If most of us are honest, we would say we prefer having a decaffeinated faith: it tastes like the real thing, but it is guaranteed to not keep us awake.

I don’t want decaf faith.  I want a faith that wakes me up – fully human, fully alive – prepared to be Present to all of life, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, pain and joy.

I pine for a faith that is more “red eye” than decaf, an extra caffeinated faith that hinges on these two truths, that God is Alive and God is Love!  And therein lies my faith standard of measurement: does my faith in God wake me up and does it lead me to Love?

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

 

Written by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., and excerpted from Hearts on Fire

My faith,
and my Passions, like grace,
are messy
and sloppy,
flung about like Water from
a river bound dog.

In my passion, I search and seek
for One Who is
Wild, named Holy/wholly.

Instead I found that this Wild Divine One
has been searching me
and chosen to pitch his tent
In the tender fleshiness that is my life.

It seems so simple, so obvious; this life of faith we are called to live. But in light of the heinous actions we have seen in the media and in our world lately – killing of black Christians by a racist zealot, religious hatred and bigotry, choosing nationalism over biblical mandates – that it appears to be far from simple.

What is so simple is this: God is Love. And if we love God, then we must love AS God loves – unconditionally.

God is not white. God is not black. God is not a human, neither man nor woman. God is not Catholic or Protestant. In fact, I don’t even think God is religious, although God may be a bit zen (wink wink).

The fact of the matter is, it really is plain and simple – this Love thing – it’s just not easy. And there is a huge difference between something being simple and being easy (just ask anyone who is a part of any 12 Step fellowship, they’ll explain it).

The apostle John, also known as John the Beloved, said it best when he spoke of two of the eternal truths about God – namely that “God is light” and “God is love.” The latter is the focus of this blog. This concept, this truth (Truth) is so simple, yet profound and almost unutterable. The truth of God’s being is so simple children get it and yet this truth – that God is love – is also so profoundly frightening that we adults are threatened by it so much so we create dogma, doctrines, denominations and diatribes to control the very essence and definition of God’s love. But God forever remains Love.  Any and all expressions of love, whether pure or perverted, have their origination in and from Divine Love; all loves are mere shadows and reflections of God’s Perfect Love.

And since God is love, we too are called to both BE love and DO Love. We can spend all sorts of time, money, and energy arguing about this Love or we can spend all of our time, energy, money and efforts Being and Doing Love – and leave the rest to God.

God will forever and infinitely BE love, it is we who are born, live and die. Love abides forever.

God’s love is so awe-inspiring and eternal that we are given free will to choice to do as we wish to this Love. We are free to qualify it; we are free to quantify it.  We are free to try and control it through restrictions, definitions, exegesis, rules, regulations, stipulation and the like. We are free to commodify God’s love. We are even free to try and mete out, control and block God’s love for that is how much God loves us – to allow us to do some pretty heinous and asinine things and still BE LOVED.

But it is still simple. Love. Jesus said it, preached it, lived and died it. Love. Love. Love. In truth, if you break down all that is required of us it is simply love: love God with all your being and love your neighbor (everyone!) as yourself.

But God’s love is unconditional, unlimited, unbridled…and that truth scares the bejesus out of us. We – I – do not know what to “do” with a Love like that, so I do what most people do to love – I end up killing it with rules, reg’s, and restrictions. I tame love. I make it safe for me, and you if you jump through the proper hoops and channels.

We humans are so afraid of the utter brilliance and intensity of divine Love that we have to limit God’s love in order to understand it; we have to control it in order to receive it. At the end of the day, we cannot truly believe God’s love is indeed unconditional, as in absolutely unconditional, that we need to establish temporal conditions to that which is Eternally Unconditional. Religious laws are/were constructed because people are not to be trusted with the unlimited, unfathomable, unchanging, unbearable, all inclusive and all embracing love of God.

What would happen though if we simplified it, really simplified it, down to what it is: LOVE? What would happen if all who love, seek, pine for and “speak for” God simply sought to give, be and do Love? What if all other dogma, doctrine and denomination burnt away as the dross that it is, and only God’s unconditional love reigned supreme in all of our hearts?

What would happen?

Would the walls drop away? Would all the excuses we have for separating ourselves into neat little, safe categories melt away? Would we stop being white, black, red, yellow, rich, poor, red state, blue state, pro-life, pro-choice, anti-gay, queer friendly? What would truly happen? My sense is the greatest revolution of our existence would happen: a revolution of the heart (to paraphrase Dorothy Day).

God’s Love is not a doctrine, or a sect, or a rule; God’s love is an ever Present Reality. Love is God’s very Being – the very essence of who God Is. When God said that his name was Yahweh (YHWH), what was being said was “I AM Who I Am and Who I AM is Love.”

The late Teilhard de Chardin urged us onward and inward, to discover the “energy of Love” – which he considered to be the energy of God’s Being. Teilhard told us, “Someday, after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energy of love; and for the second time in the history of the world, [humanity] will have discovered fire.

Divine Love is just that, divine.  And no human language or doctrine or dogma should ever try and tame the perfect wildness, the wondrous Fire, that is the Love of God.

(Scripture references: see 1 John 3:11, 18; 1 John 4:7-21)

There are four prayers I fall back on, four that I try and pray daily: Thank You; Please; Help and Wow!  They can sum up my spiritual life and my relationship with God.

Prayer is an amazingly simple, yet profound experience; it is something that is hard to teach, unless by example.  Prayer is not something, in my estimation, that can be done wrong (except maybe to not pray at all). I mean to say that as long as one is holding the moments as sacred and as a holy ‘conversation’ – as between the creature and the loving Creator – that in and of itself is prayer and there is no correcting that type of conversation.

I put conversation in semi-quotes because for many, myself included, prayer has nothing to do with spoken words, but rather the living words of my heart in direct communiqué (veritable oneness) with God via contemplative prayer and meditation and being in silence in the woods or mountains or by a stream or river.

I say all that to basically let myself off the hook about ‘teaching’ on prayer and rather sharing some of my prayer life with you.  For when it comes to prayer, I am no expert or saint, but I do pray a great deal (like every day or else I am doomed).

When I pray, I start and end my days with a simple “Thank You” to God in loving gratitude.  And regardless of what is going on in between those waking hours, if I am alive, I have something to be grateful for, namely life (all of it).

“Please” is high on that list as well because if it ain’t obvious to you, it sure is to me: I am one needy little boy.  And I don’t mean I say please as in, please give me a Porsche (don’t like them) or a mansion (too much maintenance required).  I say Please as in “Please God, come to me, be with me, remind me that You are forever one with me…and as Your child all I need do is re-member my oneness with You…” and all is indeed well.

For when I say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’, I am merely paying tribute to my Momma and my Nana’s who always and often reminded (whether nicely or with a wooden spoon to my behind) that I was always and forever more to say Please and Thank You, especially to God!

“Help” is an obvious one.  I need a great deal of help, all day long, every day.  It really is that simple.  When I feel the sting of hurt feelings or the rage rising up when another idiot is behind the wheel of a car or I am frustrated with the addictions that rage in myself or the people around me (or when toxic people leave me feeling toxic), I need HELP!

And only God’s help will do…most other help is ego-based megalomania.

Yes, God works in and through people, but to me as long as my ego is in check and my level of self awareness is “on” (not self conscious), then I am attuned to the divine help coming through flesh and blood.  But when I am out of whack, and the source is out of kilter as well…hmmm, recipe for disaster.  As a wise person once said to me, “2 dead batteries will not start a car!”

And last but certainly not least, “Wow!”  That is the prayer I utter when I realize all the grace and miracles that surround me…from my dog Juno (I truly believe there is a reason dog is God spelled backwards) to the sunrises and sunsets, to the Blue Ridge Mountains still within eye shot.  All is glorious and indeed divine splendor!  And the best and most appropriate responsorial prayer is “Wow, God!”

Which then of course leads back to “Thank You, Lord.”  And the whole prayer cycle starts all over again.

So, if today you cannot think of what to say to God, might I suggest: Thank You; Please; Help and Wow!

For reasons that words can not explain, the poets are feeding my soul and giving me delicious glimpses of God (yes, note the paradox).  So, I continue with sharing some of my favorite Poets and their writings.  Please drink deeply of the great Persian Poet, Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī, also known as Hafiz (Hafez).  May we all realize the truth of this poem, that indeed with awakened eyes and heart we know that everything points to God.

Forget every idea of right and wrong
Any classroom ever taught you

Because an empty heart, a tormented mind,
Unkindness, jealousy and fear
Are always the testimony
You have been completely fooled!

Turn your back on those
Who would imprison your wondrous spirit
With deceit and lies.

Come, join the honest company
Of the King’s beggars—
Those gamblers, scoundrels and divine clowns
And those astonishing fair courtesans
Who need Divine Love every night.

Come, join the courageous
Who have no choice
But to bet their entire world
That indeed,
Indeed, God is Real.

I will lead you into the Circle
Of the Beloved’s cunning thieves,
Those playful royal rogues—
The ones you can trust for true guidance—
Who can aid you
In this Blessed Calamity of life.

Lover,
Look at the Perfect One
At the Circle’s Center:

He Spins and Whirls like a Golden Compass,
Beyond all that is Rational,

To show this dear world

That Everything,
Everything in Existence
Does point to God.

 

Hafiz

Mary Oliver is without a doubt, one of my favorite poets; her words always lead me downward, inward, then upward and outward.  This poem reads like a soul map and a prayer.  Drink deeply of it and enJoy!

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God—

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

I am starting to truly believe that the secret of life is written on (and in) our heart’s desires. These desires – the ones that are all-consuming, have a life of their own, connect you with the pain and joy of the world and with God – are sacred.

The time has come to return and re-ignite the inward journey that leads us to these divine desires. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we can pick up the trail right here and right now. God is timeless and therefore God is ever-present in every moment and in this moment we can dive deeply into our hearts and find God and those burning desires that are divine.

Our desires are the map that we have been given to find the only life worth living!

Don’t just ask yourself what the world needs. It is vital (life-giving) that we also ask ourselves what makes us come alive, and go do that! Because what the world needs now are people who have come alive and are awake.  There are enough ‘sleeping giants’ and deer in the headlights kind of people.  We need people burning with Life, fire, passion and love – seeking to fulfil the desires planted in their hearts.

In some ways, I believe that God has in fact “rigged” the world so that life only “works” when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, when we live by faith.

All our attempts to find a safer life, to live by the expectations of others, just kill the soul in the end. That’s not how we find Life. And if there is any wisdom in these words, in the 47 years of living I have under my belt, I would say this: don’t ask yourself how or why you would follow your heart’s desire; for that question will cut your dreams off at the knees.

The “how” is never the right question to ask. And the “why” questions just leads to chasing an elusive dream, like a hamster on a spinning wheel going nowhere fast.

The most powerful question to ask is “WHAT”…

What would you dream for yourself? What does your heart truly long for? What do you feel God is calling you to be and do? What makes your Soul sing?

I believe the deep desires of our hearts’ were placed there by God – to lead us deeper into him and deeper into ourselves and this beautiful world.

In my estimation, I feel our “job” is to ask what we would do and as for the question of HOW, well that’s God’s job.

My words are insufficient, again.  I am sensing I am grasping at straws, false pride and ego whisper to me that I (of all people) truly have something to say.  In truth I do have something to say, but so what, so do billions of others.  I am just arrogant and pompous enough to to believe my words matter more than most and can rise above the din and feed people spiritually.  Ugh, arrogance is ugly indeed; I do not wear it well. 

So, rather than write my own words, I will intentionally practice my spiritual disciplines – becoming silent and invisible – offering instead the Words of others who are truer and wise than I. 

So with that, I offer you the Words of Five Wise People who love God madly and deeply. 

May you grow in Grace and grow closer to the God Who is Pure Love…

“God is the primary actor. But even actor seems a bit too domesticated here, since when we hear that word we readily think of the folks on TV. God is strange; God is surprising; God is faithful. In worship, we enter this drama with God, as did Abraham, as did Moses, as did Mary. In this liturgical drama, we begin to see what it means to receive the stranger.” – Elizabeth Newman, Untamed Hospitality

“Fortunately, God is not what we think God is—not in any small way what I might think, nor in any big way the sum total of what a whole bunch of thinkers, great thinkers through the centuries, might think. And yet we have no choice but to try to think what God is, what and who God might be. At some point God comes to meet such thoughts. God arrives and appears as Surprise…. And something new is grasped in the surprise; something is learned; experience—it could be called experience with God—is gained. But God remains infinitely free, infinitely out of our control in whatever we come to know.”  – Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, A Monk’s Alphabet

“One of the best pieces of spiritual advice I ever received from a spiritual director was to pray for anything that I desired, even if that desire seemed sinful. It was a kind of “prayer shock therapy,” designed to break through dualistic thinking patterns and begin integrating prayer with life as we actually experience it, rather than as we might wish it to be.” -Br. Robert L’Esperance

When it comes to our spiritual journey with God, the best advice I’ve heard is: It’s your journey. Your spiritual life is between you and God, Alone. So don’t follow anyone and don’t seek to be followed. Yes, listen, learn and respect your elders and those wise forerunners on the spiritual journey, yet when all is said, it’s just you and God, and in the end, it’s just God.” – Peter Traben Haas

God’s vision is expansive. God’s loving-kindness is expansive. The net is cast wide to catch fish of every kind. We come to celebrate God’s infinitely expansive catholicity, the wide-reaching embrace of his love. It’s a mystery! And, here we all are, in the midst of this most savory, this most delectable stew.” – Br. Mark Brown

I have intentionally been away from writing, for my fingers are tired, my soul is heavy and my words feel empty. But today, God sent me angels in disguise to remind me that I am a child of a loving, living God (and so are you all!), so I thought I ease my way back into the blog with Wisdom from someone else.

A long time ago I read that “all wisdom is plagiarism, only stupid is original.” So, I’ll leave you with some Wisdom…

“Fortunately, God is not what we think God is—not in any small way what I might think, nor in any big way the sum total of what a whole bunch of thinkers, great thinkers through the centuries, might think. And yet we have no choice but to try to think what God is, what and who God might be.

At some point God comes to meet such thoughts.

God arrives and appears as Surprise…. And something new is grasped in the surprise; something is learned; experience—it could be called experience with God—is gained. But God remains infinitely free, infinitely out of our control in whatever we come to know.”

Jeremy Driscoll OSB, A Monk’s Alphabet

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