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

Prayer is revolutionary.
Prayer is a seditious act against those forces that deem the material world is all there is; that what is seen is the final word.
Prayer is the doorway into the Infinite.
Prayer is what happens within us then slowly moves outward.
Prayer turns the world upside-down and inside-out.
Prayer is a sweet love song to God;
soft whispers of tenderness and rage in the ear of the One Who is Love.
Prayer moves the mountains of hard hearts and thick heads.
Prayer transforms all things.
Prayer is an invitation to let God do wonders in and through us, if we are but curious.
Prayer changes the way we see the world, leaving behind the establishment of the powerful entering instead into the true power of surrender and the realm of the margins and the marginalized, the place where we see God in his most distressing disguise.

As Karl Barth once said, “To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

 

There is that old adage that behind every good man is a great woman. And as sexist as it is, there is a truth hidden in there as well, except it is not gender specific. A more apt way of saying it is that behind all goodness, greatness, and success in any person’s life, behind all great acts, there is someone ‘back stage’ making it possible – a ghost, as it were.

No one succeeds on their own. No great event in a person’s life, no great literary work, no great feat of healing and recovery, no great discovery, nothing happens in a person’s life without someone else, in the shadows, helping them. Whether they be friends, lovers, spouses, donors, benefactors, prayer warriors, co-workers, strangers, fellow wounded souls, other people in recovery, there is always someone there to walk with, be with, open doors, pay bills, give a shot to, sway the course of a life. Always.

That is one thing that is 100 percent true in my life; behind every word, every victory, every day of sobriety, every chance I’ve ever gotten, there are at least 2 people in the background holding me up, feeding my soul, sharing their wisdom, putting money in my pocket, making a phone call, or whatever it is, allowing it to become my “own” victory.

So, I stand here in praise of the ghost, the unseen beloveds who have walked with me through this journey of my life. Some of them know who they are, some do not. I give thanks for some of you now by name because you are my greatest ghost:

There is Ian Chan Hodges and the whole Chan Hodges tribe, Monsieur Lanier, Anthony Cauterucci and all his beautiful children. There is Durty Jones, Priya Kale, my adopted Nana Leona Choy.  There is Hugh McGee, Joanne C. and her sweet angel Adrienne, and of course Artie S. There are those who are part of the Tribe of Wounded Angels.  There is Tisa S., Ashley S., Jim D., Misty, Glen Fischer, a NayNay, Greg B., Berit, and my brother Kevin. There is my real Mom, the late Sandy Comer James.  There is also a foster “Mama and Dad” – the Grantiers and their son Mark.  The entire Bishop McGuinness High School community in North Carolina, especially Father Frank Cancro.  There is also Carlton, Cathy, “Shelly Belly”, Tim Callahan, and John McMonagle. There is Ken Yamaguchi-Clark and W. Terry Beck (a most delightful Angel).  There are writers and artist like Frederick Buechner, Anne Lamott, Paulo Coelho, Neale Donald Walsch, Tom Absher and all the freaks affiliated with the now defunct Writers & Artist Workshop of Vermont College of Norwich University (where I finally finished by B.A. 19 years ago).  There is Megan, Quinn (my son), Lloyd Odell, Tony Campolo, Father Krempa, and Pastor Jack.  There is the entire Daniels tribe.

I also give thanks to all the “ghosts” in A.A. and N.A. and to my dog Juno. 

The greatest praise and thanks go to my God Whom I love more and more every day; Who gives me LOVE, Life, and Sobriety.

All of you help me stay on the path to wholeness and love.  There are literally hundreds more who moved mountains, opened hearts and doors, gave when they had little to give of their own, who have made my life all of what it is today.

So, to all of you (written here and not but who know who you are), I say thank you, bless you, and may you be given back all that you have given to me a hundred fold.  May God be praised for your love and faithfulness and may you be Blessed!

If you have any ghost in your lives who dance in the shadows, enriching all that you do, cheering you on, I challenge you to express your love, thanks and gratitude to them…for no one is an island, but all of us should stand in praise of the ghost.

  • For God so loved the world that He gave…
  • Love your enemies…
  • Love is from God…
  • Above all, love each other deeply for love covers over a multitude of sins…
  • Love must be sincere…
  • Love your neighbor as yourself…
  • Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
  • Bear with one another in love.
  • There is no fear in love. But [God’s] perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
  • We love [at all] because God first loved us.
  • Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in…Jesus.
  • Herein is love, not that we loved God first, but that God loved us first.
  • And over all virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
  • Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
  • Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
  • Whoever does not Love does not know God, because God is Love.

All of the previous lines are Scriptures from the New Testament. And this is just a sampling. But it is amazing to see them all together, along with the “love chapter” from the book of Corinthians. All this talk of love, it’s so powerful that this divine love, should be overwhelming – overwhelming us inwardly and outwardly, overwhelming our communities, our world. Instead, what do I read, hear, and see all about me, but Christians NOT showing this type of Love.  Instead, I hear more talk of guns than this graceful love, hating President Obama, hating Republicans, hating Democrats, judging Atheists, and a litany of homophobic and Islamophobic dribble.

If you are not a believer, may you find hope and may you have your own personal experience of this God who is Love. If you are a believer, let these words guide your every action and belief, your understanding of your faith, your denomination, your Church, your political beliefs, your treatment of the earth and ALL the people in it –  let it be guided by THESE words on love.

This is not love as defined by one simple day called Valentine’s Day. This is not love as defined by political parties or Hollywood or even specific faiths. This is not cultural, nor is it political. It is not even religious per se.

This is about DIVINE LOVE…the unfathomable, and in reality indescribable, love of God (that I am doing no justice to by limiting it with my words and perspective).

So if God is love (which God truly is) then all of it (all of creation, life, existence) is summed up in the word LOVE. 

Okay, so I’ve gotten some feedback on the previous Love blog and I wanted to take this time to clarify and simplify. According to a garden variety of Christian scripture, it is stated that God is love, and that love is the law we are supposed to follow. And seeing as all around me I witness too many people of faith living their lives so far from what “love” is supposed to be (myself first and foremost), I wanted to use the same Scripture to spell it out again.

So, if we are wondering what does the whole “God is Love” look like and how are we to love people, we can follow the follow methodology. AND, if we are wondering Who God is then we can follow the same Scripture to understand how God responds to all people at all times.

God is love.  Which means that…

God is patient.
God is kind.
God does not envy.
God is not boastful.
God is not conceited.
God does not act improperly.
God is not selfish.
God is not provoked.
God does not keep a record of wrongs.
God finds no joy in wickedness.
God rejoices in the truth.
God bears all things.
God believes all things.
God hopes all things.
God endures all things.
God never fails.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Okay.  Now that this is out of the way and we now all know who God is and how God responds to each and every one of us, let’s all go out and have some delicious God Experiences in honor of the “love fest” known as Valentine’s Day!

In honor of the faux holy day of Valentines’ Day (Hallmark has hijacked it people) I want to muse on Love and push the envelope and our comfort zones.  The apostle John wrote often and was known for being the “love” guy, and he penned the Scripture stating that “God is Love.”

Well, now God being “love” is all pretty and such, but do we even believe that?  And what type of love is God? My love? Your love? Free love? Unconditional love? Conservative Love? Progressive Love?

Which love is God?

Is it even possible to answer that?  I believe so, and since I’ve done this before and the Love Holiday is upon us and being that my image of God is in the crapper these days, I thought I’d muse on Love and I do so by rewriting the “Love Chapter” of the Bible – 1 Corinthians 13.  So, read this with me and let us pray for each other and for all people that we can begin to experience God this way and live our lives accordingly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Godlove: The Superior Way

If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have God,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have God, I am nothing.
And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have God, I gain nothing.

God is patient.
God is kind.
God does not envy.
God is not boastful.
God is not conceited.
God does not act improperly.
God is not selfish.
God is not provoked.
God does not keep a record of wrongs.
God finds no joy in wickedness.
God rejoices in the truth.
God bears all things.
God believes all things,
God hopes all things.
God endures all things.
God never fails.

But as for prophecies, they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
 But when the perfect comes,
the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became an adult,
I put aside childish things.
For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and God.
But the greatest of these is God.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Take a moment and ask yourself: what IF we experienced God this way?  What if we lived our lives as if God was this way?  What would the world look like if ALL people who believe in God (whichever faith) lived as if God was this kind of Love?

The answer is quite simple actually: the world would be shaken to its very foundations, and human hearts (the most crafty of all entities) would begin to change and be transformed, and the world would never be the same.

 

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