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: Staying At Marriage (Wendell Berry)

“The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the unknown. We can join one another only by joining the unknown. We must not be misled by the procedures of experimental thought: in life, in the world, we are never given two known results to choose between, but only one result that we choose without knowing what it is. . . . Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you—and marriage, time, life, history, and the world—will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way. . . . The Zen student, the poet, the husband, the wife—none knows with certainty what he or she is staying for, but all know the likelihood that they will be staying ‘a while’: to find out what they are staying for. And it is the faith of all of these disciplines that they will not stay to find that they should not have stayed. As the traditional marriage ceremony insists, not everything that we stay to find out will make us happy. The faith, rather, is that by staying, and only by staying, we will learn something of the truth, that the truth is good to know, and that it is always both different and larger than we thought.” Wendell Berry

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven,
Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Luke 9:51 NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Did you enter marriage thinking you knew what to expect? Don’t most of us marry with illusions?
  • In staying at marriage we may learn something “different and larger than we thought.” If you’re married, what has that meant for you?
  • Think about Jesus’ life from the point of view of “staying.” What does his example show?

Abba, what do you want me to discover as I stay?

For More: Standing by Words: Essays by Wendell Berry

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Daily Riches: Fruitful Spaciousness (Gerald May)

“When you think about it, it makes sense that space would be intimately associated with salvation. Space is freedom: freedom from confinement, from preoccupation, from oppression, from drivenness, and from all the other interior and exterior forces that bind and restrict our spirits. We need space in the first place to recognize how compelled and bound we are. Then we need space to allow the compulsions to ease and the bonds to loosen. . . . To the extent that space is permitted by grace and our own willingness, we discover expanding emptiness in which consecration can happen, room for love to make its home in us. . . . It seems to me that spaciousness comes to us in three primary ways. First, it appears as spaciousness of form: physical, geographical spaces like the wide openness of fields, water, and the sky and the welcoming simplicity of uncluttered rooms. Second, it comes as spaciousness of time: pauses in activity when we are freed from tasks, agendas, and other demands. Third, we encounter spacious of soul. This is inner emptiness, the room inside our hearts, the unfilled quality of our consciousness. Depending upon how we meet this soul-space, we may experience it as open possibility or void nothingness, as creative potential or dulling boredom, as quiet, peaceful serenity or as restless yearning for fulfillment. . . . Sometimes the waiting is beautiful in its spacious presence to what is, but more often it feels like a great struggle. It is a fierce and holy dignity to wait in the midst of things needing to be done and nothing but emptiness inside. It is even sometimes a kind of spiritual warfare, filled with temptations to do something, anything, to make a difference in the world outside and fill the void within.” Gerald May

“He has sent me to . . . to proclaim freedom for the captives . . . .”
Isaiah 61:1b NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Could you be hemmed in–”compelled and bound” more than you think?
  • Have you experienced spaciousness (geographical, temporal, internal) in a way that eased your compulsions or loosened your bonds?
  • Have you waited in that in-between space where you want to do anything but wait? . . . where you don’t know what is next? . . . where you’re “off kilter?”
  • What did God do for you or in you in that place?

Abba, you’ve made me for freedom. Help me to abide in it.

For more: The Awakened Heart by Gerald May

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Thanks for reading, following and sharing these Daily Riches. Look for my upcoming book– Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for quotations, Scripture, questions, and prayers like these.

Sources:

May, Gerald, The Awakened Heart. New York: HarperCollins, 1991, pp. 93-92, 244.

Daily Riches: God’s Way Is Through The Desert (Belden Lane)

“Biblical religion, from ancient Israel to the early church, takes shape in a geographical context dominated by desert-mountain topography. Yahweh is a God who repeatedly leads the children of Israel into the desert, toward the mountain. Of the recurring traditions that undergo transformation in Israel’s life the wilderness motif is one of the most significant. At every subsequent period of testing–from Assyrian threat to Babylonian invasion and beyond–the Jews interpret the loss and possibilities of the present in light of their collective memory of the wilderness experience. Having once been taken to the edge, they view all succeeding passages into the wilds of unpredictability in light of that metaphorical paradigm. The god of Sinai is one who thrives on fierce landscapes, seemingly forcing God’s people into wild and wretched climes where trust must be absolute. In the Talmudic tradition of the rabbis, this geographical preference on God’s part came to be discussed in connection with a difficult text in Exodus 13:17. The text affirms, in its most usual English translation, that when Pharoah let the people of Israel go, Yahweh did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that would have been closer; they were not taken along the Mediterranean coast and into Palestine, by the easier, more direct route to the north. Instead, they were pointed toward a longer route, further south, more deeply into the desert, toward Mount Sinai. …God’s people are deliberately forced into the desert–taking the harder, more onerous and hazardous route–as an exacting exercise in radical faith. They are shoved down the difficult path so there will be no thought of ever turning back. They cover grueling miles of terrain so tortuous they will never be tempted to recross it in quest of the leeks and onions they remembered in Egypt. Perhaps others can go around the desert on the simpler route toward home, but the way of God’s people is always through it.” Belden Lane

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go,
God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory,
even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land.”
Exodus 13:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has God led you into a long, onerous, desert place which you would never have chosen?
  • In  that “exacting exercise in radical faith” do you find yourself being shaped by God?
  • If you had it to do over, would you take the “simpler route?”

Abba, meet me in the desert place.

For More: The Solace of Fierce Landscapes by Belden Lane

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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. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a question or comment. – Bill

P.S. I’ve been working on a book that would be a collection of 365 daily readings–similar to and based on this blog. I’m looking for a publisher for this complicated project. If you have a contact or advice, please contact me.

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: This Confusion of Images and Myths (Neil Postman, Thomas Merton, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley)

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t…. we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another—slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. …In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.” Neil Postman

“But how does one stop to separate the truth from the half-truth, the event from the pseudo-event, reality from the manufactured image? It is in this confusion of images and myths, superstitions and ideologies that the ‘powers of the air’ govern our thinking…. Where there is no critical perspective, no detached observation, no time to ask the pertinent questions, how can one avoid being deluded and confused?” Thomas Merton

“What is truth?”

Pontius Pilate in John 18:38

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Moving From the Head the Heart

  • Perhaps both Orwell and Huxley were right. Do you see our world in their prophecies? Have you heeded their dire warnings?
  • Are you sufficiently detached from the culture to have perspective? How could you detach? Do you?
  • Is what you fear, or what you love, preoccupying you so that you have no time to “ask the pertinent questions?”

Abba, deliver me from delusion and illusion that I might be more useful to you.

For More: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

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Thanks for following and sharing my blog. I appreciate it!– Bill

Daily Riches: The Human Chaos in Which We Are Stuck (Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Edwin Robertson)

“Such a moment is strange to none of us, certainly not to any who have seriously sought to live with God. When we are disturbed by the chaos in our own personal life, when we are not ready to face it, when again and again every security fails us and there is no firm ground under our feet, when our life hangs between good intentions and shame, when it becomes inevitably clear that we are weak, when some unmanageable fate comes over us, a great sorrow or a great passion and we are horrified at the inevitable working out of this fate, when we can see only how faithless and hopeless we are caught in our errors or when friendships are finally broken, when with the best will in the world we cannot find reconciliation with the other, in short, when we take seriously the whole human chaos in which we are stuck–then it all comes over us and we say to God: Lord, I can bear no more. I can’t take any more. No, I don’t want any more. I am too deep in the mire. God, don’t speak any more to me, for I will not hear you. God, we have nothing more to do with each other. And then it happens that we want to hear something new and at that moment, we hear afresh: ‘Peace, courage.’ Courage, which God gives is like a mother taking hold of her child who is out of control with so many faults and failures, who is now very unhappy and begins to cry. She takes his hand and gives him a new chance: ‘Now, let’s try that once more.’ Courage, courage–so God speaks to us when we are disgusted with ourselves.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“‘How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord?
My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.’
Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God.
Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’”
Daniel 10:15-19
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Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Dare you admit to yourself or others the “human chaos in which we are stuck?” If not, why not?
  • When you’re “deep in the mire” and angry with God, do you feel safe being as honest with God as Bonhoeffer is here?
  • When you’re acting like a child and God wants to parent you, can you let God do that?

Abba, grant me courage when I’m overwhelmed and in despair. Take my hand. Hold me tight.

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

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Thanks for your interest. When you feel I “got it right”, please share it in your network! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Most Crippling Belief of All (Don Miller, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Larry Crabb, Emma Herman, and Richard Rohr)

“The most crippling belief a person can have is ‘life was supposed to be EASY.'” Don Miller

“If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven —
only you.
It is in the midst of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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“Comforting thoughts about God’s faithfulness can keep us living on the surface of life, safely removed from a level of pain and confusion that seems overwhelming. But God is most fully known in the midst of confusing reality. To avoid asking the tough questions and asking the hard issues is to miss a transforming encounter with God. …One thing that seems clear is that movement toward pain is suicide. But exactly the opposite is true! The fact that the path to life often feels like the path to death, and that the path to death can feel like the path to life, is a tragic commentary on how far we have gotten off track. The process of becoming aware of our thirst is terrible. It hurts. It feels like the path to death. …But to explore and embrace our deepest hurts puts us in a small company of thirsty people who, because they feel their thirst, know what it means to come to Christ in deep and quiet trust.” Larry Crabb

.

“The true meaning of words is only learned in the school of affliction.” Emma Herman

“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

“I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”
Isaiah 48:10

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Were you expecting life to be easy?
  • Has “so much become clear” for you in the midst of misery? …in the midst of “confusing reality?” …in the “school of affliction?”
  • Are you seeking transformation primarily through “ideas or doctrines?”

Lord, I will not fail to lift my heart to heaven. I will turn to you in deep and quiet trust.

For More: Inside Out by Larry Crabb

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks 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

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

Daily Riches: A Confusion of Images and Myths (Thomas Merton)

“Paul’s view of the ‘elements’ and the ‘powers of the air’ was couched in the language of the cosmology of his day. Translated into the language of our own time, I would say these mysterious realities are to be sought where we least expect them, not in what is remote and mysterious, but in what is most familiar, what is near at hand, what is at our elbow all day long – what speaks or sings in our ear, and practically does our thinking for us. The ‘powers’ and ‘elements’ are precisely what stand between the world and Christ. It is they who stand in the way of reconciliation. It is they who, by influencing all our thinking and behavior in so many unsuspected ways, dispose us to decide for the world as against Christ, thus making reconciliation impossible. Clearly the ‘powers’ and the ‘elements,’ which in Paul’s day dominated men’s minds through pagan religion or through religious legalism, today dominate us in the confusion and the ambiguity of the Babel of tongues that we call mass-society. Certainly I do not condemn everything in the mass-media. But how does one stop to separate the truth from the half-truth, the event from the pseudo-event, reality from the manufactured image? It is in this confusion of images and myths, superstitions and ideologies that the ‘powers of the air’ govern our thinking – even our thinking about religion! Where there is no critical perspective, no detached observation, no time to ask the pertinent questions, how can one avoid being deluded and confused?” Thomas Merton

“…a mighty windstorm hit the mountain.
It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose,
but the Lord was not in the wind.”
1 Kings 19:11

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you so immersed in media that it “practically does your thinking for you?”
  • Do you often ask yourself whether something is a truth or half-truth, an event or a “pseudo-event” – whether what you see is reality or a “manufactured image?”
  • Do you have a regular set of practices that help you avoid being “deluded and confused” by today’s Babel of tongues?

Abba, with your help I will refuse to be hurried and pressed, I will stay my soul on you. May nothing keep me from clearness of spirit which is life and peace. (adapted from Amy Carmichael)

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

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“Daily Riches” is for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks 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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