“The Spiritual Life” (Evelyn Underhill)

This is a quote from the amazing little, but rich and deep, book, The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill.  It was written in 1935 and now almost 80 years later it is on point!

“We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do.  Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual – even on the religious – plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be: and that Being, not wanting, having, and doing, is the essence of the spiritual life

Any spiritual view which focuses attention on ourselves, and puts the human creature (with its small ideas and adventures) in the center foreground, is dangerous till we recognize its absurdity.”

Advertisements

The Gift of Failure

Failure is a gift from God…and I need spirituality to teach me that for religion only speaks to the shame of failure and not to its giftedness.

Spirituality teaches us how to deal with, and accept, failure as a gift and a needed tool for our journey with and towards God; for failure is the twin of success, much the way doubt and faith are inseparably linked.

One of the foundational ‘tenets’ of Alcoholics Anonymous states that the journey of sobriety is about “progress not perfection…[for] we are not saints.”  Imperfection and failure are two of the tools God uses to draw me closer to him; for by embracing imperfection and failure, I am reminded of the glorious truth that I am indeed human.  And in my being human, nothing is drawn away from God and his relentless love, and I find that if I embrace that truth, I am also fully alive.

My failures prove only that I am not a saint, but they do not take away from any goodness that God has placed within me.  I am fond of saying if there is anything in me you find good, then you can give thanks to God and my mother, but if you find anything in me that is not good, well for that I apologize.

As I look over my life I see a wreckage of pain, failure and broken hearts and trust strewn across the path.  I feel regret, and rue some of the poorer choices I have made.  But God is eternally good, forgiving and loving so that in his hands my past wreckage becomes malleable clay to be remolded into a shining example of divine love mixed with utter humanity.

And like or not, that is indeed good news.

I am a jar of clay, cracked but valuable when surrendered fully into the hands of a loving God.  My failures become familiar scars, gentle reminders of the power of forgiveness and choice all held by the urgent compassion of God.

God does not judge my failures, only I and other people do that.  God’s love is a merciful cauldron burning the dross of my failures away turning them instead into divine gifts meant to be of service to God and others.  God’s love is greater than any human perspective, judgment, religion, or persuasion.  God’s love embraces my failures as a vital part of me and my journey back Home to him.  And if God embraces my failures, then I can do no less.

So today, I embrace all my failures…all of me, surrendering them over to the hands of God, asking not for them to be removed but to be transformed into the living gifts of a merciful God.

 

“Notice the Glory” (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live….

Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers wiser than all alphabets–clouds that die constantly for the sake of God’s glory–we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature.

Source: Quest for God

Further Musings on Prayer

From Thomas Keating…taken from “The Theological Basis of Centering Prayer,” Intimacy with God

“Where does [prayer] come from? 

It is rooted in God’s life within us.

I don’t think that we reflect about this truth nearly enough.  We participate as human beings in God’s life just by being alive, but much more through grace…This stream of divine love that is constantly renewed…is infused into us through grace.  We know this by our desire for God.  That desire, however it may be battered by the forces of daily life, manifests itself in the effort that we make to develop a life of prayer and a life of action that is penetrated by prayer.”

“Mind-boggling Diversity” (Sallie McFague)

We come from God and return to God, and in the ‘interim’ we live in the presence of God – even when we do not know or acknowledge it. We are created in the image of God (the entire universe reflects God’s glory, each and every creature and thing in its particular, concrete, unique way).

Creation is a panoply of mind-boggling diversity, a myriad of outrageously extravagant species and individuals who all together make up the body of God…. Each creature praises God by simply being itself, by being fully alive.

Source: Life Abundant

Apathy Addiction

“Religion is the opium of the masses.” Karl Marx

Karl Marx, like him or loathe him, was indeed on to something.  Opium doesn’t ask us to change or spiritually evolve, but only to grow thick in our spiritual tummies.

I have been feeling the apathy addiction: lethargic in my desire to even put words to paper; resilient to growing in self awareness; stubbornly resisting God’s tender mercies deciding instead to live in a small place called fear.

Opium, the drug, is highly addictive.  Many, many years ago I smoked some opium…it made me dreamy “happy”, lazing the day away on the couch with nary a care in the world – not for food, human company, nothing.  And my faith in God, if it becomes a drug called religion, is not much different.

If my religion is a drug, my so-called service to God becomes simple apathy.  And apathy justifies complacency, fears awareness, stifles the inner –and outer – journey towards God, others and self.  Apathy leaves a slimy, icky residue on the interior lining of my soul, leaving it good for nothing – neither God nor people.

If my faith in God becomes an opiate, it will only seek to preserve the status quo, all the while fearing change, ingenuity and the divine gift of day-dreaming for God.

Apathy addiction leads to the seven deadly words: “we’ve never done it that way before.”

My faith in God, my ever deepening love for God and from God is a journey called spirituality – and spirituality is just religion with its clothes stripped off.  Spirituality is a verb whereby I stand naked before my God – a God who is pure love, eternal compassion, perpetual loving-kindness, and infinite goodness.

Spirituality heals the apathy addiction of religion and moves me deeper into God, creates movement, and fills me with the very attributes of God.  Spirituality empowers me to love God and my neighbors with gentle vigilance, tender mercy, wisdom and compassion.