Unexpected Invitations

It has been almost two months that I have been in the dark. I have been there before. It is dark and lonely and void of God’s presence, at least to those of us who live there. 

I have spent the time twisting and turning and writhing to find my place. Saying to myself, this is part of the journey, allowing myself to accept the time in the desert. But this time felt different. In the deserts that I have experienced before it was not God’s presence that was lacking but my own. I wouldn’t say I was alone this time. I would say that the black hole that consumed me was something beyond me. Something I had never experienced.

It wasn’t until a trip to the Blessed Sacrament that I cried out. I could not contain it. I went there specifically to cry and to beg God to come back to me, even though I know that he never left. But this daunting darkness consumed me and I hoped it wasn’t what Mother Teresa had experienced. I am no saint and I knew that I was not ready for all of that. I asked God in one breath to show up. I thought how nice it would be if the lights went dark in that chapel. Then they did. Then Father walked in. 1- God, Melissa-0.

And I left that place full of hope, knowing that in that tiny prayer, I could expect God to answer. That a single visit in the darkness could bring light. That things, they could change.

It was 5:30 am when my eyes opened. I was at peace, different from my emotional outcry the day before. I needed a good meditative piece to read and I thought of Elizabeth Scalia and checked aleteia. There it was staring me in the face- the reason for my darkness.

The piece was entitled, Are all these sexual abuse revelations triggering you? They are Me! I read it quick and with bated breath. That there could be another human on earth who could be sent to decipher my pain. We forget about one another. We don’t take the time to listen to one another. We are wild beasts ravaging around this crazy world. 

It was that sentence, the one that freed me. The one that diagnosed me. The one that let me out of my prison sentence. Two months hard labor in the darkness had been two months too long. But the words, her words, brought that first ray of light.

if you are lately feeling out of sorts — if you are feeling unaccountably sad, moody, unfocused, angry,  ashamed — if you have that cloud hovering over you, consider that perhaps you are being triggered, all subconsciously.

The weight of the Weinsteins and the Matt Lauer’s was all-consuming. The women who were getting justice while I was not. The lingering effects of sexual abuse that seep in like the bite from a poisonous snake as you slowly die without even realizing it. It is a deadly poison and a scary thought to think that you are dying and nobody has noticed. Oh how well we as victims can hide the pain.

So I pass Elizabeth’s message on to you. For those who have been living in a subconscious darkness. For predators. For the empathetic who are effected by the headlines. And for my brothers and sisters who still suffer the vile effects of sexual abuse. Know that God hasn’t left you. He is present, we need only move away the cloud.

I Wish I’d Said That…

[I have found all this to be utterly true. I’ve also found it almost impossible to wrap words around. I didn’t want to weaken the words by trying to restate them. So here they are, for your consideration. — LM]

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Exploring the Mystics
with James Finley

Only Love Is Real
Friday, October 13, 2017

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues sharing insights from John of the Cross. Take a few moments in the midst of your busy day to slow down, to enter into the quiet, and to read these words from your heart center, without judgment or needing to fully understand with your logical brain.

Just as with Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle, by the very first paragraph of John of the Cross’ Prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel you get the sense that the words are coming from some very deep place from inside of him—or really through him—that intimately accesses a deep place in us:

A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark night through which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. [1]

One of the operative principles of love is that love does not rest as long as there is an inequality in love. In seeing the beloved down, the lover is moved to lift the beloved up. John says the infinite love of God will not rest until you are equal to God in love. Even though you would be absolutely nothing without God, God will not rest until you are as much God as God is God. God will not settle for a trace of inequality. In the “dark night of the soul,” we are weaned away from the ego’s finite ideas and feelings about God. We come to know that no idea about God is God. We are also weaned from our ideas about our self as being a finite, separate self apart from God.

Not everyone experiences this kind of union in this life. But in some lives God does not wait until death to begin the consummation through a dark night of the soul. In this nondual state, although I am not God, I am not other than God either. Although I am not you, I am not other than you either. Although I am not the earth, I am not other than the earth either. All things are unexplainably, invincibly one in endless diversity forever.

The awakening of this state on this earth does not mean you are holier than others. Rather, you awaken to how unexplainably holy everybody is. The mystic—that is, the person who is ripe with this love consciousness that’s born in the night—is not more holy but is granted a greater realization of the infinite holiness of the simplest of things.

Then, in some strange way, when you die, nothing will happen, because you’ve already died to the illusion that anything less than love is real; and you are aware that Infinite Love is loving you endlessly and giving itself away as your life.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

References:

[1] John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Institute of Carmelite Studies Publications: 1991), 114-115.

Adapted from James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, discs 1 and 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

 

How is The Church?

Having been in church leadership roles, of varying degrees over the years, I’ve done a lot of pondering about who and what the church is.

I’ve been pondering about the health of the church.  I only have life experience and mostly a relationship with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit as my back up on pondering, but it seems that the church is very click-ish.

Don’t misunderstand me, I like Christian friends.  I enjoy fellowship with like-hearted people where we can lift each others arms and encourage each other to go for it or even to give that wonderful advice and help guide us in the right direction.  It is so needed.

But what is that called?  It’s relationship. RE-LA-TION-SHIP.  Which is what we should have first in our life with God.  Relationship.  He has called us to a relationship with all three of the trinity.  Not religion.

There is nothing wrong with going to or joining a local church and getting involved – I attend an awesome local church.

It’s so good and sweet…….. until it becomes a religion. Religion can smother us and before you know it you can not be relating to God or others.

I’ve seen so many ministries spend so much time counseling and helping hurting christians that it makes me wonder if we, perhaps, take those hours and invest in relationships and teaching and guiding others into a relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit then they can hear His voice and through the loving relationship of God get well and then……. drum roll please….. go out into the world and preach the gospel rather than spending years of counseling and never reach out to those who are lost.  Are we using the time on this earth to touch others or are we just always trying to get well and invite others to our buildings instead of inviting them into a relationship with God?

Just something I’ve been pondering deeply for a while.

Cate B ❤️

3 x S = 42

Have you ever wanted “The Answer”?Cosmic Twist

“What answer?” you reply.

THE Answer. You know… THE ANSWER. Like the Answer to The Question. The Great Question. The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything!

For those of us who are Douglas Adams fans, we know how he dealt with the Question and the Answer… thus:

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Well, this has never entirely satisfied me, though I applaud Adams’ willingness to take on the subject. Libraries for centuries untold have been filled with the efforts of sages to solve the Mystery of Life. And, while my conclusions may well differ from Sage Adams here, I must say that a lot of my cogitation shares some strong commonalities.

So, here and now, I’d like to submit my own, subjective, non-scientific, anecdotal, take-it-or-leave-it-as-you-please, contribution to…

The Answer… to Life, the Universe, and Everything…

It is… 3 x S (Read as: “Three times S”)

[Consistent with the style of Adams, we will first describe the Answer, and then consider… What is the Question?]

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S1 = “Superabundance”

The First “S” is “superabundance”, the provision for needs vastly beyond the degree of need. Quantity, quality, diversity… so overwhelming that the result is not merely satiation and satisfaction, but actual delight. Take the Garden of Eden, for example… all the foods available there, all the grains, grasses, fruits, vegetables. The delight and companionship of animals of every description. The mist of the morning, the clarity of the stars, the cool of the evening, the wonder of the sun and moon. Or Psalm 23, being led beside the still waters, sitting at a prepared table, being comforted.

This is to be free of need, and free of greed.

Could it be that the very first requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be free of need?

S2 = “Safety”

The Second “S” is “safety”, the protection from or absence of anything that could threaten or cause harm. Was there anything unknown in Eden to be afraid of at the start? It has never ceased to amaze me that God set man to nurture and tend the Garden (often super-interpreted to mean “God sent man off to WORK, first of all!”… but… what was the “work”? He was assigned to do two things… tend/serve/nurture… and protect/hedge about. But, what did Adam need to DO? Mist rose in the morning to water all, the soil was rich with the vibrancy of pure primal life, there were as yet no “weeds” or “bad plants”, nor any pests or predator bugs or animals. A Garden initially arranged and landscaped by God wouldn’t require a lot of transplanting and corrective design. All that “sweat of brow” and “thorns and thistles” thing came AFTER the fall.

This is to be free of threat, and free of fear.

Could it be that the second requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be utterly safe and free of fear?

S3 = “Significance”

The third “S” is “significance”, the sense that one is meaningful, important, and treasured to at least one other person. In the Garden, there was first… Adam. Adam and God, there they were. Made in God’s image, male and female, Adam and Eve created in God’s own image. Given free reign of the Garden. Able to eat of all but one tree. Naming each animal as presented by God. Called forth to walk with Him in the cool of the evening. Important to God, you think? Significant? Treasured? Or as in Psalm 23, sitting down at a table prepared for man by the Lord in the presence of enemies? Head anointed with oil? Cup running over? To dwell in God’s house forever?

This is to be acknowledged, important, treasured. This is to be free of the all too common fear that we and our lives are meaningless, that we are but cattle in a herd, a nameless cipher among a crowd of equally insignificant parts.

Could it be that the third requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be utterly significant and treasured?

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As I pondered these potential “Answers”, and began to focus on the “Question”, I realized that this is a bigger answer than I can even define. This seems to hold true on every scale, in every application. Countries, races, kingdoms, empires go to war over a lack in one or another of these. Wars and genocides happen when a people gathers strength in order to meet what they consider a “need”, or a “threat”, or the hunger for “prestige”. States go to civil war for what seem to be the same reasons. Families feud, political parties wrangle, and individuals fight, maneuver, argue over these same perceived places of emptiness.

What to do? How do we promote joy, happiness, peace… “Wholeness” and Love?

Each of us have our own piece of Kingdom, our own relationships, our own sphere of influence. Whether this is community, home, workplace, church, or even one relationship at a time…

We know we are to “Love”, but that often breaks down at the “How do we do that?”

What if we try these three…

That every encounter be nurturing, meeting what need stands before us in the moment? Often the need is just some time and attention. Perhaps it is a meal, or a cool drink of water, or a gentle touch, or hug. (Obvious professional cautions apply, depending on the nature of the relationship.) Sometimes, the need is just silent presence.

That every encounter be safe, free of fear? Not just fear of physical harm or danger, but fear of being made to feel bad. Fear of being judged. Fear of being shamed or made to feel small or wrong. What if in each moment, someone felt their burdens lightened in your presence, rather than made heavier?

That every encounter be important and significant? That in the moments of interaction, the other person, group, party, were treasured as relationship to you? As if they were treasured by God Almighty? What if no one were an “interruption” or an “annoyance” or a “burden”, but rather they were a blessing to you as you are meant to be to them?

What’s the question, then?

What if the question is, “How has God always intended us to relate to one another?” What does it take to live a blessed joyful life? The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything…

And, how do we bring this about in our homes, our days, and our churches?

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3 x S = 42?

Maybe so. I just ponder these things now and again…

Grace to you, Gentle Reader! Bless! — The Little Monk

Jesus lives at Starbucks

When I read the words, Ubi tres, ibi Ecclesia, Where three are, there is a churchI imagined us. It’s based on Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus’s non-traditional notions of “church” were in direct contradiction to the requirements of the Jewish law to have ten men present to make a congregation.

Did he say it just to contradict the teaching of the religious or because there was something far deeper? Christians use this verse many times when praying, but this also contradicts the idea that Jesus is always with us, even when we are alone. 

There is a bigger and brighter idea here. A concept that breaks through all religious notions and rules. There is no number of times a day to pray, no specific place, no time of day. There are no correct words. The concept of two or three is to remind us that even in the midst of the smaller number of two or three, we form a church, a body, a moving being. We don’t need a building, or a denomination or seventy-two ministries to call ourselves Christians. We just need a good friend, an open hand and our loving God.

There is a great treasure to be found in the power of two. It is more than just ourselves. It is another person holding us saying it’s going to be ok. It’s another image of God staring at us. It’s God picking us up when we are unable to pray. It’s creating a congregation in a house, in the midst of a work-space or out here in the abyss of cyberspace.

I have had church in closed-door meetings, the floor of a friend’s house, in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the kneeler. Some of my most profound prayers have been prayed in the most unlikely of places. You don’t have to be in church to lead someone to Jesus, and for me, Starbucks seems to be the place where He appears the most. Maybe there is something about a cup of hot coffee and God. Or maybe it is the place where longer conversations can take place, philosophy still exists and people go to gather and meet and not just sit behind computer screens pretending other people are not there.

Don’t get me wrong, the mass is holy and reverent and the place you’ll find me on Sunday mornings. Not because God makes me, but because my heart implores me. And sometimes the mass contains moments that are prayers without words. Like feeding the eucharist on the tongue to a woman whose eyes are filled with tears, or hands that are wrinkled and clammy and needing His body or blessing a small child who longs for the wafer they are drawn to but know nothing about. For me being Catholic isn’t about the kneeler, it’s about the others on the kneeler with me, looking up at the same crucifix. 

If you are alone today, not religious, not part of a church, there is no need to worry. You are not alone. Grab my hand and let’s pray. Let’s have coffee

If you keep my commandments

If you ever felt alone in the way you worship, if you think your theology is the only one, if you follow rules, if you don’t follow rules, you must read Paul’s post today. All are welcome. (Comments have been disabled, please comment on the original post).

Just me being curious

In just over four weeks’ time we have a glorious spiritual retreat.  A place of recharging our souls and each other.   A place much hotter than here.  A place to relax.  To slow down.  A place to have fun.  A place with new people. A place we have never been before.  A place without church or bible.

And without those two bits we name that “holiday”.  The unspoken teaching is that a holiday is of the flesh and indulgence (and a retreat is of the spirit and restoration).

I see no difference.

I wonder why the unspoken knowing is that God cannot (really) be found in a bar or a restaurant.  Nor (really) found on a beach by the sea.  Nor (really) in the laughter and bawdy banter around a table.  Not really in the quiet contemplation of a distant horizon … a small working boat … a passing beach…

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