Would God …

Would God be diminished if I lived a question….

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What would happen if I pursued God?

If I filled my pockets with openness,
Grabbed a thermos half full of fortitude,
And crawled into the cave of the Almighty
Nose first, eyes peeled, heart hesitantly following
Until I was face to face
With the raw, pulsing beat of Mystery?
What if I entered and it looked different
than anyone ever described?
What if the cave was too large to be fully known,
Far too extensive to be comprehended by one
person or group,
Too vast for one dogma or doctrine?
Would I shatter at such a thought?
Perish from paradox or puzzle?
Shrink and shrivel before the power?
Would God be diminished if I lived a question
Rather than a statement?
Would I lose my faith
As I discovered the magnitude of Grace?
Oh, for the willingness to explore
To leave my tiny vocabulary at the entrance
And stand before you naked
Stripped of pretenses and rigidity,
Disrobed of self-righteousness and tidy packages,
Stripped of all that holds me at a distance from you
And your world.
Strip me, O God,
Then clothe me in curiosity and courage.

This poem   “Stripped by God” © 2007 by Rev. Cynthia Langston Kirk  is quoted in   “Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity”.   Her blog and web link are here.

I am really interested in Cynthia Langston Kirk.  A poet, story teller, fabric artist and an inspiring Christian minister involved in Piecing Stories Ministries and a retreat leader. (Wow that ticks lots of my boxes.)   I find that poetry is a way of praying and saying deep things from the heart.  It connects my fragmentary intuitions with some tessalated thoughts and makes new patterns from my heart, my prayer and my way of being and breathing life.    I travel through poetry touching the surface and the cracks of things and allow myself to hear new sounds which are resonating in some deeper place within.

I was introduced to her work through the Conference of Spiritual Directors on the occasion of their 30th Anniversary.   As a member I attended the recent national gathering and support their great work and bless them.

You might be interested in exploring the book –

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Trust me, trust you!

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TRUST ME,  TRUST YOU!

It came to me that we can’t always trust.  No matter how much we may want to, our inner truth is that somethings are not trustworthy.

Trust comes from the word truth.  It is attributed to things which are reliable and we have come to know over time as being valid and stable.

As I explored for myself, I came to see how when I was younger I made decisions on a basis of what I didn’t trust as much as what I did trust. Mainly I didn’t trust me.

That surprised me a little as I considered my own process of discernment.  But I realise now that what we know to be true is based on our experiences to that time.

Our experience of our lives and relationships directly relay to us a sense of who we are and what we are capable of.  Yet, there are always parts in us unseen, untested and full of potential but they are not part of our lived experience, we cannot trust the unknown.

Despite others telling us to ‘just trust’, it is no simple matter to step out and just trust when something significant is before you.

From this perspective, we are always trusting ourselves from our past performance. And so often, if we had bad experiences we are not prepared in a real sense to trust in another repeat of past patterns.  We are just stuck.

Yet strangely, this is the very place from which we grow and change.

Our past lived experience does bring us a truth about ourselves, but we are not that same person any more.   There is the lie we may be clinging to.

We have changed. Our truth is different.  We are constantly changing and so in believing and trusting that we are changed, and the circumstances have changed,  we can also trust we are changeable and our patterns also change.

I have chatted with three people recently about this … one chronically homeless, one in gaol and one overcoming eating disorders … They all identified with the new self; the changing self, and see the small increments of change as mighty mountains of hope they have crossed.

Trust is restored when we trust ourselves that we have changed.  Our truth is we are inestimably more than our past and the possibilities are infinite.

As we focus on how we have changed and know that is our truth, we can discern from a position of trust in our capacity to continue to grow and faith in the unknown.

Being true to ourself, we know we are always becoming something new in creation. We may not perceive the changes in others, but trust they too are changing with infinite possibilities ahead.  Good discernment encourages growth.

Trust and truth embrace.

 

 

Seasonal Fruit

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Week 4 Lent
Today’s Readings: Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 Jn 7:1-2, 10.25-30

I am noticing how I have moved the page axis towards creation a little more lately -thanks to a blog by Dylan Raines – campaigning for people in desperate need of water.  (I like the pun in his name and life call!   🙂 God has a sense of humour! too ).

Picking up on his blog stimulated my focus over the last few days in prayers for water and Si Laudate.

‘Inspiring’ is not too big a word.  But is a “handsome” word.

I like it because it is the infilling of the Spirit moving in us as we listen.   Consequently, our actions are in response to the promptings which we do not let fall into fallow ground.

What is spiritual direction if it is not listening in our daily life to what the Spirit is saying and responding.    “If today you hear his voice harden not your heart” constantly reverberates in me.

and    Ephphata….  the Aramaic word –   be open.

What strikes me about Dylan’s “campaigning” is the vigour and conviction which he brings to it.

Each of us is called: to love God and our neighbour – with all our heart, with all our mind and all our being/soul. (Matt 22.35)

There is no confusion in this.  To live in the way of passion is to live a life of compassion. With passion, we live with suffering; we live in the embrace of self and others in the true fullness of life.  Passion literally means suffering. The fire of passion is fuelled by love of God and others. Love suffers in compassion for the other.  May it be manifest in our lives.

A reflection may be – “By their fruits you shall know them”  (Matt 7:16).

Which spirit are we listening to and what fruit is it bearing right now?

Are we bearing good fruit in all seasons?


Photo image used with permission from Quaddie: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Icing-on-the-Top-147289142

Winnowed thoughts

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Week 4 Lent  Today’s Readings:  Josh 5:9-12   1 Cor 5:17-21   Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

We are all called to be winnowers… to cast aloft our dreams and thoughts, to winnow with the Spirit.  Discernment, like winnowing, is a gift which enables us to sift the motives of our heart; to raise up our inner most thoughts and find the wisdom of our way.

Ernest Larkin helps us appreciate it.  He says:

“Discernment has two focuses: process and problem.

It is a process insofar as it is progressive awareness of the movements of the spirits in our counsciousness. …

The “spirits” are thoughts, desires, and affective moods, which are the telltale signs of the Holy Spirit or opposing influences. …

Discernment is mindfulness, recollection, centredness. It is being aware of what is going on spiritually.”

In this season of Lent, in the Christian tradition, we are called to look inward and examine our hearts and practices, in the light of God’s word.  It is a particular time in which we turn our  attention to the questions of our heart and let ourselves explores some shadows.

In the silence of our hearts we may let some of the bigger questions arise …  What is the best I can do at this time?     

Can I explore more deeply choices available to me and be open to new directions or possibilities?

Larkin continues in a very practical way, noting process and problem work together:

“Discernment as problem solving is interpreting the spirits in order to determine God’s will.  Where are these feelings and sentiments tending?

Are they moving the person toward or away from God?

What behaviour and choices are they suggesting?

Discernment is concerned … with the trajectory or orientation. Where are  they pointing?

We are called to live beyond rote rules and in accord with God’s particular will for us.

God’s project for me is that I become the unique person I was created to be.   Discernment is the tool for the process.”   *

It takes courage and support to look at our shadows, to explore our choices and to choose growth.  A spiritual director or Christian companion is invaluable in being there for you to carry your thoughts and dreams through the process of discernment.

Quoted extracts  from “What to Know about Discernment” by Ernest E. Larkin. O. Carm

Published in Review for Religious, 2001. pp.162-3.  Published Society of Jesus St. Louis. Missouri. US Central and Sth Province.  Archives can be accessed . through http://cdm.slu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/rfr/id/559


 

Recommended Reading: “Silent Presence”, Ernest Larkin.  Dimension Books. N Jersey. 2000.


 

Are we there yet?

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Week 2 Lent   Jer 17:5-10   Lk 8-15

Most unexpectedly, whilst driving on a country trip, a voice from the back seat enquired most sincerely…’are we there yet?‘  It seemed so strange – the adult asking what seemed a child-like question.  And clearly we were not there yet with still some way to go.

All our journeys are a little like that. We venture out upon the path, carrying our hopes and expectations.   But we walk in darkness really.  We don’t know the way. We must seek out light and guidance constantly.

We are always yearning for the being there – in that place of rest and solace; the place of promise and fulfillment. As St Augustine and others have remarked – our hearts restless till we find our God. If we are in familiar terrain for too long,  we fear we maybe  going nowhere or maybe we’re just bogged down.  Maybe we are circling in passivity and no longer on the path.

This is the being there we seek -being present to the now of our life  as we  follow Jesus with the Holy Spirit as our guide.  Ours is to remain and abide in simply being; a follower on the journey.

Gregory of Nyssa in the Life of Moses* tell us:”… someone who does not know the way cannot complete their journey safely in any other way than by following behind their guide. .. The one who follows will not turn aside from the right way if they always keeps the back of the leader in view.

For the one who moves to one side or brings themselves to face their guide assumes another direction for themselves than the one the guide shows them. Therefore, He says to the one who is led, ‘My face is not to be seen’ (Exod 33:23), that is “Do not face your guide.”

If the follower does so, their course will certainly be in the opposite direction, for good does not look good in the face but follows it….for what looks virtue in the face is evil.”

Discernment and companioning are gifts to each of us till we reach the end of our journey. We are simply following the way ahead to our own personal wholeness.   I am touched by the concluding retort  in “Everyone’s Way of the Cross” –

Christ speaks –       “I told you at the start, my other self,
my life was not complete until I crowned it by my death.
Your ‘way’ is not complete unless you crown it by your life.”


*Extract from Gregory of Nyssa, De Vita Moysis, ed. Herbert Musurillo-Gregory of Nyssa, Opera. vol.7 (1964) extract from The Life of Moses in Classics of WesternSpirituality. (NY. Paulist . 1978)  Paras 252-255
Everyone’s Way of the Cross, by Clarence Enzler. Ave Maria Press, Indiana.1986

Procession of life

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Today’s Scriptures: Isa 58:1-9, Matt 9:14-15

Today I continue yesterday’s theme:  ‘Struggles’. All life has struggles through which we become freer of our “old self,” and find a “new self.”

When I was in my early twenties I participated in a small group for personal growth.  After many months, and with the guidance of a professional, I came to recognize new visions and truths about myself.   In the process I had to sift my thoughts, feelings and values to find who I really wanted to be and how to discern my path ahead.   After a lot  soul-searching and heartache,  I remember vividly how I, somewhat valiantly exclaimed “I am a  ‘new’ me!”   The spontaneous wisdom of my guide at the time, was “old self – new self you are all one!

I had become – or – I was becoming a new creation out of the old. I was transformed but still me.  I liked the discovery of knowing I belonged to all of me – my past was an integrated part of the newer changed person I was growing to be.  The process of detachment from my former ways and ideas enabled me to embrace  and trust a new vision of me.

Again I refer to the wisdom of Joan D. Chittister:[1]

“Discernment is based on the awareness that we cannot always have what we want…. It involves independence of judgment, the ability to maintain breadth of vision even in the midst of crisis, the awareness that we are not enslaved to our past.  We can dream again….We can summon up from within ourselves parts of ourselves that have yet to see the light of life.” p.36

Without a prayerful, loving and a trusting support person the process of detachment is exceedingly hard as it is a dying to something within the heart, whilst daring to trust  there will be resurrection in me.    This is the paschal mystery at work in us and a Spiritual Director or companion on the journey holds this truth for us.

Our journey is processing through life.

The question is who leads us and who goes with us.


[1]  “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope.”

Cambridge. UK: Wm Erdman Publishing, 2005

The gift of struggle

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday.
 Today’s Scriptures:  Deut 30:15-20    Luke 9:20-25

A few years ago I read “Scarred by Struggle: Transformed by Hope”, written by Joan Chittister.  Today I am revisiting some of her powerful words to share them with you.

Her premise is that struggle is a gift, and through it we obtain many personal gifts which ‘grow us’ into a new creation.  From my experience, I have found there is much to be gained from struggle and the scars we carry are signs to us that our growth has come at a price. But indeed we grow out from our struggles in new directions and new life.

The following are a few excerpts from her book:

“To struggle is to begin to see the world differently. It gives a new sense of self. It tests all the faith in the goodness of God that we have ever professed. It requires an audacity we did not know we had.  It demands a commitment to the truth.  It leads to self-knowledge.  It builds forbearance.  It tests our purity of heart.  It brings total metamorphosis of soul.

If we are willing to persevere through the depths of struggle we can emerge with conversion, independence, faith, courage, surrender, self-acceptance, endurance, purity of heart, and a kind of personal growth that takes us beyond pain to understanding.  Enduring struggle is the price to be paid for becoming everything we are meant to be in the world.”[1]

[1] Joan D. Chittister  p.19

“The isolation that marks any serious struggle is a call to recognize that life is full of gifts that come and go, come and go as we ourselves come and go through the many stages of life. Detachment from the  idea that there is only one way for me to go through life joyfully is its key. The pain of loss is a real and a present thing. It manacles my soul and breaks my heart, yes. But holy indifference – detachment – teaches me that there is not room for isolation, abandonment, death of spirit when I lose one thing because I know that there is something else waiting for me in its place.

Designed to enable a person to regard all of life with an open mind and a willing heart, detachment – holy indifference – is the foundation of spiritual discernment.

To discern is to choose between available options on the grounds that both are good but that one is more likely to result in greater growth at this particular time than can be expected from the other under these prevailing conditions, though both are good possibilities. Discernment and detachment are lifelines out of the pit of loss and the island of isolation to which it threatens to dooms us.”[2]

[2] Joan D. Chittister. op.cit. p.35


Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope.

Cambridge. UK: Wm Erdman Publishing, 2005

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister (O.S.B), a former prioress and a social psychologist.  She is a well published best selling author with a doctorate in speech communication theory.

Other titles include The Fire in These Ashes and Heart of Flesh.