“…ponder the intimate immediacy…”

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

Rohr on Resurrection, Transformation, & Humanity

by Felix Russell-SawI might quibble over a point in this, but today’s meditation was a gift to me, given recent challenges to my soul, recent deaths I’m dying. Here’s part of it:

Resurrection is not a miracle as much as it is an enduring relationship. The best way to speak about the Resurrection is not to say, “Jesus rose from the dead”–as if it was a self-generated miracle–but to say, “Jesus was raised from the dead” (as many early texts state). The Eternal Christ is thus revealed as the map, the blueprint, the promise, the pledge, the guarantee of what is happening everywhere, all summed up in one person so we can see it in personified form.

If you can understand Jesus as the human archetype, a stand-in for everybody and everything, you will get much closer to the Gospel message. I think this is exactly why Jesus usually called himself “The Son of Man.” His resurrection is not so much a miracle that we can argue about, believe, or disbelieve, but an invitation to look deeper at what is always happening in the life process itself. Jesus, or any member of “the Body of Christ,” cannot really die because we are participating in something eternal–the Cosmic Christ that came forth from God.

Death is not just physical dying, but going to the full depth of things, hitting the bottom, beyond where you are in control. And in that sense, we all probably go through many deaths in our lifetime. These deaths to the small self are tipping points, opportunities to choose transformation. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people turn bitter and look for someone to blame. So their death is indeed death for them, because they close down to growth and new life.

But if you do choose to walk through the depths–even the depths of your own sin and mistakes–you will come out the other side, knowing you’ve been taken there by a Source larger than yourself. Surely this is what it means to be saved. Being saved doesn’t mean that you are any better than anyone else. It means you’ve allowed and accepted the mystery of transformation, which is always pure gift.

If we are to speak of miracles, the most miraculous thing of all is that God uses the very thing that would normally destroy you–the tragic, the sorrowful, the painful, the unjust–to transform and enlighten you. Now you are indestructible and there are no absolute dead ends. This is what we mean when we say we are “saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus.” This is not a cosmic transaction, but a human transformation to a much higher level of love and consciousness. You have been plucked from the flames of any would-be death to the soul, and you have become a very different kind of human being in this world. Jesus is indeed saving the world.

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Significant, Lasting Change

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

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

Father Wounds

The following post, written by Sylvia Klauser,  is a profound and elegant reminder about the impact of fathers, and I pulled it from the Mennonite Weekly Review.

I read about Whitney Houston’s death while at a conference in Washington, D.C. A friend and I had been at dinner and heard that famous I wanna dance with somebody. Today I have the time to sit and watch the tribute morning shows, listening to song after favorite song. I will always love you stands out for its message of a love that transcends racial boundaries and fears of the others. Even more tragic is that Whitney Houston died on the eve of the Grammy awards — a singer’s celebration of their greatest achievement.

Born with an incredible talent, she came to fame by way of the church. An instant, well-meaning audience provided her with a training ground for that incredible voice. It certainly helps to have the Godmother of soul as your real Godmother. However, talent is a free gift that can easily be squandered.

It is so sad to hear about Whitney’s struggle with drugs and alcohol. Is it a result of the fame, or a cause of it? While I listen to song after song, it seems that they all have a common theme. Who will love me? How will I know that you are honest? I will always love you. I’m every woman. Can I trust you, and so on. The themes are the same: Whitney felt empty without love. She, like every woman (and man) in this world, feels incomplete without the other. But what kind of love are we looking for? And what happens to us when that hole is not filled?

In his book From Wild Man to Wise Man, Richard Rohr writes about the “father hunger” that becomes a “father wound” for those of us who have never been touched and trusted by our fathers. It seems that the father wound oozes from each of Whitney’s songs. Rohr writes, “we lack self-confidence, the ability to do, to carry through, to trust ourselves, because we were never trusted and touched by him.” Whitney’s life is marked by “earned worth,” a constant striving to get more in order to fill this hole where Dad’s trust and touch is missing.

What fills the hole? Well, the story is out all over the tabloids now. It’s not only Whitney or other famous folk who died of this father wound lately. Drugs, alcohol, mind and sense numbing substances only increase feelings of worthlessness and loneliness when the high wears off. I am saddened by Whitney’s line where she names herself the devil in a 2002 Dianne Sawyer interview; but she is dead-on with her assessment. It is our own responsibility to figure out the father wound and then work on fixing it — whether we can meet with our fathers and attempt reconciliation, or whether we have to learn to live with the hole for the rest of our lives.

To heal the father wound is our most intimate, personal and spiritual work, maybe the only work of our lifetimes. No one can do it for us, not fame or drugs or even world-class therapists. We must reconcile with the fact that even our fathers have father wounds. They tried the best they knew how, but the lack of trust and touch is an evil root that stealthily hurts us until we root it out. May peace be with Whitney.

I was born in the same year as Whitney, and I too, sang in church. I was touched deeply by her songs of searching, wanting and needing. I also have to do my own father work so that the rest of my life is not a running after all the things that fall short of that primal need to be loved and trusted and touched.

Sylvia Klauser works in the education and spiritual care department of The Methodist Hospital System in Houston.

Another Taste

I’m reading two books, three really.  I’ve held onto Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See for a few months.  I heard him speak over two days at a prayer seminar through the Shalem Institute.  His teaching at the seminar was so striking and, at the same time, so familiar that I’ve looked at my notes slowly and occasionally to pick up the substantial pieces of wisdom he offered us.  His book is like that too.  I’m reading it like I do my Howard Thurman meditations, carefully and slowly and attentively.  Each time I read Thurman, I see a new glimpse of something about me and God and people.  I think I’ll have the same reaction to Father Rohr’s book.

While reading in a section discussing the Divine Presence–and the accompanying gifts of faith, hope, and love–I walked across these words a moment ago:

You only ask for something you have already begun to taste!  The gift has already been given.  Most people, quite sadly and with disastrous consequences, do not know that the gift is already theirs.

I thought about feeding my son breakfast.  He generally eats oatmeal or grits, and I’ll usually give him something else like fruit or yogurt.  After his breakfast yesterday I starting cutting up a Tuscan melon and a watermelon.  We were doing our morning thing.  He was playing and I was cutting fruit.  There was music in the background as usual.  We were singing with CeCe Winans.  I’d cut up the melon, and he’d come over, hugging my leg, to ask for some.  I’d hand him a piece he could grab and eat.  He’d go play and come back, offering his version of “more please.”  I’d give him another piece of fruit.  He’d attempt a “thank you.”

I thought it was a great image, especially since it came back to me when reading Rohr.  The boy only asked for what he knew to be good.  He only asked for what he knew I would offer him, what I had already offered him.  It reminded me that I could pray for good things and expect to be heard and handed something as sweet as watermelon in the morning.