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: The Madness and Meaning of Love (Thomas Moore)

“Love is also a kind of madness. It seals you in a bubble of fantasy where emotions are intense. You feel unbalanced. You do silly things. Your sense of responsibility disappears. You are deaf to the reasonable advice of friends and family. In your delirium you may get married or pregnant. Then you spend years in the aftermath trying to make a reasonable life. At any point you may fall into a dark night of the soul created by the profound unsettling that love leaves in its wake. . . . After years of practicing psychotherapy with men and women of all ages, I am convinced that love is the most common source of our dark nights. . . . The lure is strong, but the darkness is intense. It is as though love always has two parts, or two sides, like the moon, a light one and a dark one. In all our loves we have little idea of what is going on and what is demanded of us. Love has little to do with ego and is beyond understanding and control. It has its own reasons and its own indirect ways of getting what it wants. . . . You surrender, and then the spell descends and you get swept away by days and nights of fantasy, memory and longing, and a strange sensation of loss, perhaps the end of freedom and of a comfortable life. Even if you have had experiences of painful and unsuccessful love, you don’t give up on it. The soul so hungers for love that you go after it, even if there is only the slightest chance of succeeding. . . . Clearly love is not about making you happy. It is a form of initiation that may radically transform you, making you more of who you are but less of who you have been. If you don’t realize that you are walking on coals and running the gauntlet and surviving the wilderness in quest of vision–all within the comforts of a simple human relationship–you could be undone by it. Love gives you a sense of meaning, but it asks a price. It will make you into the person you are called to be, but only if you endure its pains and allow it to empty you as much as it fills you.” Thomas Moore

“The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again . . . .
Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods . . . .’”
Hosea 3:1 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • “The lure [of love] is strong, but the darkness is intense.” Do you typically remember that?
  • Moore says, “Clearly love is not about making you happy.” Does that even make sense? If it’s true, what does it mean?
  • Are you willing to “pay the price” that love demands?

Abba, as we love, help us to see past the fantasies to the opportunities.

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

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: When the Darkness Descends (Barbara Brown Taylor and Gerald May)

“John’s answer [John of the Cross] is not simple, but in the simplest possible terms, he says that the dark night is God’s best gift to you, intended for your liberation. It is about freeing you from your ideas about God, your fears about God, your attachment to all the benefits you have been promised for believing in God, your devotion to the spiritual practices that are supposed to make you feel closer to God, your dedication to doing and believing all the right things about God, your positive and negative evaluations of yourself as a believer in God, your tactics for manipulating God, and your sure cures for doubting God. All of these are substitutes for God, John says. They all get in God’s way. The late Gerald May, who wrote his own book about John, called them addictions. In many cases, he said, we should give thanks for them, because it is our addiction to some God substitute or another that finally brings us to our knees, by helping us to realize how far we have strayed from our heart’s true desire.  …Those who have come through dark nights of their own, not just once but over and over again, often cannot find the words to say why they would not trade those nights for anything. ‘Yes, they were nights of great loss. Yes, the soul suffered from fearful subtraction. Yes, a great emptiness opened up where I had stored all my spiritual treasures, and yet.’ And yet what? ‘And yet what remained when everything else was gone was more real than anything I could have imagined. I was no longer apart from what I sought; I was part of it, or in it. I’m sorry I can’t say it any better than that, There was no place else I wanted to be.’” Barbara Brown Taylor

“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God
shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator
in doing what is right.”
1 Peter 4:19

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Do you see pain, loss and confusion as experiences God uses to make you more mature, loving, wise?
  • Is it possible that in your life, your family, your nation–God is taking away idols, false assumptions, the sense of control–so that some profound “emptiness” can open up for you and others?
  • The Biblical idea that one must go down to go up (downward mobility) is commonplace. As you read these words, do you feel like you’re “going down” (perhaps “for the count”)? Can you trust God in that now, even though you’re hurting and confused?

Abba, meet me in my pain. Shape me. Better me.

For more: Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: Wilderness Times (Barbara Brown Taylor, Terry Tempest Williams, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Richard Rohr and Ben Johnson)

“He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity. Heaven prepares good men with crosses.” Ben Johnson

“Popular religion focuses so hard on spiritual success that most of us do not know the first thing about the spiritual fruits of failure. When we fall ill, lose our jobs, wreck our marriages, or alienate our children, most of us are left alone to pick up the pieces. Even those of us who are ministered to by brave friends can find it hard to shake the shame of getting lost in our lives. And yet if someone asked us to pinpoint the times in our lives that changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times.” Barbara Brown Taylor

“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found.” Terry Tempest Williams

“No water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand. And no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.” Richard Rohr

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have the events of your life ever led you into a “wilderness?” …into a kind of “descent?”
  • Did you make discoveries there? …about yourself? …about your God? Was it transformative? If not, why not?
  • Are you so willing for God to change you and shape you that you can be thankful for wilderness times?

Abba, thank you for meeting me in the wilderness.

For More: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

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

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

 

Daily Riches: Waiting As Receiving the Future From God (Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Edwin Robertson)

“A longing emerges within us, which will not be silenced, a longing that all should be fulfilled amidst all the failures and against all the evidence, yet, we protest its fulfillment all the stronger. This is a waiting within us for nothing less than that this world will be redeemed through and through—not by this or that political means, but by God. When God himself comes to us, then Advent truly begins to become real. When we see all our hopes and dreams shattered by questioning, by fruitless efforts and failures, when the narrowness of our existence wounds us; when suddenly we are tormented by the thought that all is lost and fallen into oblivion; and when the cry is wrenched from us: ‘Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down”’ (Isaiah 64:1), then perhaps we can understand what the Bible means by ‘waiting.’ …Thus we live today under the shadow of his coming, not some dreaded disaster or some fate, but the coming of the God of justice, of love, and of peace. Not finding our own way to God into the future, but receiving the future from God. We know that we cannot go to God, but God comes to us, enfolding us in his unbelievable grace, otherwise our life is lost, and our waiting is in vain. We can only wait, watchfully wait; that means patiently waiting, totally deaf to those who would sow doubts in our mind, blind to every power that stands between us and that future which God wills for us. One thing is needful: the conviction that we shall see God, we shall hear God, we shall receive God, we shall know God, we shall serve God. In some incomprehensible way, God will—otherwise nothing, absolutely nothing else, counts.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
.
“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.”
Isaiah 64:1
.
Moving From the Head to the Heart
  • Can you wait in such a way that you’re “deaf to those who would sow doubts in your mind?”
  • While you wait can you be “blind to every power that stands between you and that future which God wills for you?”
  • Can you wait, confident of the fact that “God will” – and counting on “absolutely nothing else?”

Abba, every day I’m waiting for the future you have for me.

For More: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons edited by Edwin Robertson

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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: Trust the Fruitive Darkness (Leonard Sweet and John Donne)

“Churches are best for Prayer, that have least light:
To see God only, I goe out of sight:
And to scape stormy dayes,
I chuse An everlasting night.”
John Donne
.

“The first step to seeing is knowing that you’re in the dark. If you don’t know you’re in the dark, then you need to turn on the dark. To turn on the dark is a metaphor for keeping an open mind, for resisting easy assumptions and automatic defaults in judgment, all of which I call light pollution. Less is more. Sensory deprivation is a blessing to those who need less distraction. Light can pollute dark, just as the dark can pollute the light. …In order to see the stars, it must be dark enough to see them. … [but] The brightest stars in the sky no longer come from the Milky Way Galaxy, but the night glow from our biggest cities. It’s called ‘sky glow’—light reflected off moisture and dust in the air. …In some Eastern cities like Seoul, South Korea, at night all the buildings ‘go dark.’ No matter how high the apartment complex or skyscraper, it is dark, enabling anyone awake to see the stars. But for most of the world, sky glow now outshines the moon for nearly half of each month. The biological effects of night pollution are only now being appreciated. Ninety miles from Las Vegas, the neon lights are lighting up Death Valley National Park. Many of the night creatures are dying because of light pollution. Certain nocturnal species and ecosystems require a nightly dose of darkness—for reproduction (snakes), for predation (bats), for food intake (zooplankton feed on algae in the dark), for growth and survival. Without dark they face extinction. …Darkness is the womb in which everything exists. To trust the dark is to trust those deep, underground forces—forces of the earth, the ocean, the genes—that would bring to life the seed that is your soul. God planted deep into the ground of your being the seeds of a one-of-a-kind soul. To grow our souls into the unique creation God intends us to be, we must trust the birthing that is going on inside and around us. We must trust the ‘fruitive darkness.’” Leonard Sweet

“And I will give thee
the treasures of darkness”
Isaiah 45:3

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you know you’re in the dark?
  • Are you able to trust the “fruitive darkness” at work in our world and your life?
  • How specifically would you do that?

Abba, help me discover the treasures of darkness.

For More: Nudge by Leonard Sweet

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. Thank you for reading and sharing my blog!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Soul in Darkness (William Cowper and Mother Teresa)

“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”  “Darkness is such that I really do not see – neither with my mind nor with my reason – the place of God in my soul is blank – There is no God in me – when the pain of longing is so great – I just long and long for God. … The torture and pain I can’t explain.” Mother Teresa

“The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me, gracious God, is mine
A contrite heart or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel;
If aught is felt, ’tis only pain,
To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclined
To love Thee if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that’s good.

My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry, ‘My strength renew!’
Seem weaker than before.

Thy saints are comforted, I know,
And love Thy house of prayer;
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.

Oh make this heart rejoice or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break –
And heal it, if it be.”
William Cowper

“Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.”
Psalm 73:23-26

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you ever felt like the Christian faith worked for others but not for you?
  • Do you know how to “keep on” as one who “belongs to God” no matter what darkness may come?
  • Are you learning in the light, what you will need to know when darkness inevitably comes?

Abba, my heart, if it be not broken, break – and heal it, if it be. And may you be the strength of my heart even when my health fails and my spirit grows weak.

For More: Before the Door of God by Jay Hopler and Kimberly Johnson, eds.

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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.”

 

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