Daily Riches: Fasting From Seeking God? (Dan Clendenin, Denise Levertov, Thomas Merton)

“Jesus describes our struggle between light and dark, life and death, salvation and condemnation, belief and unbelief. … ‘All of us,’ says Paul in Ephesians, are implicated. …So, what am I to do? Double down on earnest religious effort? …A friend encouraged me last week when he described how his spiritual director told him to abstain from all his tried-n-true ways of seeking God — conversational prayer, meditation … “Christian” books, lectio divina, and the like. He’s ‘fasting’ from all that hard work he does to relate to God. …John tells a story from Numbers 21 to point the way forward. Just as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent in the desert that healed people merely by looking at it, so today we only have to look to the love of God. There’s nothing else we can or should do. In his little epistle, John strips away all pious pretense with a shocking admission: ‘In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us.’ The only thing I’m asked to do is ‘to know and rely upon the love that God has for us’ (1 John 4:10, 16). Paul says the same thing. I experience God’s favor ‘by grace through faith,’ apart from any human merit. His goodness is a free gift, not a reward for my spiritual efforts. And my faith? Luther compared faith to ‘the beggar’s empty hand’ that receives a gift. God only asks me to accept his acceptance, in the words of the hymn, ‘just as I am, / without one plea.’ This Lent I want to experience what Denise Levertov describes in her poem The Avowal.

‘As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
free fall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.’

A true saint, said Merton, is not someone who has become good through strenuous disciplines, but someone who has experienced the free goodness of God.” Dan Clendenin

“Cease striving and know that I am God….”
Psalm 46:10
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Moving From Head to Heart
  • Is your response to these words “But, but, but…?” What explains that?
  • Do you “work hard to relate to God?” Could there ever be a reason to abstain from doing that?

Abba, help me free fall into your embrace.

For More: “When Less Is More” Dan Clendenin

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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: Contemplation (Thomas Merton)

“ … we should let ourselves be brought naked and defenceless
into the center of that dread
where we stand alone before God in our nothingness,
without explanation, without theories,
completely dependent upon his providential care,
in dire need of the gift of his grace,
his mercy and the light of faith.”
Thomas Merton

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'”  Isaiah 6:1-5

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Can you imagine being “brought naked and defenceless … before God?”  … “standing alone before God in your nothingness?”  feeling “undone” in the presence of God?
  • Why would Merton suggest that we not resist this? (“we should let ourselves be brought…”)
  • Teresa of Avila prayed, “Let me not be afraid to linger here in your presence will all my humanity exposed. For you are God–you are not surprised by my frailties, my continuous failures.” Can you use these words as the basis for a prayer of your own?

Abba, it’s dreadfully painful to have “all my humanity exposed” before anyone, including you. It’s in your presence though, that I am exposed yet safe. In spite of my all my humanity, may I linger before you today, presenting myself for healing – and may I do this without any attempt to lessen the pain by offering up explanations or excuses.

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For More: Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton;
Let Nothing Disturb You by Teresa of Avila

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The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to provide you with something of uncommon value each day in less than 200-300 words. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)