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evil’s lie

  • You can prove anything you want from a single verse or passage in the Bible. It is a dangerous document, as history has shown
  • Once you start feeling sorry for yourself, you will soon Find someone else to blame, accuse or attack–and with impunity! It settles the dust quickly, and it takes away any immediate shame, guilt or anxiety. In other words, it works–at least for a while. So for untransformed people, there is no reason to stop creating victims or playing the victim.
  • It’s hard for us religious people to hear, but the most persistent violence in human history has been sacred violence, or more accurately, “sacralized violence.”
  • If I would try to describe the evil people and evil events that I’ve encountered, they’re invariably characterized by a sense of certainty and clarity
  • Remember, the very word satan means “the accuser.” Be careful when you see yourself accusing or as Jesus says “throwing stones” (John 8:8)
  • you are never absolutely sure you’re right when you’re living in faith? That’s exactly why it’s called “faith”!
  • Goodness, however, is accompanied by peace and patience, and even “consolation” as Saint Ignatius taught his Jesuits
  • the nature of criticism
  • The unconverted ego wants one thing and one thing only: control–and it wants it now. It never wants to change, in fact, it hates change.
  • you end up with toxic religion. You have a group that cannot tolerate evaluation or criticism and always thinks criticism is coming from enemies
  • ironic thing is that many of the supposedly outside critics of Christianity apparently believe the very values and criteria that the Judeo-Christian tradition taught them! Things like justice, love, truth and fairness are preached back to us by our supposed critics
  • the mystery hidden since the foundation of the world
  • This accusing and blaming pattern begins to be revealed in the very first chapters of the Bible
  • After any real religious encounter, people are normally dangerous for a few weeks or months, because religious experience necessarily makes you think you’re the center of the world
  • So why do people do such unloving and even hateful things, and worse, why does the Bible appear to teach it, and why does God appear to condone it?
  • The text reveals both the problem and the solution
  • the scapegoat ritual
  • Jesus does not define holiness as separation from evil as much as absorption and transformation of it, wherein I pay the price instead of always asking others to pay the price
  • After all, our task is to separate from evil, isn’t it? That is the lie! Any exclusionary process of thinking, any exclusively dualistic thinking, will always create violent people on some level
  • Jesus and Stephen state the truth, then forgive, let go and are released into a transformed state, that we call “risen”
  • hebrew preparation for the lamb’s war
  • the story of Jonah is the much needed journey from ministry as mere careerism to ministry as actual vocation, from doing my work for God, to letting God do God’s work in and through me
  • paul, the first catholic
  • Paul was set up to recognize the dark side of religion, the scapegoating mechanism, the self-serving laws of small religion. He went global and that changed everything
  • jesus, forgiver
  • The only thing more dangerous than the individual ego is the group ego
  • This is Jesus’ simple message: Holiness is no longer to be found through separation from or exclusion of, but in fact, the radical inclusion (read “forgiveness”) of the supposedly contaminating element
  • “All humans are blind,” Alison says, “but where the blindness is compounded by active participation in the mechanisms of exclusion pretending to sight, this blindness is culpable”
  • “the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better”
  • The powers that be know that nonviolent prophets are a much deeper problem, but you cannot gather public hatred toward them

the razor’s edge: knowing and not knowing

  • When religion is not doing its job well, almost every other aspect of society also will be sick. When your God image is true, your self-image also will be true. If your operative God image is toxic, you probably will be toxic too, and it is that toxicity that Jesus is warning about.
  • Those who know God are always humble; those who don’t are invariably quite sure of themselves
  • dualistically clean language, reward and punishment, becomes a substitute and smokescreen for the real goal of religion, which is always divine union
  • because it is so hard to talk about union, about God or about eternity with any clear credibility or any eyewitness accounts.
  • Now the second-best things, according to Zimmer, which “are almost always misunderstood,” are those things that merely point to the first-best things. Those are things like philosophy, theology, psychology, art and poetry, all of which – like sacred Scripture – are so easily misunderstood
  • In fact, what we have largely done is talk about “the third-best things” where we can feel that sense of certitude, order and control–things like finances, clothing, edifices, roles, offices and who has the authority
  • the two streams
  • the knowing tradition and the not-knowing tradition
  • Perhaps the most universal way to name the two traditions is with the words darkness and light
  • the lunar light was much more subtle, filtered and indirect, and sometimes, in that sense, more clarifying and less threatening. The solar light can sometimes be too bright, and so clear that it actually obscures, or blinds you
  • Jesus is much more of a “lunar” teacher, patient with darkness and growth. He clearly says himself, “The seed is sprouting and growing, but we do not know how”. (Mark 4:27). Jesus seems to be willing to live with such not-knowing, surely representing the cosmic patience and sure control of God
  • desert & mountaintop
  • The best-selling Left Behind series would be an example of such an appeal to fear in general, fear of death, God as vengeance and religion as superiority and exclusivity. There’s not much love in sight. It’s an overwhelming judgment on the immaturity of Western Christianity that it is drawn to such books, which ask almost nothing of the read except ideas.)
  • We have knowing and not-knowing beautifully integrated in two companion pieces in the Scriptures: Moses on Mount Sinai and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration
  • today’s confusion
  • The fundamentalist mind is a mind that likes answers and explanations so much, that it remains willfully ignorant about how history arrived at those explanations, or how self-serving they usually are
  • we do not settle today’s confusion by pretending to have absolute and certain answers, when the Bible never promised us many anyway
  • We settle human confusion not by falsely pretending to settle all the dust, but by teaching people an honest and humble process for learning and listening for themselves
  • The Judeo-Christian tradition was not supposed to be a top-down affair, but an organic meeting between an Inner Knower, accessed by prayer, and the Outer Knower, which we could call Scripture and Tradition
  • prayer as the process
  • The two paths of knowing and not-knowing are primarily taught through prayer itself
  • “do not talk about it”
  • Until you’ve gone through the mystery of transformation from the false self to the True Self, don’t talk about these things, because you will almost always misuse and misinterpret the experience
  • Our very reading of the Bible is our interpreting it through our culture, through our temperament, through our personality, through living at this time in history, or wherever. That is always an interpretation
  • prayer and suffering are the two primary paths of transformation. Only then do we begin to read Scripture with what Deuteronomy (10:16) and Jeremiah (4:4) call “a circumcised heart” and hear it with “circumcised ears”(6:10)
  • an idolatry of words
  • you end up in the fundamentalist dead-end that we are in today — inisting on conclusions that are note there and that are often contradicted in other texts (which are then ignored), condemning things Jesus never once talked about (homosexuality and birth control), and legitimating things that Jesus strongly criticized (wealth and violence)
  • we only hear what we already agree with or what we have decided to look for
  • There are certain truths that can be known only if we are sufficiently emptied, sufficiently ready, sufficiently confused or sufficiently destabilized. That’s the genius of the Bible! It doesn’t let you resolve all these questions in theology classrooms
  • we cannot just fall in love with abstractions but only with concrete people and concrete moments and a personal God
  • the roundabout way of “wilderness”
  • There is no path to peace, but peace is itself the path
  • Only people who have first lived and loved, suffered and failed, and lived and loved again, are in a position to read the Scriptures in a humble, needy, inclusive and finally fruitful way. If you put the Scriptures in the hands of a person uninitiated by life, they will always make it into a head trip. It becomes a set of prescriptions instead of an actual description of what is real and what is unreal
  • the best was at the beginning
  • the real meaning of speaking the name of God “in vain” is to speak God’s name casually or trivially, with emptiness, with incomprehension, and therefore with a false presumption of understanding–as if we knew what we were talking about!
  • they are very likely a brilliant attempt to replicate human breathing: YH on the captured in breath, and WH on the offered out-breath!
  • Let your breathing in and out, for the rest of your life, be your prayer to–and from–such a living and utterly shared God

Solitude and Silence: The Journey Begins

  • Traveling Companions – Desert Mothers and Fathers
  • Why is silence necessary for listening, and what happens when we enter into the silence of solitary prayer? We begin to let go of ourselves, which allows us to hear God
  • Our task is made even more difficult by the most obvious fact about the divine, a fact children constantly point out to the distress of the adults at church: We cannot see God
  • practice of listening, cultivated in the garden of silence and solitude. This ability to listen for God is the skill at the heart of the practice of prayer
  • Going out into the desert
  • people became increasingly aware of the distractions of the world, of the difficulties faced by all who would seek the mind of Christ. As this understanding grew, many in Palestine and Egypt pursued an unusual course of action: They went out into the desert to find God.
  • If you desire to seek the presence of God in your life, be silent and rest in prayer. Only through this interior quiet can you truly listen for Jesus
  • God at the Center
  • Because we cannot see God, we cannot easily tell which desires God places on our hearts and which arise from our own selfish wants
  • we slowly begin to hear God over the chattering of our own internal dialogue
  • Learning to Listen
  • I could not cause God to speak when I wanted God to speak
  • Finding Opportunities for Silence
  • entering into silence does require a certain amount of discipline and commitment
  • to notice times when silence occurs naturally in our day
  • Practicing Silence in Groups
  • spiritual power of these desert mothers and fathers drew those seeking salvation to them
  • people needed help in their spiritual journey

good power and bad power

  • Good power is what Ken Wilber, in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality calls “growth hierarchies,” which are needed to protect children, the poor, the entire animal world and all those without power. Bad power is power that is used merely to protect, maintain and promote oneself
  • Psychologically and spiritually, there is no such thing as a triumph by force. Domination is domination, not transformation
  • Spiritual power, however, is the ability to influence events and others through one’s very being
  • Doing will always take care of itself when your being is right
  • god sets the tone
  • We will not trust spiritual power until we have experienced a God who operates in the same way, a God who is willing to wait, allow, forgive, trust and love unconditionally. It is largely a waste of time to tell people to love generously when the God they have been presented with is a taskmaster, loves quite conditionally, is easily offended, very needy and threatens people with eternal torture if they do not “believe” in him
  • barren women & rejected sons
  • It’s never the fertile, self-sufficient woman who is special, but the woman who is by herself incapable, and then is “graced” from Without.
  • It is important to know that people can be personally well-intentioned and sincere, but structurally they cannot see certain things
  • It’s always the forgotten one, like rejected prophet Jeremiah, or the unjustly suffering Job, who understands things more deeply and breaks through to enlightenment
  • before encounter God is perceived as omnipotent power; after encounter God is perceived as humble love. This has always been the Franciscan emphasis: that God, against all expectation, is humble!
  • It is the utterly false self that we bring forward for conversion, and merely joining a new group, or having an emotional God experience, does not usually convert that self at a very deep level, if at all. That is the work of a lifetime of grace, surrender and prayer
  • psalms
  • Most of the Psalms (not all) reveal a rather high level of spiritual consciousness, and also of diverse stages of faith. They reveal both good and bad power in people
  • good power
  • Until you don’t need external power, you normally cannot handle power. When you have real power, you do not need to flaunt it. When you know you are being used by a Higher Power, you do not take your small power too seriously
  • Religion is largely populated by people afraid of hell; spirituality begins to make sense to those who have been through hell, that is, who have drunk deeply of life’s difficulties.
  • rites of passage
  • there was a very privileged way of knowing, and it came to those who were in any way marginalized, expelled, excluded, disabled or in any minority position whatsoever. They all know something that you cannot know in any other way
  • He’s sending them into a situation of certain failure, rejection, vulnerability, where they have to rely upon other people and upon God. It teaches the way of humble love and trust, and it forces you to look from the outside in
  • Isn’t it ironic that most of the gospel has probably been preached and taught by people who are very comfortable?
  • architecural theology
  • Probably the main structural reason for the misuse of the Bible is that, largely, it has been used and taught by people on the inside and people at the top. It creates an inner and specialized jargon, which has no possibility of outer critique.

the boxing ring

  • because morality in particular is a common counterfeit for religion, and often substitutes as a false absolute, we will see that Paul takes law on in a special way
  • law, prophets, wisdom
  • “You must learn the meaning of the law very well, so you will know how to disobey it properly.” You must know and respect the rules before you can break the rules
  • Until an objective inner witness emerges that looks back at us with utter honesty, one cannot speak of being awake or conscious. That is at the heart of what we mean by “waking up”!
  • (1) The Law is the thesis; it lays the ground (2) against which the Prophets develop a positive antithesis, but yet a critique. The dialectic begins; people struggle into consciousness. (3) Then, and only then, come the Wisdom books, which are synthesis and integration
  • the actor with a plank in his eye
  • Archaic religion and most of the history of religion has almost always seen the shadow as the problem. What religion is about is getting rid of the shadow, isn’t it? This is the classic example of dealing with the symptom instead of the cause
  • Any over-concern for sexual rules or purity codes are almost always repression or punishment of shadow issues, and of other people, and Jesus shows little interest there.
  • Jesus is not too interested in moral purity because he knows that any preoccupation with repressing the shadow does not lead us into personal transformation, empathy, compassion or patience, but invariably into one of two certain paths: denial or disguise, repression or hypocrisy
  • the real sin
  • The requirements for sin were three: (1) You had to have full knowledge; (2) it had to be a grievous matter; (3) you had to give it full consent
  • That all sounds reasonable at first glance, but actually it’s not a definition of biblical sin at all; it’s a juridical definition of law
  • We made the whole thing juridical where we could easily identify it, shame it and enforce it
  • paul’s contribution
  • Laws can only give us information, and even helpful information, but they cannot give us transformation
  • He will actually say that God gave us the law to show us that we can’t obey the law!
  • Torah, or Law, is the best and most helpful place to begin, but not the place to stay, and surely not the place to end. “Written letters bring death, but the Spirit alone brings life,” as Paul said (2 Corinthians 3:6)
  • Until people have had some level of inner religious experience, there is no point in asking them to follow the ethical ideals of Jesus
  • We want law for the sake of order, obedience and “moral purity”
  • God and Paul want law for the sake of channeling us toward a realization of divine union, to force the honest person to stumble (see Romans 7:7-13–that’s really what it says!), and then “fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31)
  • If you want to hate somebody, want to be vicious or vengeful or cruel or vindictive, I can tell you a way to do it without feeling an ounce of guilt: Do it for religious reasons!
  • The purpose of spiritual law is simply to sharpen our awareness about who we are and who God is, so that we can name our own insufficiency and, in that same movement, Find God’s fullness.
  • When we make black-and-white law our goal and purpose, it comes back to haunt us, because people leave and attack us with the same black-and-white thinking in which we have trained them

people who have faces

  • In calling forth such freedom and consciousness, and even love, in humanity, God is actually making possible a certain kind of equality between Divinity and humanity, as strange and impossible as that might sound. As Deuteronomy states it, God is creating “a people peculiarly his own” (26:18)
  • pattern in the Bible: (1) We start with tribal thinking; (2) we gradually move toward individuation through the dialogue of election, failure and grace; (3) then there is a breakthrough to unitive consciousness
  • (1) Simple Consciousness, (2) Complex Consciousness and (3) Non-Dual Consciousness or “the unitive way.”
  • We all fear and avoid intimacy, it seems. It is too powerful and demands that we also “have faces,” that is, self-confidence, identity, dignity and a certain courage to accept our own unique face — and then even worse — that once we have it, to be willing to give it away to another.
  • Not ready for presence. We settle for tribal customs, laws and occupations as our identity
  • How we relate to God always reveals how we will relate to people, and how we relate to people is an almost infallible indicator of how we relate to God and let God relate to us
  • “you shall have one god before you” (exodus 20:3)
  • people are first defined in families and why most are called to marriage, because that sets the stage, gives you some grounding for relationship in general.
  • By putting “one God before you,” you were placed inside of one coherent world, with one center, one pattern, one realm of meaning
  • being possessed
  • one way to think of “being possessed” is when there is an unhealthy other who is defining you, and defining you poorly. It’s when a negative projection or agenda has captured you and you have internalized it either consciously or unconsciously.
  • When a holy person or totally accepting person becomes your chosen and choosing mirror, you are in fact healed!
  • “the face of the other” that transforms us, converts us and gives us our deepest identity
  • respect for mystery allows presence
  • Mystery is not something that you cannot understand, but it is something that is endlessly understandable! It is multilayered and pregnant with meaning and never totally admits to closure or resolution
  • The really great truths, like love and “inner freedom, are not fully conceptual, and they can never be understood by reason alone
  • presence
  • The mystery of presence is that encounter wherein the self-disclosure of one evokes a deeper life in the other
  • why falling in love is so exciting. Suddenly the very eyes of the other receiving me, delighting in me, enjoying me and looking at me — make me feel like me, and my best me!
  • The lover can say that it’s as if I never knew myself until you knew me, or it’s as if I never could accept myself until you accepted me
  • If you can learn how to receive the perfect gaze of the Other, to be mirrored by the Other, then the voices of the human crowd, even negative ones, have little power to hurt you
  • Standing humbly before God’s no only unites the psyche but it does the very thing that I know when I teach contemplative prayer. It unifies desire
  • As Saint Francis is supposed to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”
  • not to talk about Jesus, as much as trying to be Jesus! That’s how you pass on the gaze
  • A true Christian is invariably someone who has met a true Christian
  • “How good of you, God, to make truth a relationship instead of an idea. Now there is room between you and me for growth, for conversation, for exception, for the infinite understandings”
  • you feel so much more in control when you are right than when you are in right relationship
  • We can remain seemingly in control; we can live in our heads; we can avoid loving in general or loving anyone in particular
  • inclusive language for god
  • If you’ve ever been in love, whether between adults or between parents and children, you know you Find special little words for each other, little nicknames that you like to call one another that somehow express the specialness that just exists between the two of you

getting the “who” right

  • Our core is original blessing, not original sin. This says that our starting point is totally positive, or as the first chapter of the Bible says, it is “very good” (1:31). We do have someplace good to go home to
  • “humans are like piles of manure, covered over by Christ.” Such a negative starting point will have a very hard time creating loving or responsive people
  • It is about realization and not performance principles. You cannot get there, you can only be there, but that foundational Being-in-God, for some reason, is too hard to believe, and too good to be true. Only the humble can receive it
  • You’d think everybody would want God. But the common response is something like this: “Lord, I am not worthy. I would rather have religion and morality, which give me the impression that I can win a cosmic contest by my own efforts.”
  • original shame
  • Maybe original “shame” would have described it better. All I know is that we do have a sense of being inadequate–that is obvious
  • Consider, however, what God is looking for at this point. God isn’t looking for servants. God isn’t looking for slaves, workers, contestants to play the game or jump the hoops correctly. God is simply looking for images! God wants images of God to walk around the earth!
  • noah’s ark of forgiveness
  • it is actually “holding” things unreconciled that teaches us — leaving them partly unresolved and without perfect closure or explanation
  • But the gathering of contraries is, in fact, the school of salvation, and the school of love. That’s where it happens, in honest community and committed relationships
  • forgiveness is the only event in which you simultaneously experience three great graces: God’s unmerited goodness, the deeper goodness of the one you have forgiven and then you experience your own gratuitous goodness too
  • the garden of knowledge
  • When we are allowed to name the certain bad guys, we all know that persecution and violence will come next; and when we too easily presume that we are one of the good guys, we largely live in illusion and prejudice
  • how do we “fall”?
  • Alienated people will stop trusting that reality is good, that we are good too and that we belong. Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened (Genesis 3:8)
  • When the Significant Other says that you are good, then you are good, indeed. That’s what it means, psychologically speaking, to be liberated and loved by God. Anyone else can say it, but you will always doubt it, even though it temporarily feels good, and is the necessary “bottle opener.”
  • Now we have God in an almost feminine image. It says, “God sewed together clothes for them out of the skins of animals and they put them on” (3:21)
  • chosenness
  • God’s chosenness is for the sake of communicating chosenness to everybody else! That is the paradox, and it often takes people a long time to learn that (read the Jonah story)
  • both Moses and Paul beautifully teach what chosenness and election is about. It’s not to make you think you are better or to create a society of the superior ones.
  • it’s all about union
  • Water is almost always an invitation to that first, subtle religious experience, when the desire just laps up against you and your mind and heart are opened for the first time.
  • second bookmark: The code word is blood
  • The third and final bookmark, or code word, to look for is bread
  • Food, bread in particular, seems to be used to symbolize fullness and satisfaction in God
  • water, the first invitation to an inner life of union. Then we have blood, which symbolizes the difficult price of union. Finally, we have bread, the ongoing feeding of that union
  • That’s the wonder of having extensive times of prayer or those sacred times of childbirth, death accompaniment or sexual intimacy, where you experience being a part of someone else, where you experience that your life is not your own
  • “God chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and perfect, so that we could live through love in God’s presence, freely adopting us in Christ for our own good, so that we could exist to give glory to God’s utterly free gift, and Find freedom in forgiveness” (Ephesians 1:4-7)

information is not necessarily transformation

  • “Overexplanation separates us from astonishment” — Eugene Ionesco
  • “The world can pigeonhole any idea,” he said. They are easily discounted and “dodged”
  • When God appeared on the scene, it was not felt to be good news by most people; it was bad news. The sense was, “Who has to die now? Who’s going to be punished now? What is the price I will have to pay for this?”
  • In most ancient religions, God was felt to be ‘controllable’ through human sacrifice, found on all continents
  • “God is not only stranger than we think but stranger than we can think.” God is not bad news but, in fact, overwhelmingly comforting and good news.
  • But the genius of the biblical revelation is that it doesn’t just give us the conclusions; it gives us (1) the process of getting there, and (2) the inner and outer authority to trust that process
  • This is what you cannot discern if you have no inner experience of how God works in your own life!
  • two alternating mediocrities in the interpretation of Scripture
  • hackneyed moralisms and pieties of those who have never studied the historical and authropological setting in which it was first set (the conservative temptation)
  • the narrow historical, critical interpretation of those who have no had any real God experience (the progressive temptation). It’s the usually “enlightened” formulas of those who have no inner experience to awaken the reality of the spiritual world
  • God always and forever comes as one who is totally hidden and yet perfectly revealed in the same moment or event
  • The Bible moves us from sacred place or sacred action or mental belief systems to time itself as sacred time
  • It is time itself, and patience with it, which reveals the patterns of grace
  • incorporation of negative and self-critical thinking
  • Our temptation now and always is not to trust in God but to trust in our faith tradition of trusting in God
  • It is amazing how religion has turned this biblical idea of faith around to mean its exact opposite: into a tradition of certain knowing, presumed predictability and complete assurance about whom God likes and whom God does not like. I guess we think we have God in our pocket
  • the cosmic egg
  • in many parts of the world where people have no time, or even no vocabulary, for their private or personal story. Their only identity is the identity of the group. This, of course, becomes scary because such groups are highly malleable and very subject to fear and violence from supposed threats to their group
  • The New Age temptation, and the sophisticated liberal temptation, is to live only in the first dome of meaning, in the realm of my private experience
  • More conservative, traditional people tend to get ost in the second dome of meaning: group loyalty, group identity
  • There is no specifically Catholic way to feed the hungry or to steward the earth. Love is love, even if the motivation might be different
  • If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it

Transformational Knowing of Self and God

  • Focusing on God while failing to know ourselves deeply may produce an external form of piety, but it will always leave a gap between appearance and reality
 
  • Knowledge that Fills
  • “It would be more accurate to say that he believed God is forgiving but did not know this as an experiential truth”
  • “Listening to the things he told me about his life was like reading a throwaway paperback novel or watching a B-grade movie. The role he was playing lacked depth and reality. It was two-dimensional”
 
  • Knowledge that Transforms
  • People who are afraid to look deeply at themselves will of course be equally afraid to look deeply at God. For such persons, ideas about God provide a substitute for direct experience of God
 
  • Peter’s Transformational Knowing
  • Peter’s inner knowing at several points on his journey
  • First being called by Jesus to follow Him
  • His encounter with Jesus walking on water
  • Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet
  • Peter’s denial of Christ
  • Peter’s encounter with the risen Christ, out in water fishing
  • Being asked 3 times by Jesus if he loved Him
 

Knowing God

  • The Christian God is known only in devotion, not objective detachment. This is why Paul’s prayer is that we may know the love of Christ and so be filled with the utter fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). This is transformational knowing.
  • To know God demands that we be willing to be touched by Divine love.
  • The meditation I am recommending is not the same as Bible study. It is more an exercise of the imagination than of the intellect. It involves allowing the Spirit of God to help you imaginatively enter an event in the life of Christ as presented in the Gospels.
  • Another struggle for me was the feeling that meditation was a waste of time… That is what friends do together–they waste time with each other. Simply being together is enough without expecting to “get something” from the interaction. It should be no different with God
 
  • Meeting God in the events of life
  • This is the core of the spiritual journey–learning to discern the presence of God, to see what really is. But nothing is more dangerous than presuming that we already see when we do not
  • The goal is simply increased awareness of God in the events of life and the depths of my being. It is attending to the God who is present.
  • In general, “what questions (such as, What was I feeling? What disturbed me about that comment? What exactly made me anxious?) are better than “why” questions (Why did I feel threatened? Why did that bother me?)
  • And avoid making demands of yourself or God. Just accept whatever comes from each experience, each day.
 

First Steps Towards Knowing Yourself

  • Neither knowing God nor knowing self can progress very far unless it begins with a knowledge of how deeply we are loved by God.
 
  • Knowing Your Ignored Part-selves
  • If I refuse to face my deceitful self I live an illusion regarding my own integrity. Or if I am unwilling to acknowledge my prideful self, I live an illusion of false modesty
 
  • Self-Acceptance and Self-Knowing
  • To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted–even embraced.
  • Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance
  • Self-acceptance does not increase the power of things that ultimately need to be eliminated. Rather, it weakens them. It does so because it robs them of the power that they develop when they operate outside of awareness and outside the embrace of self-acceptance
 

Knowing Yourself as You Really Are

  • A little girl hides her hatred of her brother because she knows that she should love him. This lack of integrity is then reinforced by her parents, who commend her loving behavior
  • We learn to fake it, appearing as we think important others want us to be and ignoring the evidence to the contrary
 
  • Knowing Yourself as a Sinner
  • You are not simply a sinner; you are a deeply loved sinner. And there is all the difference in the world between the two.
 
  • Getting Behind Sins to Sin
  • Stuart had learned to cover his resentment over his unnoticed specialness with a mask of false humility. But beneath this lay a smoldering fire of bitterness. Pride suggested that he deserved special treatment. When he didn’t get this, he withdrew in hurt and anger. This, in turn, led to a sense of being cut off and deprived of intimacy. And this was behind his attraction to pornography
  • Discovering our core sin tendencies is helpful because it lets us deal with our problems at their root. But even more than this, it is helpful because discovery of our core sin tendencies will inevitably fill us with such despair and hopelessness that we will have no option but to turn to God
  • As is always the case when one finds one’s true type within the Enneagram, this was initially accompanied by a horrifying sense of humiliation. How could I dare name my basic sin as deceit? How willing I suddenly was to own any of the other eight basic sins! How profoundly exposed I suddenly felt!

Baptism

  • Baptism does not confer on us a status that marks us off from everybody else
  • it is to accept that to be Christian is to be affected – you might even say contaminated – by the mess of humanity
  • baptism brings you into proximity not only with God the Father, not only with the suffering and muddle of the human world, but with all those other people who are invited to be there as well
  • the life of the baptized is a life of prophecy and priesthood and royalty
 

Bible

  • hearing God’s voice
  • you must not jump to conclusions while the story is being told
  • One of the great tragedies and errors of the way people have understood the Bible has been the assumption that what people did in the Old Testament must have been right ‘because it’s in the Bible’. It has justified violence, enslavement, abuse and suppression of women, murderous prejudice against gay people; it has justified all manner of things we now cannot but as Christians regard as evil. But they are not there in the Bible because God is telling us, ‘That’s good.’ They are there because God is telling us, ‘You need to know that that is how some people responded. You need to know that when I speak to human beings things can go very wrong as well as very wonderfully.’ God tells us, ‘You need to know that when I speak, it isn’t always simple to hear, because of what human beings are like.’ We need, in other words, to guard against the temptation to take just a bit of the whole story and treat it as somehow a model for our own behaviour.
  • As Christians read the Bible, the story converges on Jesus
 

Eucharist

  • In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company
  • Holy Communion makes no sense at all if you do not believe in the resurrection
  • So as we give thanks over bread and wine in the presence of the Lord we are – with him and in him – seeking to make that connection between the world and God, between human experience and the divine and eternal Giver. And that means that we begin to look differently at the world around us
  • To take seriously what is going on in the Holy Eucharist is to take seriously the whole material order of the world. It is to see everything in some sense sacramentally
  • If Jesus gives thanks over bread and wine on the eve of his death, if Jesus makes that connection between the furthest place away from God, which is suffering and death, and the giving and outpouring of his Father, and if in his person he fuses those things together, then wherever we are some connection between us and God is possible
  • All places, all people, all things have about them an unexpected sacramental depth. They open on to God the Giver
  • We take Holy Communion not because we are doing well, but because we are doing badly
  • When we gather as God’s guests at God’s table, the Church becomes what it is meant to be
 

Prayer

  • Origen has more practical advice: you can pray anywhere, he says, don’t imagine it’s restricted to special places. But that does not mean that prayer is just a casual matter; physical stillness and physical solitude matter (pg 67)
  • being ready to pray is being at peace with other people
  • Gregory: prayer heals relations (pg 72)
  • it is a little bit like the experience that the Zen Buddhists speak of when they have sat with the paradox or the riddle for such a long time that they finally realize that they are never going to solve it; then enlightenment happens (pg 74)
  • Cassian: “O God, make speed to save me”
  • “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”
  • Prayer is your promise and pledge to be there for the God who is there for you

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