Daily Riches: Religion and Established Privilege (Thomas Merton)

“Of course, it is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and to God, easily comes to serve as the ‘opium of the people.’ And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with him. When religion becomes a mere artificial facade to justify a social or economic system–when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandists, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program, then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for this truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race. His ethic ceases to be the law of God and of love, and becomes the law that might-makes-right: established privilege justifies everything. God is the status quo.” Thomas Merton

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –
his good, pleasing and perfect will. “
Romans 12:1, 2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does your religious experience “deaden the spirit” rather than invigorating it? Does it squelch individuality and produce conformity? Does it discourage imagination and curiosity?
  • Does it tend to prop up some unjust “social [or] economic system? Does it support the “status quo” as a way that is out of step with the Bible’s insistence upon justice?
  • Has your faith in God become “in fact faith in your own nation, class or race?”
  • Has your religious ethic somehow become something other than the “law . . . of love?”
  • Are you comfortable with your answers to these questions? If not, what can change?

Abba, help me to speak to the status quo instead of being shaped by it. Strengthen me to question established, unjust privilege and work to undo it. Work in me your earth-changing “law of love.”

For More: Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: A Theology of Love and of Resistance (Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“A theology of love cannot afford to be sentimental. It cannot afford to preach edifying generalities about charity, while identifying ‘peace’ with mere established power and legalized violence against the oppressed. A theology of love cannot be allowed merely to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, justifying their wars, their violence, and their bombs, while exhorting the poor and underprivileged to practice patience, meekness, long-suffering and to solve their problems, if at all, nonviolently. The theology of love must seek to deal drastically with evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them. …Theology does not exist merely to appease the already too untroubled conscience of the powerful and the established. A theology of love may also conceivably turn out to be a theology of revolution. In any case, it is a theology of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother to homicidal desperation.” Thomas Merton

“In the terrible midnight of war men have knocked on the door of the church to ask for the bread of peace, but the church has often disappointed them. What more pathetically reveals the irrelevancy of the church in present-day world affairs than its witness regarding war? In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. … A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war. … And those who have gone to the church to seek the bread of economic justice have been left in the frustrating midnight of economic deprivation. In many instances the church has so aligned itself with the privileged classes and so defended the status quo that it has been unwilling to answer the knock at midnight.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A person who seeks to honor the one who sent him
speaks truth, not lies.”
Jesus in John 7:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your theology of love a “theology of resistance?”
  • Is your church “aligned with the privileged classes and the status quo?”
  • Where in our day, might the church be guilty of appeasing “the already too untroubled?”
  • Do you think these are valuable questions for Christians? . . . for pastors? If not, why not?

Abba, keep us from conforming to this world, or allowing others to do so in peace.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: The Problem with National Exceptionalism (Charles Marsh)

“I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Adolf Hitler

“The weight of German exceptionalism and the spiritual veneration of military valor were not easy inheritances to disown. In nineteenth-century Protestant Prussia, no less a philosopher-patriot than Hegel resolved that his beloved Machtstaat (the ‘power state’ that was the German imperium) had been chosen by God to rule the nations by example, fiat, or force. It was God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations, which demonstrated their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors, as the ancient Hebrews had done. By the end of the nineteenth century, the idea of Germany as such a ‘world-historical nation’ had become as hallowed as the historicity of the biblical narratives. . . . Seeberg believed he was fulfilling his spiritual vocation by helping the German people discern the powerful hand of God in the new forces gathering to propel Germany to greatness. Among the professoriate there were precious few willing dissenters from this conviction. German Protestant theology from Schleiermacher to Harnack and Seeberg presumed the providential blessings of the warrior God. . . . In Protestant faculties and congregations, churchmen of fixed and iron-hard purpose who called themselves the Deutsche Christen, the ‘German Christians,’ were pedaling their loyalty to the fatherland. They claimed that God had chosen a new Israel, the German Volk; that the Christian doctrine of revelation had brought about the disinheritance of the Jews and that Jesus Christ had abrogated Israel’s ancient covenant. They wanted a strong church of muscular virtues–a manly church, eine mannliche Kirche–unified by German ideals. They even convinced themselves that Jesus was not a Jew. They boasted of their mission in the most inspiring terms imaginable: as the completion of Martin Luther’s work.” Charles Marsh

“What are nations without justice but large bands of thieves?” Pope John XXIII


“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and give to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus in Mark 12:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • National “exceptionalism”, God’s “new Israel”, “muscular values”–even “the providential blessings of the warrior God”–we’re hearing these kinds of themes again. What is your response?
  • Do you believe it’s “God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations which [demonstrate] their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors?” What’s the danger is such a view?
  • Hitler claimed to serve God, and most of the church supported him. What can we learn from this sad story?

Abba, help us discern your hand in power and in weakness. Ground us in reality, truth and courage.

For More: Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh 

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I hope you’ll follow my blog and share it with others.  I really appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: What Will Be History’s Verdict On You? (Dan Clendenin)

“The church has a checkered history in its relationship to the state. Some have followed Amaziah [see Amos 7] and traded religious legitimation for security, power and privilege – the German Christian movement that supported Nazi ideology, the Dutch Reformed church that supported apartheid in South Africa, and Russian Orthodox priests who collaborated with the Soviet KGB. But there are also many inspirational examples. The Archbishop and martyr of San Salvador, Óscar Romero (d. 1980), wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter that he could have sent to any number of our military or political leaders: ‘You say that you are Christian. If you are really Christian, please stop sending military aid to the military here, because they use it only to kill my people.’ Romero is only one of many brave saints who chose Amos over Amaziah. Consider the Confessing Church in Germany that opposed Hitler, nationalism, and anti-Semitism; the black pentecostal pastor Frank Chikane who in 1985 gathered more than 150 clergy from 20 denominations to draft the Kairos Document that protested South African apartheid; father Gleb Yakunin who insisted that the Russian Orthodox Church publicly repent of its ties to the Soviet regime; the culturally marginal and politically powerless Quakers who helped to abolish the British slave trade in the 19th century; and Morgan Tsvangirai who sought ‘divine intervention’ to end Robert Mugabe’s three decades of thugocracy in Zimbabwe. There’s the Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921), who did time in prison for his civil disobedience against American policies on racism, nuclear proliferation, and Vietnam…. When asked by Nora Gallagher how many times he had been jailed for subverting caesar because of Jesus, Berrigan responded, ‘Not enough.'” Dan Clendenin

“Righteousness and justice
are the foundation of your throne.”
Psalm 89:14

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • In the moment, it can be hard to know who is “on the right side of history.” God often uses outsiders–unexpected and despised voices–and we often embrace the biases and accept the rationalizations of our culture. Are you striving to know who speaks for God today? . . . and who is being sinfully silent?
  • The Biblical pattern is for God to be against Empire since the absolute power of empires predictably leads to profound corruption. Do we need prophetic voices to speak against Empire today? If so, against what “Empire” and for what reasons?
  • Who is speaking out for God today? From where would you expect to find such voices–conservatives/liberals? . . . insiders/outsiders? . . . admired/despised? . . . . . . . marginalized/prominent?

Abba, give us your eyes to see our world, and your loving heart to care for it.

For More: “Journey With Jesus” by Dan Clendenin

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I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill

Daily Riches: When Only Empathy Will Do (Peter Scazzero and Martin Buber)

“Before the war began, [Martin] Buber considered the ‘religious’ to be mystical experiences that lifted him out of the earthly ordinary experiences of everyday life. He was more concerned with the eternal than with the temporal, more focused on ecstasy that on daily existence, more interested in what lies beyond the world than in the world itself. That all changed one day in 1914, the year the World War I broke out in Europe, when a young man came to visit Buber.

What happened was no more than that one forenoon, after a morning of ‘religious’ enthusiasm, I had a visit from an unknown young man, without being there in spirit. I certainly did not fail to let the meeting be friendly. . . . I conversed attentively and openly with him–only I omitted to guess the questions which he did not put. Later, not long after, I learned from one of his friends–he himself was no longer alive–the essential content of these questions; I learned that he had come to me not casually but borne by destiny, not for a chat but for a decision. He had come to me, he had come in this hour.

“The young man had committed suicide. The guilt Buber felt was not that he had somehow failed to remove the young man’s despair, but that he was not fully present to him. He was so preoccupied by his religious experience earlier that morning, that he failed to bring the full resources of his attention to their conversation. He did not turn to the young man with his whole being to actually feel with him. Instead, of genuinely listening, he brought leftovers, a courteous but partial engagement. For Buber, the experience felt like a judgment on his whole way of life. He realized that it is possible to have profound spiritual experiences . . . but that such a faith is worth nothing without a deeply present love for people.” Peter Scazzero

“But they did not understand what he meant
and were afraid to ask him about it.”
Mark 9:32 NIV

Moving from Head to Heart

  • How do you think Jesus felt when he spoke about his coming death, and no one asked him what he meant?
  • Can you recall a time when you tragically failed to listen well?
  • What can you do to become a better listener?

Abba, when I listen, help me focus on what’s happening inside the other person, not inside of me.

For More: Emotionally Healthy Relationships Day by Day by Peter Scazzero

Daily Riches: “It’s Good That You Exist!” (Josef Pieper)

“If a human being already exists anyhow, could we not say that it does not matter whether a lover finds it wonderful and affirms it? Does it really add or take away anything that someone says, ‘It’s good that you exist?” . . . We are basically asking what is the ‘function’ of love within the whole of existence; what it is supposed to do and accomplish in the world. . . . It admittedly does not suffice to analyze, no matter how precisely, the lover’s intention and what is ‘really’ willed and meant by the one who feels loving concern. We must . . . examine the matter from the point of view of the person who happens to be loved. What is really taking place on his side? . . . What does it mean for a person that another turns to him and says . . . ‘It’s good that you exist?’ . . . It does not suffice us simply to exist; we can do that ‘anyhow.” What matters to us, beyond mere existence, is the explicit confirmation: It is good that you exist; how wonderful that you are! In other words, what we need over and above sheer existence is: to be loved by another person. That is an astonishing fact when we consider it closely. Being created by God actually does not suffice, it would seem; the fact of creation needs continuation and perfection by the creative power of human love. But this seemingly astonishing fact is repeatedly confirmed by the most palpable experience, of the kind that everyone has day after day. We say that a person ‘blossoms’ when undergoing the experience of being loved; that he becomes wholly himself for the first time; that a ‘new life’ is beginning for him–and so forth. For a child, and to all appearance even for the still unborn child, being loved by the mother is literally the precondition for its own thriving.” Josef Pieper

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.”
Hosea 2:19 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have someone in your life who rejoices over you?
  • Who do you have in your life who is looking to you for love?
  • When is the last time you let someone know “It’s good that you exist!”?

Abba, I desire that people who encounter me would feel much loved.

For More: An Anthology by Joseph Pieper

Daily Riches: The Liturgy of Your Day (Tish Harrison Warren and Bernard Berenson)

“From childhood on I have had the dream of life lived as a sacrament . . . . The dream implied taking life ritually as something holy.” Bernard Berenson

“A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house. Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.’ I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith–the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small–that God’s transformation takes root and grows. . . . The point of exchanging my morning liturgy was to habituate myself to repetition, to the tangible, to the work before me–to train myself, in this tiny way, to live with my eyes open to God’s presence in this ordinary day. I’d cultivated a habit, from the first conscious moments of my day, of being entertained, informed, and stimulated. My brain would dart quickly from stimulus to stimulus, unable to focus, unable to lie fallow. Making my bed and sitting in silence for just a few minutes reminded me that what is most real and significant in my day is not what is loudest, flashiest, or most entertaining. It is in the repetitive and the mundane that I begin to learn to love, to listen, to pay attention to God and to those around me. I needed to retrain my mind not to bolt at the first sight of boredom or buck against stillness. That took the cultivation of habit.” Tish Harrison Warren

“Train yourself to be godly.”
1 Timothy 4:7b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you practice some spiritual disciplines that are quiet, repetitive, ordinary–very unspectacular?
  • Is remembering “God’s presence in [your] ordinary day” something you’re working on?
  • Are you “habituating” yourself to that by some repeated practice(s)?

Abba, may the daily rhythms I choose help me to remember the sacredness of each day, and your presence in it.

For More: The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Daily Riches: Justice, Not Just Love (William Sloane Coffin, Abraham Heschel, and Augustine)

“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Augustine

“It is also true that many pastors . . . find it easier to talk to their congregations of charity rather than of justice. Charity, after all, threatens not at all the status quo that may be profitable to a goodly number of their parishioners. Justice, on the other hand, leads directly to political controversy. So there is a real temptation to think that an issue is less spiritual for being more political, to believe that religion is above politics, that the sanctuary is too sacred a place for the grit and grime of political battle. But if you believe religion is above politics, you are, in actually, for the status quo–a very political position. And were God the god of the status quo, then the church would have no prophetic role . . . The cause of justice . . . is to challenge the status quo, to try to make what’s legal more moral, to speak truth to power, and to take personal or concerted action against evil, whether in personal or systemic form. . . .  Clearly the love that lies on the far side of justice demands a communal sense of responsibility for and a sense of complicity in the very evils we abhor. ” William Sloan Coffin

“The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” Abraham Heschel

Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 82:3-4 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is focusing on love a way for you to avoid doing justice?
  • Are you perhaps inadvertently siding with the status-quo?
  • Are you characterized by the kind of love spoken of above?

Abba, help me to take responsibility for my complicity, even in evils I abhor.

For More: The Heart Is A Little To The Left by William Sloane Coffin

Daily Riches: The Problem With Noble Pursuits (Mark Thomas Shaw)

“The radical moment in many a contemplative’s journey is when they enter the cave. Often there’s some crisis that precipitates it. For Francis of Assisi, it was being disowned by his father and choosing to sever ties with his community. For a friend of mine, it was a divorce. For another, a death in the family. The world as we know it, or rather, the story we’ve been living, somehow shatters. In the cave, we move into a deeply interior space, examining everything: our belief systems, our conditioning, our very identity, even the very notion of a self. If this is accompanied by a contemplative practice, eventually there is a buoyancy and lightness, a spaciousness surrounding these heavy questions. The problem with noble pursuits or living a better story isn’t the pursuit itself, but the self and the baggage it almost always takes with it. We can embark on a journey with the best of intentions, but the untransformed self will bring its addictions, insecurities, and immature programs for happiness along with it, still convinced it is living a noble path. First we need to be stripped of the implicit notion that we are the hero to see with the clear sight of love, to understand what has to change within us, and which has nothing to do with egoic self-deception. . . . If the ego is untransformed the new noble pursuit just becomes the ego’s new stomping ground. There’s a purification needed, a death, an acknowledgement of the false self at work, it takes the ongoing daily work of making space to become channels of divine love, without attachment to outcomes. Contemplation provides a means of not only becoming aware of the story, but taking time every day to slough it off altogether, and rest in the divine presence, which is before, behind, and beyond all story.” Mark Thomas Shaw

“This is what the Lord says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.’”
Jeremiah 6:18 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you picking up the pieces of the story you’ve been living? . . . reinventing yourself? . . . beginning a new challenge?
  • Are you simply bringing along your “untransformed self”–with all its same addictions, insecurities and “programs for happiness” that you depended on before?
  • A purified you might simply “rest in the divine presence” in a new way–without “attachment to outcomes.” What would that mean for you?

Abba, I want to live without unhealthy attachments.

For More: “Contemplative Light” by Mark Thomas Shaw

Shaw, Mark Thomas. “What Story Are You Living In?” https://us15.campaign-archive.com/?e=ae076a4940&u=14c1793e7a220272e67633fd9&id=d29991cf24

Daily Riches: “Finally, The Woman Died” (J. Peter Holmes)

“There is good news here [Luke 20:27-40] about the status of women. Jesus was saying that in the resurrection, there will be no more giving women away as if they are property. Women in the resurrection will be persons, just as men will be persons. Paul picked up on this when he wrote, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3: 28). Jesus’ response was a call to kingdom thinking—on earth as it is in heaven—and a reminder that all things shall be made new. Jesus’ response is also good news for slaves, for those oppressed by race, class, creed, or any other box in which they have been confined: too big, too young, too slow, poorly educated or learning disabled. Whatever the box, it will not exist in the resurrection. Though the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, many others believed that eternity would be a continuation of things as they had been on earth. Jesus came to say, ‘No. Open your minds and hearts, because what is coming will be so much greater. . . .’ The Sadducees’ question showed very little sympathy for the sorrow this woman had faced. In two verses, they described a woman losing her husband, then remarrying his brother and losing him and then the next brother, and on and on: seven weddings followed by seven funerals. If Jesus sounded exasperated by their telling of the tale, perhaps it was because they did so without an ounce of empathy. How did the men die? How did she get through it all? Maybe they were all wonderful husbands who cared for her tenderly, and yet she had seven marriages and not a child to care for her after her husbands died. It was all so sad. . . . No one empathized with that woman more than Jesus. The tale unfolded so quickly that just as he might have said, ‘Take me to this woman,’ they announced in their insensitive voices, ‘Oh yes, the woman is dead now too’ (the sense of v. 32).” J. Peter Holmes

“Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be,
since the seven were married to her?”
Luke 20:33 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Did you ever read this story and feel the heartbreak of this widow? I never did.
  • Women have been treated poorly (e.g., like property) for most of recorded history. What would Jesus say?
  • Do those who share your faith honor women and advocate for them because of it? Do you?

I can do better Lord. Help me.

For More: Feasting on the Gospels–Luke, Volume 2, by Cynthia Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches: Naming–The Root of Empathy and Intimacy (Maria Popova, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Bob Dylan)

“Words are simply the signs of things. But many people treat things as though they were the signs and illustrations of words.” Aldous Huxley

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“To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name; to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the namable world; to transform its strangeness into familiarity, which is the root of empathy. To name is to pay attention; to name is to love. Parents name their babies as a first nonbiological marker of individuality amid the human lot; lovers give each other private nicknames that sanctify their intimacy; it is only when we began naming domesticated animals that they stopped being animals and became pets. . . . And yet names are words, and words have a way of obscuring or warping the true meanings of their objects. ‘Words belong to each other,’ Virginia Woolf observed . . . and so they are more accountable to other words than to the often unnamable essences of the things they signify. . . . Naming is an act of redemption and a special form of paying attention, which [Robin Wall] Kimmerer captures beautifully:

Having words for these forms [of various mosses] makes the differences between them so much more obvious. With words at your disposal, you can see more clearly. Finding the words is another step in learning to see. . . . Having words also creates an intimacy with the plant that speaks of careful observation. . . . In indigenous ways of knowing, all beings are recognized as non-human persons, and all have their own names. It is a sign of respect to call a being by its name, and a sign of disrespect to ignore it. Words and names are the ways we humans build relationships . . . . Intimate connection allows recognition in an all-too-often anonymous world. . . . Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing.'” Maria Popova

“Whatever the man called each living creature,
that was its name.”
Genesis 2:19b NIV

“He saw an animal that liked to snort.
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short.
It looked like there wasn’t nothin’ that he couldn’t pull.
‘Ah, think I’ll call it a bull.”
Bob Dylan, “Man Gave Names To All the Animals”

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you realized the predictable difference between “what something is” and “what it is to you”?
  • Can you see how much power exists in naming? . . . both for great good and for great harm?
  • Can you see how finding the right words can help you “see more clearly?” . . . love more readily?

Abba, break my addition to assumptions and labels for the sake of love.

For More: “Autism From the Inside” by Katherine May

Daily Riches: “An Inflow of God Into the Soul” (Gerald May, John of the Cross, and Thomas Kelly)

“There is a relentless willfulness in us that seldom ceases until we have been brought to our knees by incapacity and failure.” Gerald May

“Continuously renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living.” Thomas Kelly

“The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely. Sometimes the letting go of old ways is painful, occasionally even devastating. But this is not why the night is called ‘dark.’ The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding. It happens mysteriously, in secret, and beyond our conscious control. For that reason if can be disturbing or even scary, but in the end it always works to our benefit. . . . To some extent, we can assume that various dimensions of the night are always going on in our lives. God is always working obscurely within us. And, even more mysteriously, some part of us is always saying yes to God’s invitations to go where we do not want to go. Viewed in this way, the dark night of the soul is . . .  a deep ongoing process that characterizes our spiritual life. In this sense, the dark night is a person’s hidden life with God. . . . ‘This dark night,’ [John of the Cross says,] ‘is an inflow of God into the soul.’ . . . This is, for me, the most hopeful thing about it; the dark night is nothing other than our ongoing relationship with the Divine. . . . As such it never ends; it just keeps deepening, revealing more and more intimate layers of freedom for love.” Gerald May

“Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.
So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
Acts 9:8,9 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has incapacity or failure “brought you to your knees?”
  • In your “hidden life with God” can you imagine God always at work deepening your ability to love?
  • You’re not hearkening back to some religious experience years ago are you?

Abba, I renounce my familiar willfulness, and look to you for that needed continuous renewal in my life.

For More: The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May

Daily Riches: Your Dark Night As a Gestation (Gerald May, Thomas Moore, and John on the Cross)

“Maybe your dark night is a gestation, a coming into being of a level of existence you have never dreamed of. Maybe your dark night is one big ironical challenge, just the opposite of what it appears to be–not a dying, but a birthing.” Thomas Moore

“If we really knew what we were called to relinquish on this [spiritual] journey, our defenses would never allow us to take the first step. Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimensions of the journey is by being unable to see where we’re going. John’s [John of the Cross] explanation of the obscurity goes further. He says that in worldly matters it is good to have light so we know where to go without stumbling. But in spiritual maters it is precisely when we do think we know where to go that we are most likely to stumble. Thus, John says, God darkens our awareness in order to keep us safe. When we cannot chart our own course, we become vulnerable to God’s protection, and the darkness becomes a ‘guiding night,’ a ‘night more kindly than the dawn.’ . . . the night is dark for our protection. We cannot liberate ourselves; our defenses and resistance will not permit it. . . . To guide us toward the love that we most desire, we must be taken where we could not and would not go on our own. And lest we sabotage the journey, we must not know where we are going. Deep in the darkness, way beneath our senses, God is instilling ‘another, better love’ and ‘deeper, more urgent longings’ that empower our willingness for all the necessary relinquishments along the way. This transformative process–the freeing of love from attachment–is akin to the ancient biblical concept of salvation.” Gerald May

“When you are old you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you and lead you
where you do not want to go.”
John 21:18b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever felt like God was keeping you in the dark (off balance, confused, frustrated, stymied)?
  • Did you ever consider this was for your own good? . . . that God was lovingly at work beneath your understanding?
  • What “attachments” do you have that hinder you from moving ahead in the life of faith? Is God “helping” you to relinquish some of those?

Abba, teach me to welcome your often confusing, often painful–but necessary–work in me.

For More: The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May

 

Daily Riches: Incarnational Listening (Leo Buscaglia, David Augsburger, and A. J. Swoboda )

“Being heard is so close to being loved
that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” David Augsburger

“The world is changed by listeners.” A.J. Swoboda

“An open ear is the only believable sign of an open heart.” David Augsburger

“When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

“When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

“When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.

“Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do–just hear me.

“Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham
in the same newspaper.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.

“When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy.

“But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince
you and get about this business
of understanding what’s behind
this irrational feeling.

“And when that’s clear, the answers are
obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what’s behind them.

“Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes,
for some people–because God is mute,
and he doesn’t give advice or try
to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work
it out for yourself.

“So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn–and I will listen to you.”

Leo Buscaglia

“To answer before listening–that is folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • When you’re called upon to listen, do you find yourself giving advice? It’s a common problem.
  • Are you quick to want to “fix” someone or their problem? What might that say about you–either positively or negatively?
  • When did you last feel truly heard? Wasn’t it powerful and wonderful? Didn’t you feel special, valuable–loved? Can you do that for someone else soon? How could you practice that?

Abba, help me as I practice loving, attentive, silent listening.

For More: Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard by David Augusburger

Daily Riches: What Saves Relationships Over and Over (Maria Popova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Shel Silverstein)

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Our paradoxical longing for intimacy and independence is a diamagnetic force—it pulls us toward togetherness and simultaneously repels us from it with a mighty magnet that, if unskillfully handled, can rupture a relationship and break a heart. Under this unforgiving magnetism, it becomes an act of superhuman strength and self-transcendence to give space to the other when all one wants is closeness. And yet this difficult act may be the very thing—perhaps the only thing—that saves the relationship over and over.” Maria Popova

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation. . . . It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude . . . . Self-transformation is precisely what life is, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one moment resembles another. . . . For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” Rainer Maria Rilke

“Love one another.”
John 13:34

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you agree that by nature the crowd deprives its members of solitude?
  • Will you choose a beloved who will protect your solitude? Can you be trusted to protect their solitude?
  • Are you learning to be happy and whole in solitude, so that even when you want closeness, you can give your partner space?

Abba, may my love be unpossessing, uncontrolling, protecting space for the thriving of my beloved.

For More: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein

Popova, Maria. “The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage”

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. 

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