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: Depression and Darkness As Alarms (Thomas Moore and Lee Stringer)

“Are you going to become cynical and depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night and summer and winter?” Thomas Moore

“It helps to clear out the theories and dogmas you picked up from your family, school, and religious upbringing. To be an independent and mature adult, you may have to dump all kinds of things that get in the way. Then your thoughts and judgments become leaner and clearer. You realize that much of what has preoccupied you is not essential. You can live happily and sensuously in this rich and promising world without being caught up in many of its dehumanizing values and empty distractions. The writer Lee Stringer tells the passionate story of his life on the streets of New York, where he was hooked on alcohol, cocaine, and crack. He had gone through a highly disillusioning failure with an import company and took to living on the streets. Eventually he discovered that he could write. He began writing for a newspaper for street people and soon became its editor. Then he went on to write bestselling books. Reflecting on his experience, he says that he could have gotten back on his feet through professional help, but he believes in learning through ‘hard knocks.’ His conclusion could well be a summary of this book. ‘It has occurred to me since that perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder at all but, like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alerting us that something is undoubtedly wrong; that perhaps it is time to stop, take a time-out, take as long as it takes, and attend to the unaddressed business of filling our souls.’ Here is a key idea: stop thinking of your dark nights as problems and begin to see them as opportunities for change.” Thomas Moore

“I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.”
Psalm 69:2 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you think of darkness and light an normal, inevitable parts of life?
  • Is there an “alarm of sorts” going off in your life? Are you attending to it?
  • After reading the longer quote, what are you hearing in the shorter one?

Abba, in the depths, I am remade. I find myself–and at last, a “heft of soul.” (Moore)

For More: The Dark Nights Of The Soul by Thomas Moore

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Daily Riches: The Pain of Loneliness (Elizabeth Elliot)

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C. S. Lewis
.
I remember waking up very early one morning in a tiny reed-and leaf shelter on the banks of the Curaray River [in Ecuador]. My three-year-old and I had spent the night there with some Indians on our way home to a clearing about a day’s journey beyond. Rain was sweeping over the river and the sandy beach in great waving sheets, and with the rain a huge loneliness seemed about to drown me. I felt that I could not face a day like that in a dugout canoe, nor did I have the least desire to get back to that clearing. Civilization was what I wanted that moment, not adventure, but I had no choice. God met me there that morning, and strengthened me with an It is written, reminding me of His promises, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always. (Matthew 4:8) . . . The pain of loneliness is one way in which [God] wants to get our attention. We may be earnestly desiring to be obedient and holy. But we may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him–here where it seems He is not at work, where His will seems obscure or frightening, where He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here and nowhere else is the appointed place. If faith does not go to work here, it will not go to work at all.” Elizabeth Elliot
.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going,
so how can we know the way?'”
John 14:5 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you considered that your loneliness, in all its pain, could be “Jesus calling?”
  • God often works in ways we don’t see, understand, or even appreciate. How do you handle the confusion, frustration, fear, anger or disillusionment that comes with that?
  • Can you express your questions or complaints to God? Can your faith still “go to work?”

Abba, I don’t want to bury my complaints–or let them bury me. Help my unbelief.

For more: “God Shouts to Us in Our Pain” by Daniel Ritchie

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Daily Riches: In Praise of Uncertaintly and Doubt (Maria Popova and Wislawa Szymborska)

“Doctors, teachers, gardeners—and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.’ In a sentiment of chilling prescience today, as we witness tyrants drunk on certainty drain the world of its essential inspiration, Szymborska considers the destructive counterpoint to this generative not-knowing:

All sorts of torturers, dictators, fanatics, and demagogues struggling for power by way of a few loudly shouted slogans also enjoy their jobs, and they too perform their duties with inventive fervor. Well, yes, but they ‘know.’ They know, and whatever they know is enough for them once and for all. They don’t want to find out about anything else, since that might diminish their arguments’ force. And any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. In the most extreme cases, cases well known from ancient and modern history, it even poses a lethal threat to society.”

This is why I value that little phrase ‘I don’t know’ so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself ‘I don’t know,’ the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself ‘I don’t know’, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying ‘I don’t know,’ and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize. Such surrender to not-knowing, Szymborska argues as she steps out into the cosmic perspective, is the seedbed of our capacity for astonishment, which in turn gives meaning to our existence…. Granted, in daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like ‘the ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ ‘the ordinary course of events’ … But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.” Maria Popova

“I have said things that I did not understand,
things too great for me, which I did not know.”
Job 42:3

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Are you ever “drunk on certainty?”
  • Can you gladly embrace “not knowing?” …doubt?
  • What do your answers say about you?

Abba, help me see past the “ordinary.”

For More: Map by Wislawa Szymborska

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Thanks for following my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: That Blessing That Isn’t (Susan Edmiston and Leonard Scheff)

“A landlord came to the Zen master in a state of distress. One of his stable hands had left the door to the barn open and his prize stallion had escaped. ‘What a disaster!’ the man cried. The master replied only, ‘I don’t know.’ The landlord left in disgust.

A few days later, the stallion returned to the barn followed by three wild mares. The landlord returned to the master and said, ‘It wasn’t a disaster. It was a blessing.’ The master replied, ‘I don’t know.’ The landlord left, doubting the wisdom of the master.

When the landlord’s son was breaking the mares, he was thrown and broke his leg. The landlord returned to the master and told him of the event and said the master was right that it was not a blessing. The master replied, ‘I don’t know.’

When the soldiers of the emperor came to recruit young men for an upcoming battle, they left the son behind because of his broken leg. The son said, ‘Father, what a blessing my broken leg is.’ The father said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” James 4:13-15

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you feel able to differentiate a “disaster” from a “blessing?” Is that even possible?
  • Christians often go around saying this or that thing was a real “blessing.” What does that say about them/us?
  • The Buddhist premise behind this story is that we try to attribute meaning where there is no inherent meaning in our world, and that in doing so we no longer see things as they are–but only as we’ve been conditioned to see them. What would be different for Christians? How could your “conditioning” be misleading you when it comes to “blessing?”

Abba, I may not understand what happens in my life or my world, or why, but I can look to you and submit to you to shape me in every circumstance. May it be.

For More: The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger by Susan Edmiston and Leonard Scheff

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment/question. – Bill

Daily Riches: Listen to Your Insecurity (Alicia Britt Chole, Jeremy Taylor, Gerald May)

“[ A] religion without mystery must be a religion without God.” Jeremy Taylor

“Uncertainty is quite revealing. The unknown triggers different reactions in different hearts and exposes our souls’ defaults. Ambiguity reveals where we instinctively go to feel the illusion of security again. In response to a yet-unnamed but imminent storm, some hide, some run, some live in denial, some escape into fictional worlds, some feast, and some stake out their territory. The latter we see in John and James’s response to Jesus’ continued cross-talk. [Mark 10:32-40] All the uncertainty triggered something deep within the brothers. As they wrestled with the seemingly mixed messages of Jesus as Messiah and Jesus crucified, they reasoned it was time to take control. …To change our defaults we must first address our theology of uncertainty. And to address our theology of uncertainty, we must first befriend mystery. …Mystery is a given for relationship between the Infinite and the finite. As we follow Jesus into uncertainty, we are free, in the words of Gerald G. May, to ‘join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are.’ …Today, pay attention to avoidance mechanisms that surface when you face the unknown, unknowable, uncomfortable, or unavoidable. Do you eat more? Sleep more? Domineer more? Disappear more? Why? Ask God’s Holy Spirit to sensitize you today to the existence of avoidance defaults in your life. Prayerfully consider what beliefs might underlie any avoidance that emerges when you are facing uncertainty. Return to John the Baptist’s words, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30 NASB), and consider what relevance John’s wisdom might have as a guide through the unknown.” Alicia Britt Chole

“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here.
If you wish, I will put up three shelters—
one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’”
Matthew 17:4

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • How do you tend to respond to uncertainty? Do you somehow try to banish it? …to take control? …to otherwise distract yourself?
  • Do you crave certainty when it comes to your beliefs, your relationships? What does your answer reveal about you?
  • Imagine how life with Jesus forced his disciples to learn to “befriend mystery.” Is something like that happening with you?

Abba, make we aware of when I’m simply attempting to avoid uncertainty, and teach me to befriend mystery.

For More:  40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast. by Alicia Britt Chole

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

 

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