Driving to my office in an April morning snowstorm, the music is playing and the traffic is moving. It is feeling like it’ll be a good day . . . and that is about the time I noticed my back window was shattered and falling to pieces as I drove. It doesn’t take much… Continue reading Unbreakable
“The little strength remaining in the soul is like a spark hidden in ashes” Thomas a Kempis Our TV fireplace with it’s warm orange glow and crackling logs doesn’t change the room temperature, but with a little imagination you can almost believe there is heat. Add a few candles and some background music and you… Continue reading Crackling Logs
It took some courage to open up and share their story of struggle with me. A heavy cloud seemed to surround us as we spoke and it felt like all the exits were closing. At those moments when words are not enough, and only listening matters, it is a struggle to remain positive. … Continue reading Good Hope
met·a·mor·pho·sis A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function; Biology – the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, A white butterfly danced across my path the other day. As record warm temperatures bathe our city, nature is changing and blooming early this year. Like nature all around us, we yearn for change and aspire to fullness of life. I know I… Continue reading Metamorphosis
I recall singing that old hymn, “Where the Roses Never Fade” at funerals. Tears fell down as people gathered to say their last farewell to a lost loved one. During those times, when words never seem enough, I’m always grateful for the promise of a life that never ends. I am going to a city … Continue reading Life That Lasts
Sometimes we can feel like life is going nowhere. It is like the realization, when someone is travelling, that he has passed this way before, and he wonders, “Am I just going in circles?” Once in a while I look at myself and lament how little I have moved or changed on the inside, for… Continue reading Going Somewhere?
Our lives are filled with many words. Each day 30 billion Whatsapp messages and 20 billion texts fly across cyber space. In addition, the airwaves are filled with radio and TV messages, words and images filling our thoughts. Among all those words, how many are healing or encouraging those who are burdened and full of… Continue reading A Word to Encourage
Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. Songs of Solomon
Here is a question I ask myself once in a while. What do I want, really? How would you answer this question? At various times, my answer includes things like happiness; consolation; peace; a solution to a problem and forgiveness.
Let’s suppose, in one grand moment, all of what I desire happened. How would that feel? Even if all our desires in the life were fulfilled it would only be temporary and I imagine we would still want more. So then I have longings that this world cannot fulfill and that leaves me in a dilemma. I can keep trying in more and more ways to satisfy desire or just try to ignore or deny it altogether. However, desire has an eternal quality about it that does not go away. When I am aware of the longings within me that cannot be satisfied in this world the best I can do is lift my heart to God who is our highest good.
When we attempt to numb our desires by our business, or to suppress our desires through religious guilt and fear it is like closing a door on the very best our hearts could aspire to, perfect love. The antidote to unmet hunger is not to avoid it, but to be present and awake to it. Desire is telling us something about ourselves and about our relationship with God.
“Contemplation is understood as the desire to awaken from our dark sleep.” Wendy Farley.
Desire fully awake can sound a bit frightening, it feels dangerous, like a wild river at flood level. Like the river guided by it’s banks to the ocean, God intends that we set our desires upon Him. He longs for us and His desire is that we want Him in return. He considers it a form of adultery when we love the world and ignore Him. He cannot be counted on to give us everything we want in this life. He can be counted on to give us His highest good for our souls.
“He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:5,6
The problem we face is that we are too weak to lift our desire wholly to God and so we attach our desires to the temporal world instead. In this way we settle for less that the best. Farley states that,
“The problem with desire is not that it desires the wrong objects: the problem is that it relinquishes its erotic structure for the economy of possession. Desire, ever restless, ever yearning, does not seek heaven to still its lust for pleasure eternally and completely.”
To guide our awakened desires, we need the gift of discernment. Saint Ignatius teaches that our feelings can guide us to God’s purpose in our lives. On his sick bed, using his imagination he would follow his immediate longing to their goal. Then he would notice how he felt about that end. He discovered that if it was a God desire it left him with feelings of consolation and when it was a selfish end it led to feelings of desolation. So then he chose to pursue the feeling that led to consolation and this was his calling to give up all and become follower of Jesus.
Thomas a Kempis similarly instructed his disciples to discern the movements of grace and nature.
The Voice of Christ: My child, pay careful attention to the movements of nature and of grace, for they move in very contrary and subtle ways, and can scarcely be distinguished by anyone except a man who is spiritual and inwardly enlightened. Kempis.
With grace, patience, the word of God, wisdom, and spiritual mentors we will find our way to our ultimate source and our purest desire, God. Purity of affection leads us to loving in this world without seeking to possess it.
Being awake to love can in fact be entirely counter cultural and inefficient. We will be challenged by love to give up our clinging to lesser things in order to embrace something better. Awakened desire however is it’s own reward. Gerald May says,
….. love calls us beyond using God to satisfy our needs, to heal us, to get us out of trouble, or to enhance our efficiency. Love calls us to gratitude, relinquishment, celebration, service, play, praise, companionship, intimacy, communion, and always to deeper yearning. In other words, love calls us to love. Gerald May
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness… Matthew 4:1 The desert is symbolic of the harshness and isolation we can often feel, even in our crowded world. Rejection, failure and the disappointments of life can send us there, feeling thirsty and barren. It does not usually occur to me that God might… Continue reading Thin Places
Time to go; don’t be late. Leaving the house: got my gadgets, got my glasses, wore the right clothes, used mouthwash, locked the door, got my keys, oops. Once again the well-ordered life evades me. A new set of plans begins, call for a ride and worry about the keys later. Living a well-ordered life… Continue reading A Well-ordered Life.