The issue is our tendency to get stuck focusing on what my father or mother, wife or ex-wife, children or friends, pastor or boss thinks of me. What if instead we could join God in knowing who God knows I am eternally in God, before the origins of the universe, and know ourselves hidden with Christ in God forever? …The pedagogy of the mystics slows us down enough to catch up with ourselves. How can we ponder the intimate immediacy of what matters most? How can we learn to not treat ourselves like someone we don’t want to spend time with? How can we settle into a quiet, prayerful pondering about who we deep down really are and are called to be? And how can we be more faithful to it?
James Finley in a recent meditation
Prayer is often considered a weakness, a support system, which is used when we can no longer help ourselves. But this is only true when the God of our prayers is created in our own image and adapted to our own needs and concerns. When, however, prayer makes us reach out to God, not on our own but on his terms, then prayer pulls us away from self-preoccupations, encourages us to leave familiar ground, and challenges us to enter into a new world which cannot be contained within the narrow boundaries of our mind or heart. Prayer, therefore, is a great adventure because the God with whom we enter into a new relationship is greater than we are and defies all our calculations and predictions. The movement from illusion to prayer is hard to make since it leads us from false certainties to true uncertainties, from an easy support system to a risky surrender, and from the many “safe” gods to the God whose love has no limits.
From Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, 126
There are a host of feelings that come with starting something. And then there’s that slightly nuanced feeling with starting over.
Starting over almost always comes with a note of judgment. Somewhere–and this is not necessarily the predominant note–we say to ourselves that we did something wrong.
Starting over implies a wrong turn, a mistake, a veering off course. Starting over is what happens when you didn’t end the right way, whatever that is.
I’m learning to get curious about that that. I’m learning that it’s worth me mining my judgments about myself.
Maybe I didn’t do what I could have done. Maybe I did everything right. Maybe starting over is the opposite of judgment. Perhaps this is the beginning of grace.
Perhaps what I was up to before was what was itself the wrong course. Maybe I’m exactly where I should be at this starting line. Maybe gratitude is the antidote to judgment.
As this month closes, I want to be open to what’s next. I want to notice what I haven’t. I want to capture what I sense but don’t quite see.
I want to feel my senses open. I want to have my heart expand. I want to love and not hate. I want to bring good and not evil to this world.
I want to connect with others and be a connective person for others. I want to help people who can’t help me in return. I want to be larger and not smaller.
I want your help because these things are impossible for me. My motives are so complicated that they stop me. These desires are impossible to cultivate. They aren’t impossible for you.
Grant me what I need, especially the vision to see deeply within, to pull up what’s in me. These roots didn’t come from me. I didn’t plant these hopes within myself.
Do your work. Make me what this murky vision tells me I am.
For some of us countless ideas run around our heads. For others of us the struggle is to start seeing anything at all. We think too much or we don’t grasp enough of your thoughts about us.
Grant us the ability to see when our heads are clouded, the ability to hear when the story is being told somewhere just beyond our ear’s grasp, and the ability to put enough form to that thing so it feels.
May we know your love in bone-deep ways. May you shed light upon dark places in us that haven’t been loved. May you reach us completely.
Help us hold your truths gently. Help us appreciate and respect the people you’ve given our world, the idea generators, the storytellers, and the prophets whose words impact, disappear too quickly, or stay and sustain.
We live in fear and you tell us to be unafraid. You tell us, “Don’t fear.”
Grant that we might revisit your record and find you trustworthy. Anchor us in something deeper than our first, primitive reactions. Drop us into some penetrating truth that the world of death is a world on its way to a fitting close.
Open us to expectation for life even while we move toward Advent. Use us to bring life, to frustrate death the way Jesus did, to remind violence and all its offspring that life still wins. In the strong name of the winner whose coming gives us hope.
Spend some of your quiet moments with yourself, considering yourself, thinking about you.
Not the job. Not the task. Not the vision. Not the project. Just you.
Your mind, dutiful as it is, will resist it. Your spirit may feel anxious. It’ll feel like a small robbery, this giving of yourself back to yourself and not giving you away to some other thing.
Take it in and feel what it’s like. You need those moments. They will make you and re-make you after you’ve spent you. Those moments are prayerfulness. Those moments are times of contemplation and rest. You need them.
As Thanksgiving approaches, help me remember to pray for those who are looking toward the holidays while hurting and grieving. Help me grieve my own losses, too.
Many people have slipped away. Some have been forced to go. Some have chosen to leave. Some have lived brief lives and others very long ones.
Comfort us directly in our losses. Renew love. Replenish strength. Be gracious by supplying our needs according to your immeasurable wealth.
You give good things. You give us each other. Help us to cultivate relationships with those that we love despite distance, despite death. Grant that we might still be grateful for as much as possible.
Be good to us so that we turn toward you, in every way, and find you grieving and loving with us.
Sift through the garbage inside us so that when we seek ourselves, we find treasures. Search us and shine your light through us so that we can see ourselves as sparkling vessels capable of repeating the amazing in our work.
You made us. You crafted us. You held us. You called us into being. You celebrated over us. Yours was the first voice blessing and singing and weeping joyful tears.
Enable us to organize and structure our days after the blessings you speak. Grant us the courage to step one step after another in full view of your goodness. Give us the gifts to nourish the world, to use them for good, and to compliment ourselves and you with big, bright smiles.
Photo Thanks to Leeroy
What is contemplation? Simply put, contemplation is entering a deeper silence and letting go of our habitual thoughts, sensations, and feelings. You may know contemplation by another name. Many religions use the word meditation. Christians often use the word prayer. But for many in the West, prayer has come to mean something functional, something you do to achieve a desired effect, which puts you back in charge. Prayers of petition aren’t all bad, but they don’t really lead to a new state of being or consciousness. The same old consciousness is self-centered: How can I get God to do what I want God to do? This kind of prayer allows you to remain an untransformed, egocentric person who is just trying to manipulate God.
That’s one reason why religion is in such desperate straits today: it isn’t really transforming people. It’s merely giving people some pious and religious ways to again be in charge and in control. It’s still the same small self or what Merton called the false self. Mature, authentic spirituality calls us into experiences and teachings that open us to an actual transformation of consciousness (Romans 12:2). I think some form of contemplative practice is necessary to be able to detach from your own agenda, your own anger, your own ego, and your own fear. We need some practice that touches our unconscious conditioning where all our wounds and defense mechanisms lie. That’s the only way we can be changed at any significant or lasting level.
From Fr. Richard Rohr’s newsletter
Thanks to Startup Stock Photos
The difference between work and play is only a matter of attitude. Work, fully done, is play. When the body works, it is dancing. When the mind works, it is dreaming. Appreciating the joys and sadnesses of both, one moves within the process of life.
From Gerald May’s Simply Sane, pg. 87