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I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks. Giving.
I enjoy thanksgiving the most because it is not (necessarily) a religious holiday in origin; it is simply an intentional day set aside to be grateful and give thanks.
I give Thanks. Then I live my thanks by giving my life away in service and love.
So, I turn and give thanks to God for all that is and is to come. I give thanks to God for our divine friendship; my love grows deeper for God moment by moment, day by day as I grow closer to Home.
I give thanks for all the bounty of the Earth.
I give thanks for all that surround me, for I am a better man for all these men and women; if I stand tall, I do so because I stand on the shoulders of good people.
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 200 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 pines for you, Who loves more than my words can ever convey; Who 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.”
Every year, around my birthday, I take stock of my life: reviewing where I am; how is my spiritual condition; am I growing closer to God and others, things like that.
I am realizing that a few things about me are being noticeably transformed – all thanks to God and those who have helped me in my recovery. I have grown from a totally rigid black and white thinker to a place where I am being led by the Spirit towards a more tolerant, compassionate experience and view of life – mine and the worlds.
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 one can tell their story and 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.
The older I get (I just turned 48 years old at the beginning of November…yikes!), the more I truly understand that failure is a gift from God. I am also realizing that the longer I live and journey, the more I need my ‘spirituality’ to reflect and teach that truth. My historical experience has been that Religion tends to speak more to the “shame” of failure and not to its Giftedness.
The foundation of my spirituality is that I was created BY God FOR God – that everything about me and my life is about being in relationship with God. And with God not only are all things possible, all things are redeemable. It is a powerful thing to learn from failure. It is a transformative thing to learn and experience that failure is a gift and a necessary tool for our journey with (and towards) God. Failure is the twin sister of ‘success’ much the way doubt and faith are inseparably linked.
One of the foundational ‘tenets’ of Alcoholics Anonymous states that the journey of sobriety is about “progress not perfection…[for] we are not saints.” Imperfection and failure are two of the tools God uses to draw me in closer; for by embracing imperfection and failure, I am reminded of the glorious truth that I am indeed human and I remember that all of us were created in the image and likeness of God. In my being human, nothing is drawn away from God and his relentless love, in fact, I find that if I embrace that truth, I am more so fully alive.
My failures prove only that I am not a saint, they do not take away from any goodness that God has placed within me. I am fond of saying if there is anything in me you find good, then you can give thanks to God and my mother, but if you find anything in me that is not good, well for that I apologize.
As I look over my life I see a wreckage of pain, failure and broken hearts and trust strewn across the path. I feel regret, and rue some of the poorer choices I have made. But God is eternally good, forgiving and loving so that in his hands my past wreckage becomes malleable clay to be remolded into a shining example of divine love blended with my utter humanity.
And like or not, that is indeed good news.
I am but a jar of clay, cracked but valuable when surrendered fully into God’s hands. My failures become familiar scars, gentle reminders of the power of forgiveness and choice all held by the urgent compassion of God.
Here is the point of this and what makes it a Gift is that God does not judge my failures; only I and other people do that. God’s love is a merciful cauldron burning away the dross of my failures turning them instead into divine gifts meant for service, compassion, healing and justice.
God’s grace is greater than any failure I have ever experienced.
God’s love is greater than any human perspective, judgment, religion, or persuasion.
In truth, God embraces my failures as a vital part of me and my journey back Home, to myself, to God and to others. And if God embraces my failures, I certainly can do no less. So today, I embrace all my failures – all of me, surrendering them over to the hands of God, asking not for them to be removed but rather to be transformed into loving gifts of service, gifts from a merciful God.
People call us to get our attention, to make contact with us, to draw us closer to them. So it is with God. A call may come as a gradual dawning of God’s purpose for our lives. it can involve an accelerating sense of inner direction. [A Call] can emerge through a gnawing feeling that we need to do a specific thing. On occasion, it can burst forth as a sudden awareness of a path that God would have us take.
Call may be emphatic and unmistakable, or it may be obscure and subtle. In whatever way call is experienced, through the centuries God has chosen to speak to us and bids us to listen.
Suzanne Farnham, Listening Hearts