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Thanksgiving.

Thanks.  Giving.

I turn and give thanks to God for all that is and is to come.  I am thankful to God for our divine friendship, my love grows deeper for God moment by moment, closer to Home.

I give thanks.  Then I live my thanks by giving my life away in serving and love.

I am thankful for the quiet, hidden prayers that have been offered; for the angels who inhabit my world; for the 55 pound divine fur ball named Juno who reminds me everyday what grace and unconditional love truly are.  I am thankful I have breath and life to say “thank You!”

I am grateful for the mosaic that is my life: joy and sadness, fullness and emptiness, sickness and healing.

I am grateful and thankful for the 120 subscribers who have humbled me by signing up and even reading one tiny word I write, may you be Blessed, may you be Blessings.  May my words, in some small way, lead you deeper into the God Who passionately loves you, longs for you and embraces you as the divine children you are.

I am grateful for all the people in recovery who challenge me daily and keep me clean and sober; those who remind me of God – in blue jeans, grace in t-shirts, and divine love in brutal transparency.

I am reminded of the wise Meister Eckhart quote, that I try and live out daily, sometimes feebly, sometimes fully: “If the only prayer you ever utter is ‘thank You’ that would suffice.”

M.C. Richards has been one of the most influential people in my life I have never actually met in person. Her poetry, prose, pottery and person-hood are exquisite examples of Divine Love taking place in flesh and blood.

I have been feeling spiritually ‘beat up’ the last few weeks, my hunger and pining for God being off the hook.  Yet, my sense of God is punctuated more by Absence then Presence.  I am learning again the painful lesson that spiritual maturity is based more on acknowledging and living out truths as acts of will rather than as reactions based on shape-shifting emotions.  So, it does not matter that I do not ‘feel’ God.  I know the truth: God is faithfully and eternally Present to me, since God dwells within me and therefore cannot deny his own Being and Presence therein.

That being said, I kick and scream during spiritual growth spurts, throwing tantrums on the ground, refusing to see the necessity of growing up spiritually.  Then I am reminded that growing up spiritually takes deep courage, rooted faith, child-like trust, and the willingness to go through rather than around the fear.  I am learning albeit slowly that courage comes after not before the act.  

So here is some truth and perspective from the deep wells of M.C. Richards:

It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who we are. We face surprises. And disappointments. The crucial fact is that we are different from anybody we know and admire…. It takes all one’s courage to be the person one is, fulfilling one’s odd and unique possibilities.

Source:

The universe does not
revolve around you.
The stars and planets spinning
through the ballroom of space
dance with one another
quite outside of your small life.
You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless or ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.  Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again. Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

Recently, I have been ‘reviewing’ my history regarding my experience of spirituality and the practice of spiritual disciplines as well as the evolution and transformation of it throughout the last quarter of a century.  I have grown from a black and white (rigid) understanding and interpretation of what it means to be led by the Spirit towards a more tolerant, compassionate experience and view.

In short, I have become less arrogant that my way is the right way, much less even “a” single way being the ‘right’ way.  I have come to know and see that the Spirit is like the Wind indeed – blowing wherever the skies and landscape take it.  Who am I to judge the Spirit’s leading and intention in a persons’ life?  I am learning that God can work in any way God sees fit, and can obviously do so without any input from this particular ragamuffin.

I am learning again one of the indispensable foundations of spirituality (and spiritual growth) is listening: listening to God, to our hearts, our fears, our pain, our joys, and especially to others.  Spirituality (and spiritual growth) can and do occur in solitude, but for them to flourish deeply they must grow in relation to another – in community.  And I am fast learning one steadfast truth: all community begins with listening.  It is an initial listening to a call from the Other Who then leads us to others and in listening to them we are led to ourselves, and it is vital to listen to each one clearly because at the Center they are all saying the same thing: “we are loved and we are one.”

It is in the mutuality that grows from listening that the deepest spiritual significance occurs, namely the mutuality between listening and telling; knowing someone will listen without judgment and knowing that someone can tell their story knowing it will be heard.  That is one of the greatest powers of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous – story telling, listening, a shared struggle and a shared healing experience.

Those of us who are wrestling with spiritual dilemmas and demons, creeping and crawling ever so slowly towards awakenings, do not necessarily need answers but ‘presence’ – the permission to confront the dilemma, struggle with it out loud knowing we will be heard, and finding solace in the ‘defeat’ of terminal uniqueness (the belief that we are so different that we are alone in a chaotic, random universe).

Listening begins and deepens our spiritual experiences.  Listening affords us the space and silence needed to empty out our pain through storytelling and mutuality.   Listening is where we find not only answers but maybe more importantly the Presence Whom is the Source of all our longings.

Lord God,

Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens.

Possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love.

Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for You alone.

 

Source:

“Suppose one has found completeness in his true vocation. Now everything is in unity, in order, at peace. Now work no longer interferes with prayer or prayer with work. Now contemplation no longer needs to be a special “state” that removes one from the ordinary things going on around him, for God penetrates all.”

Thomas Merton

“…For God penetrates all.”  That sentiment alone can cause the monumental shifts needed to draw us closer to each other, to the earth, the poor, the entire created order.  Knowing this truth is the beginning of the Revolution.

God penetrates all.  Penetrate: to pierce, infiltrate, break through, break in, enter, or breach – just a few of the words listed as synonyms for ‘penetrate.’

God pierces us, indeed with a love so pure it hurts.  It hurt him when he hung on a tree for the healing of us all.

God infiltrates me, breaks me in order to break through.  If I lock the door of my heart and I refuse to answer the divine knock at the door, God breaks in through the window panes of my soul.

God breaches my boundaries, my comfort zones, my sore spots, my darker places no one knows or sees.  God does indeed penetrate all…like sultry, seductive eyes yet burning purer than the finest metal.  God permeates every nook and cranny, every pore, every fiber of being. God Is…Present in all things, in all ways, all that exists bears in some way the Imago Dei, the iconographic presence of the Holy One.

Nothing I do or do not do will ever limit God’s presence, which is the very essence of the word grace.  Grace is the experiential knowledge of God’s presence and penetration of all of life; and knowing this, the line between the holy and the profane, the sacred and sacrilege, work and prayer, dissolves away.

May God penetrate us all with such grace.

My writing is a mere reflection of where I am in my spiritual life.  I am struggling hard with God.  I often quote the edgy Meister Eckhart quote to reflect where I am as well, “I pray God to rid me of God.”  I must find God.  I must be found by God or my soul will dry up.  I am a thirsting deer pining for the waters of life.

I am a creature of habit, drawn more to my darker leanings when God seems far away.  God becomes an idol of conditionality when I am in this space; God becomes a schizophrenic.  But then the tug pulls from within, reminding me that God is greater than my feelings, greater than my mind, far beyond any conceptualization I can concoct.  It is then that I am reminded of the greatest truth:

God.  Is.  Love.

Plain and simple.  And it really is plain and simple and profound and unutterable.  It is so simple children get it.  It is so simple 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’s love is and will forever be just that – Love.

We can do as we wish to this sacred Fire called Love.  We can qualify it.  We can quantify it.  We can try and control it through the above mentioned ways. We can try and block it.  We can try and commodify it.  But God’s love is, well, uncontrollable, indescribable and unconditional.  And that scares the bejesus out of us.

We humans are so afraid of the utter brilliance and intensity of divine Love that we have to both qualify it and then quantify it.  We cannot truly believe God’s love is unconditional, as in absolutely unconditional, that we need to establish temporal conditions to that which is Unconditional.

What would happen if all of us who say we ‘love God’ simplified our lives and missions towards one direction – Love – and sought only to give and receive divine love freely without discretion? 

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 every being created by this Loving God?

What would happen?

Now that is one revolution I want to see and be a part.

If the construct of my life, my beliefs, my mission and motive grasp deeply that Divine Love is not a doctrine, or a sect, a rule or a religion then the revolution has begun.  And the revolution starts, ends and is sustained by God so there is nothing to lose and surrender is the key.  The revolution states that God’s love is a Reality, a Being, a very Presence pure and undefiled in its natural (divine) state.

But if the truth be told, I cannot handle that Truth, so I have to place conditions on Divine Love, on God and Jesus.  I have to establish codes for this love because I am afraid of what will happen to me, my world and my entire being if this Love actually came and consumed everything.

I often wonder what exactly would happen if we could understand Teilhard de Chardin’s urging to discover Divine Love and thereby ‘rediscover’ Fire again and light up the world.

I am being held by the simple truth that Divine Love is just that, divine, and no human language or doctrine or dogma should ever try and tame such perfect wildness, such holy fire, as the love of God.

O living God, soften us!

Let the fire of Your love
thaw the frost within us.
Let the light of Your justice
sear away our blindness.
Let the grace of Your compassion
heal our hardened spirits.

O living God, soften us!

That, flowing with Your grace,
we be impelled to face the world
in bold compassion,
that, driven to justice,
we may dare to cry aloud
for the little ones,
the raped, the beaten,
the imprisoned, and the hungry.

O living God, soften us!

Sweep us forward
in a Mighty Wave of Mercy
to heal our darkened world.

 

Source:

Author’s Note: This was originally posted on January 17, 2013 and since the temperatures are hovering just above freezing today and a few wayward flurries have found their way to the ground, I thought it was good to re-post this blog on prayer.

I am hungrier for God these days than in days past; as I get older my longings are fewer in number but deeper in intensity.  My pining for God is almost painful, but it is a joy to even have the hunger, regardless of whether or not the hunger is satisfied.  So with that I leave you with the re-post.

“Looking for [God] in prayer is like looking for a path in a field of untrodden snow.  Walk across the snow and there is your path.”

Thomas Merton

I love this quote by Thomas Merton, a truthful man if ever there was one.  Although a monk in one of the strictest Orders in the Catholic Church, he lived his life in gentle yet transparent  honesty.  Known mostly for his deep writings on faith and social justice, Merton was above all a man of prayer.  And yet he penned the above quote.  I venture to reason that this quote was written by Merton for himself.  He ‘walked across the snow’ faithfully, seeking God in all ways and in all things.

I’m pondering this quote and sharing it because of my own life of prayer these days.  I pray a great deal.  I say that not to brag but more as a confession since I have no where else to turn most days except to God, for the things surrounding my life seem larger than it.

So, I pray often because otherwise I’m a sloppy example of flesh and blood, prone more towards my addictions than my healing.  Prayer for me is a pathway to deeper intimacy with God, with myself, and with the world I have been called to serve in love.  Without prayer I am like fruit that has fallen from the tree while still believing it is growing and connected to its Source.  Without prayer, I am living delusion.

There is a ”lostness” to these days, as the light of day gives way more quickly to the shuddering embrace of darkness, my prayer life is following the ‘natural rhythm’ of winter.  When I say ‘lost’ I do not mean in my entire life, but in the sense that this part of the journey is “rubber meets the road” time, a time when the giddiness of the pink cloud has burst and I must show up.  But I am reminded that just showing up is indeed half the battle.

So I show up.  I set aside time to be in contemplation with my God, to listen to the still, small Voice above the din and noise within my head and heart.  I show up knowing, regardless of what I am feeling, God is there as a Present Reality and not just some far away entity.  Much like the well known prayer of Merton’s posted a few days ago, I do not know the path I am called to take in certainty, yet I feel the tug of the Spirit leading me down paths I sometimes fear to travel (even if they are for the Best).  At times, I sense I am traveling alone.  But I have learned that God’s presence is a promise not an emotion and I have tasted God’s love as deeply in his Absence as I have in his Presence.

I sense I am being led to a place that will open up for me a life I have only ever dreamed, but fear still persist as does confusion.  And not the confusion of choices made in or by my own stupidity, rather choices made in the hands of Divine Providence, choices that may alienate me from some while ingratiating me to others.  Regardless, the truth is choices must be made and they must be done so by (and in) faith: faith in God; faith in knowing that if I ask for Wisdom, it is promised; faith in knowing I must indeed walk first in order to see the path God is laying out for me; faith in knowing that I am traveling with One who will never leave or forsake me.

In making these choices I am seeking obedience to God and his will – a will that is more tender than stern, more compassionate than perfectionist, more about trust than certainty.  The word for obedience in Latin is “obidere” meaning “to listen.”  I love that definition because it ties into my coming before God in prayer to know him, to know what he is asking of me, and in order to do that I must be still and listen to his voice of love.

So on this cold afternoon, I am reminded again that the path I am seeking is made along the Way.  The path God is leading me on is not always so clearly laid, yet I am promised the faithfulness of God’s warming Presence in the chill of the unknown.  I am reminded too that prayer is a loving communion filled with hope – the hope of Jesus being born anew in me and in the world.  And my prayers, much like this hope, do not come in strength or unfailing assurance, but rather in fragility, vulnerability, and in weakness.

However, God’s love comes in the chilled, biting wind chaffing my cheeks as I stare out into the gorgeous wintry openness.  And as the feel of snow rises in the air, and the chill numbs my fingers, I am reminded once again that the path may not be certain, but God’s tender love and presence is.

Here is some grand wisdom from Ann Voskamp:

“There will always be people who see everything in the world as a measuring stick of their worthiness, instead of as a burning bush of God’s gloriousness.

If your life looks like a mess – to them — they whip out a measuring stick and feel confident of their own worthiness.

If your life looks like a monument – to them — they whip out a measuring stick – and start cutting for their own empowerment.”

She leans over and I want to gather her close. I rub her back in these slow circles.

“The thing is, Hon?,” I knead out a tight knot in her shoulder, loosening the muscles.

“The world isn’t a forest of measuring sticks. The world is forest of burning bushes. Everything isn’t a marker to make you feel behind or ahead; everything is a flame to make you see GOD is here.

That God is working through this person’s life, that God is redeeming that person’s life, that God is igniting this work, that God is present here in this mess, that God is using even this.”

Hope lays her head on my shoulder.

“Know what, Hon?”

Walk through life with a measuring stick – and your eyes get so small you never see God.

She nods. And then whispers: “Why does anybody compare at all? Why do we do it – why do I do it?”

She exhales this sigh like she’s trying to relieves the swelling in her soul.

“Oh girl — ” I want to make this all go away for her. “Remember when you guys were little? And I’d have a couple measuring sticks out when I was piecing together a quilt? What would you guys would do with the measuring sticks?

She says it slow, laying back on the bed. — “Use them as swords?”

Exactly. Measuring sticks always become weapons.

I want to tell her, and every woman browsing through a fashion magazine, standing on a scale, scrolling through Pinterest, clicking through blogs, looking in a mirror: Every yardstick always becomes a billystick….

I whisper it to her like a heart’s battle cry, like it could rally a generation of daughters and women and sisters:

Girls rival each other. Women revive each other.
Girls empale each other. Women empower each other.
Girls compare each other. Women champion each other.

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