to the contrary end in injury to self and others, to torment for us and others – even those we love.

To be yourself is to be as God hath made you.  In that act of acceptance is obedience, and peace and joy – sufficient to reduce all disappointments to extraordinary understanding and that good product is added to the goodness we possess gratis – as sacred gift.

In acceptance of self comes humility and certainty in the face of what is not known.

Shalom.

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