Spirit…

The holy Spirit is the wholly Other Spirit – the very Breath of God – that is sent to fill us humans in order to give us Life Abundant and all that Is God.

The holy Spirit is the Totality and Essence of God.

The Hebrew word for Spirit is “ruah,” meaning “Breath” – even saying it sounds like breath and breathing, Rue’ahhhhhhhh is how it is pronounced. So that even when we say the word for Spirit we are in truth breathing Spirit in and out of our bodies.

Breathe.

Life.

God.

God’s breath breathed into us to give us God’s very Being. The holy Spirit, the wholly other Spirit, the Breath that is like no other, is the Divine Breath that contains the whole being of God and all that exists.

So even breathing, being mindful of the Source of our breath, is an act of prayer and surrender. In breathing and being mindful that all my breaths come from God, means that I am thanking God for my life and offering my life back to God, simply by living…as a fully alive human being.

So be mindful that every breath you take is a prayer to God, in thankfulness for Life.

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Fear…

​Fear speaks to my doubts. God speaks my name.

Fear only exploits my weaknesses. God loves them and uses them to heal and serve.

Fear is a ruinous drug that blurs my mind and chokes my heart, God’s love and presence are a balm that heal my body, mind and spirit.  God’s promise is divine presence.  God’s gift is unlimited and unconditional Love.

God’s faithful presence and crazy Love open up my life and my days to the ever present abundance that Jesus told us He came to give us (John 10:10).

It is no secret that I am a verdant seeker and searcher of all that is mystical and practical, addicted to more of God and all that is Sacred. I am not easily quieted or quenched by safe answers. As a teenager, I would walk around my church youth group with a homemade t-shirt that said, “you know the Answer, but do you even know the Questions?”

As is often the case with me and God – the hand held Mystery, the Unsayable Said – Wisdom comes through fragments of papers, random Google searches, strange emails, etc., questing for deeper and richer experiences of all that is Holy and profane.

And today this Message came to me, from The Message (a modern day translation of the Bible) written by one of my favorite people, Eugene Peterson. This comes from his translation of Ecclesiastes, one of the least appreciated books of the bible precisely because it is not pretty, packaged or pedantic with gentle answers.

So, read it with me with rage, passion, love, pounding fists, and sweating palms. Read it as prayer, as mantra, as fodder for your Greater Life and the larger angels that inhabit your heart!

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A right time to lament and another to cheer.

A right time to hold and another to part.

A time to search and another to count your losses.

One handful of peaceful repose is better than two fistfuls of worried work-

More spitting into the wind.

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

God’s in charge, not you – the less you speak, the better.

Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!

God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

But against all illusion + fantasy + empty talk

Seize life!

God takes pleasure in your pleasure!

Each day is God’s gift… Make the most of each one!  Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!

Be generous! Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others.

Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.

Life as we know it, precious + beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from. 

The Spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke.

The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy.

There’s no end to the publishing of books…

The last + final word is this: [Be in awe of] God. Do what He tells you.

Source: The Message (MSG)© Eugene Peterson

David Whyte is one of my favorite poets.  Enjoy…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.

NOTE: this blog is raw, no editing, first thought, first word. And since it involves the rawness of realness, I felt OK with leaving it be.

My life has a funny way of having moments of “embodied Irony.” A moment like that crossed my path earlier this week. I had written the post about being in search of a bigger God and had set up my blog to auto post it. Well between the writing of the blog and the posting of the blog I had a miraculous experience: I survived a serious car accident.

A 4:30 p.m. on Palm Sunday, I was heading out from a friends’ house to get to evening Mass. I am far from a good Catholic or even a faithful follower of Jesus, but the events of Holy Week and Sacred Rituals of Easter and Passover are vital and important to my own spiritual l journey. So, I was pulling out of the gravel road onto a state highway. I looked left, then right and for some reason decided to go left to stop by a convenience store for an afternoon cup of Joe. I pulled out and there it was – a 1990 black Honda Accord traveling at about 60 miles per hour.

Picture taken by Hugh McGee at the scene of the accident.  It is of my drivers' side, direct impact of accident, Juno was sitting at the point of direct impact as was I.

Picture taken by Hugh McGee at the scene of the accident. It is of my drivers’ side, direct impact of accident, Juno was sitting at the point of direct impact as was I.

Time stopped or at least felt like it slowed down. I knew Juno and I were going to get nailed by this car so I reacted the fastest way I could: I simultaneously slammed the gas pedal to the floor (hoping to only have only the tail of my car hit) and I used all my strength to reach around and move Juno from behind the driver’s seat, pressing her against the rear passenger door (thereby putting her as far away from impact as possible).  All of this occurred in 2 seconds or less…

The car slammed into us, never even hitting the brakes before impact. Then it became surreal: metal twisting and bending; pain and searing fire erupting through my body; the shriek of a terrified dog; spinning around and around with dizzying force; then a second or two of pure stillness.

Then I heard the voice of a young person, “holy shit that is a lot of gas….get out, get out, man!” I only remember scrambling to get my seat belt off and nothing happening.  I was stuck and in blinding pain.  The door had me pinned in. I just remember screaming out to God, “Give me strength NOW, help me, Lord, save Juno. I don’t give a shit about me but save HER!!”

The seat belt unclasped.

I flipped over into the back of the car, grabbed Juno by her harness, and we literally fell out of the car stumbling about 30 feet away from the car. I could not breathe and pain was setting my body and soul on fire. The rest is a blur. All I remember is asking a bystander to call my friend and have him come and take my dog to the ER vet hospital.

I also remember Juno being right next to me, tight up against what I would learn were my fractured ribs. She did not move. When the paramedics approached me she growled but then let them touch me. My friend Hugh came and did what he is great at: exhibiting grace under pressure and jumped into the Solution. He just said, “I’ve got Juno.  The paramedics have got you.”

Then the pain took over…all over; searing, fire like, pained breathing, burning on my face and arms. Later I would learn it was the air bags and a few fractured ribs, one vertebrae fractured (L4) and another compressed (L3), bruised lungs, scrapes, cuts, and soreness all over, covering me like a blanket.

Out of all of this too, I learned I have a “shaded area” in my lungs that appears not to be affiliated with the accident. So, the accident afforded me the chance to learn that I need a biopsy on a shaded lump in my lung.

As I said before, my life is Embodied Irony. Read the rest of this entry »

“Our highest knowledge of God is nothing close to that which God truly is.” Attributed to St. Thomas, paraphrased

I have a confession to make: I am in search of a bigger God for you see my current one is too small.  that’s right, the God that occupies my thoughts and heart has shrunk in size and scope, even divinity. Honestly, I need to get rid of him or I’m doomed to a small life in a small world with all hope suffocating to the point of death. I have made numerous attempts to give this God the pink slip, even writing him out of my life, but to no avail.

You see my God is too small, but he is equipped with a rather large “Ego” – this God I have currently is petty, pithy, and pedantic at best.  The God that resides in my heart is an idol, one made up of fairy tales and freak outs passed down to me from my drunken fathers’ presence and absence.  This God is narcissistic, needy, omnipotent, tyrannical, and just like my father my God is an Almighty Drunk. It is frightening.

I thought that decades ago I had been loosed of this Divine Schizophrenic but circumstances as of late have left me reeling in disbelief at the very core of my beliefs and just how small my God has become. Doctrine, dogma, stigma and stain all have left the remnants of a child-like faith based in innocence smashed and tattered by a full out frontal assault of FEAR. I am scared of my “oh so small God”

My current God cannot handle my pain, my emotional outbursts or my constant neediness. Nor can this God handle my questions or queries, leaving hope suffocated by the minutiae of daily life, questions big and small.

In fact, this God is too small precisely because He IS a He – a Zeus like old man resembling my Pops. Why can’t this God be a She? Or be like my mother? My mother was such a strong, lovely, regal woman who had wits and wilds about her…why can’t she be the source of my image of God instead of my alcoholic dad?!?

Here is something that piques my interest in the feminine face of God: one of the most oft used words to describe God’s wondrous glory in the Jewish Bible (the Christian Old Testament) is the word “Shekinah” – a feminine Hebrew word.  And much like the French language and other Romance languages, gender is ascribed to words rather than leave them neutral and therefore neutered. Shekinah, to be more specific, is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew name of God in Judaism. The original word means the dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the Divine Presence of God, especially in the Temple in Jerusalem (click on here for more information on Shekinah).

In Abrahamic faith traditions, your name denoted not only your character, but your destiny as well.  So, Shekinah, a word implying the very dwelling Place of Presence of God is a feminine word.  So maybe just maybe my God can be She as much as He as much as neither.  For the sake of my own sanity, my oh so small God can grow and I can acknowledge that the great traits of my mother (and all the amazingly strong women in my life) can be divine reflections of the God I need in my life: One Who is strong, faithful, creative, beautiful, tender, and compassionate (a Divine Mama Bear not to be reckoned with when one of her cubs was in danger).

The search for a bigger God continues…

I can cash in this Peon God for one much larger than me, truly a “Power greater than myself” or I can stay stuck in the minutiae of a miniscule God and drive myself into insanity.

It is for this reason I love the 2nd Step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous when it says “we came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  A Power greater than me…” That can be understood in many ways, for me it can mean a Power greater than any limitation or fear I could ever have of God; it can mean a God Who is a Power that is Pure Love and desires unbroken intimacy with me, loving me no matter my foibles and frailties, no matter how needy or poor I am.

I am truly searching for a bigger God: not a health and wealth pie in the sky God; not a Polyannish one who never sees the darkness of life; not a Santa Claus God who gives me my wish list.

I am in search of a God whose Love is beyond being meted out by human restraint.

I am in search of a God who is holy – wholly other – yet dwells within me.

I am in search of a God Who is beyond dogmatic and doctrinal delineations; a God Whose very Being and strength is pure Love, infinite Mercy, holy Hospitality…a Liberator and Healer who is Radically Compassion.

I am in search of a God Who in turn is in search of me…

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.
Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.
The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.
Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move, maybe
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.
Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

The all-important central emptiness
which is filled
with the presence of God alone.”

Jean Danielou

I am learning more deeply in these days that emptiness is necessary; it is also quite scary for most of us. I could lie and say that emptiness no longer scares me the way it did as a child, but I would be lying. As I grow older, and death becomes more a part of my intentional consciousness, emptiness brings some level of fear, for far too often I confuse emptiness with loneliness.

Like many, I fear growing old alone.  I fear the dark emptiness that this could bring.  But there is an emptiness which has nothing to do with a partner, for I have been with others and simultaneously felt alone.

Emptiness is not only necessary it is also good. Emptiness is the only space that can truly ‘contain’ God. In emptiness there are no leaks or cracks, just pure and endless space. I fill the emptiness far too often with things that are not meant for it. For years, to the point of addiction, I filled emptiness with drugs, alcohol, sex, excitement, drama, darkness. You name it…and I could try and use it to fill the void known as emptiness.

Everywhere I look I see this same symptom of addiction: fill the void, fill the emptiness. Marketers, admen, corporations, news programs, and pharmaceutical companies will tell me – without actually telling me – that the hole in the center of my being was created for their specific products. And if I listen to them I have no shortage of deluge of things to fill this emptiness – antidepressants, sleep aids, pain meds, meds to keep me paying attention, meds to keep me skinny, hard as a rock.  Then throw in the 24 hour a day channels that spew endless upon endless means for consumption be it news, sports, or shopping networks.

And at the end of the day, that is the true enemy of emptiness, not evil or addiction, but consumption; the never ending obsession with “more”.

But that pining emptiness within me tells me there is another way, a way of divine love, a way that says my emptiness is the portal for God as much as it is a reminder that I am fallible and finite.

Emptiness reminds me of my place in the grand scheme of things. I am created before I am a creator. I am an image of God not the God. I am finite yet I am a dwelling place for the Infinite. Emptiness is necessary if I am to encounter God on a daily basis for in my emptiness God in his fullness comes near, reminding me I am both child and beloved.

So, today I will try and face my fear of emptiness and in the mere confronting of it I know I will experience the One who is the Fullness of Love.

The following blog entry is a repost from Joan Chittister from The Monastic Way.

The Monastic Way is for people who lead a busy life, but long for greater spiritual depth. In the 2015 monthly issues, Joan Chittister explores quotations from great spiritual figures who dealt with the same kind of soul-stretching questions that each of us do. You’re invited to join her in this simple practice that takes minutes from your day but gives meaning for a lifetime.

Joan Chittister wrote this and the art work is by Brother Mickey McGrathDeepest Me is God

“In the center of us all, guiding and calling, prodding and poking at the lassitude in our souls, the fear in our hearts, the frettings at the bottom of our minds, lies the spark of life that we recognize most clearly as “my-self.” This is the “me” that is always there in its rawest form. The “me” of all my distant hopes and all my controlling feelings. This is the “person” that I know myself to be—whether anyone else knows that part of me or not.

The recognition of this self in me is the beginning of the spiritual life. With it comes the awareness of what we call the “true” self. This is the me, the one who is the vessel of both my inmost feelings, positive and negative, and my most illuminating, most uncensored insights into my reason for being, my place in the universe, my relationship with God.

This innermost self is the raw material of our spirituality. It signals the demons with which we struggle our way through life and it identifies the angels of our better nature who carry us from one level of the self to the next. In our “deepest” we know the best and the weakest of our spiritual selves. In this place we can see where our heart really lies in life and we can name the demons with which we wage our daily wars: to be better, to do good, to live with clay feet on a divine path.

Our “deepest” is clearly where the real me drives me on from desire to desire. Our inner talk there is about ourselves. Our concerns, down deep, are too commonly only for ourselves. Our struggles emerge there out of the dreams and disappointments, the demands and the denials we breed with ourselves in mind. But not Catherine of Genoa’s. Her “deepest” is God. Her center of life is God. Her awareness of her basic self is her understanding of Emmanuel, God with us, always, in her.

The thought stuns us into a new awareness of the nature of our own lives. Here is a woman who knew without doubt that the God she sought was the God who was her very breath itself. When she turned to the “self” within she discovered the God who had created her, sustained her and drew her on through life.

Unusual? Not really.

The fact is that our “deepest” is God, too. Only it takes most of us years to discover that. The process is a profound one.”

 

“…I need more of the night before I open eyes and heart to illumination. I must still grow in the dark like a root not ready, not ready at all.”

Denise Levertov, “Eye Mask”

There are many reasons I love poetry – its ability to say much with so little, its deep spirituality, it intimacy and delicacy, to fill and to empty, to flourish and fire. Denise Levertov is another one of the reasons I love poetry particularly this poem; she has a way of capturing the deeper truths I am embodying without it being a Faulknerian novel; crisp, concise. It is good meat for my spiritual life as well. I too must remain still and rest in the dark, like a root not ready for the world and all it contains. I must gestate longer in this womb of God, like the Christ child in Mary, I too need more time in the darkness before I am fruition.

I do not fear the darkness like some; many good and wonderful things happen in the dark, more than just things that go bump and boo. In the darkness, all manner of vegetation, flora and fauna take root and take hold of the Earth, clinging to her like a babe to a breast finding life in the suckling darkness; then so lovingly and compassionately turning from what they received in darkness and to fill and feed.

What I know is that darkness is a good thing. It is not something to be feared, to run from, or to see as negative. Far too often in western culture, and specifically “white” western culture all things darker are considered negative, from skin to spirituality. But darkness is necessary for any authentic spiritual growth. In darkness, come dreams, fantasies, hopes, inspirations…God spoke in the days of old and still does speak in the dreams that come in the darkness (the prophet Joel reminded us that our young would see visions and our old would dream dreams).

I need to go deep into the dark like a root, so that God can water my soul, give me the tenderness of damp, earthy shadows where I can remove all pretense, drop my skin and shell to the floor like old rags, and lick my wounds and set them free to roam in God’s healing freedom.

As a dark root, I let God touch my selfishness, my anger, my chards of rage, my fears, self pity and my resentments towards all. In the darkness, God heals me, feeds me, molds me, and breaks me, loving me back to my humanity. So, like Denise Levertov, I am not ready for the illumination of the day. I am in need of darkness, the emptiness of gestation where the Divine Love that comes from nothingness, will be with me. I must still grow in this sacred darkness, a little holy root of God.

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord
and hold me in this Lenten season:
hold my feet to the fire of Your Grace
and make me attentive to my mortality
that I may begin to die now to those things
that keep me from with You and with my neighbors on this earth;
to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities,
to my fascination with false securities,
to my addiction to sweatless dreams,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be,
to my corrosive fear of dying someday which eats away
     the wonder of living this day,
and the adventure of losing my life in order to find You.
Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace

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