Archive for February, 2009

Manufactured Presence?

Thomas Keating says we don’t have to go anywhere to find God because he is already drawing us to Him in every conceivable way. The question is whether or not we will be open to an action that is already happening in us. 

For the first two decades of my spiritual journey I was trapped in a religious system that believed this “drawing us to Him” was accomplished by God through being at church whenever the doors were open and  a 30 minute daily “quiet time.” Here’s the problem I encountered. Virtually every message and devotional carried the same message. God’s good. You’re bad. Do better. So I tried harder and harder, went years without a church absence, months without missing my quiet time and yet real transformation eluded me. 

I’ve begun to understand why the transformation I so desperately need couldn’t happen within that model. I wasn’t open to an action already happening in me – I was intent upon manufacturing one. I simply couldn’t believe that consent to God’s presence is His presence. And His presence is the transformational agent we all need. What better time then the season of Lent to make ourselves open to the Divine.

A Season of Subtraction

Today is Fat Tuesday. An exclamation point on the sentence that is our self-obsessed culture before we retreat into Lenten penitence. 

Lent has long fascinated me. Sadly, I did not grow up in a tradition that followed the Liturgical calendar. I was well into my religious recovery before I experienced the Imposition of Ashes for the first time. I was profoundly moved. I’ve since come to embrace this ancient Christian practice as part of my Soul Journey. The simplicity of the rite is beautiful. Ashes from burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday are used to mark the forehead in the sign of the cross as a reminder of our mortality. 

Lent has taken on a new significance to me this season. I’ve spent the first two months of this calendar year with the ancient Christian mystics. Not physically of course but spiritually through their individual and collective wisdom writings. St. John of the Cross, St. Isaac the Syrian and Julian of Norwich to name a few.

If the way of Jesus is as they suggest equal parts addition and subtraction, then Lent is a season of subtraction. Subtracting self and pride. Subtracting anger and envy. Subtracting lust and greed. Subtracting anything and everything that hinders our experience of the Divine.

Divine Offspring

Transformation. It’s a word we use often within the context of spiritual formation. Exactly how to define transformation is the real challenge. I’ve read book after book in recent months trying to wrap my arms around the concept. All that has accomplished is muddle the concept even further for me. That was until I began reading how the early Greek and Desert Fathers understood transformation.

Transformation has its roots in the biblical creation/fall myth. The Hebrew Scriptures attribute this statement to God: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness… (Genesis 1:26). Mankind was created and placed in the garden with a facsimile of God’s attributes and attitudes. Mankind’s rebellion marred that image.

Could it be that transformation is simply moving from the latent image of God in which we were created toward the actual likeness of God for which we were created? Can it be as simple as image looks like and likeness acts like?

God Gotten By The Heart

I’ve always known about God. I’ve not always known God. Two simple sentences. Five words apiece. But the distance between the two are as infinite as the God I seek. The former  is about expanding band-width knowledge about God. The later about an experience with God.

The words of the anonymous author of  Cloud of Unknowing preoccupy  me“By the heart God can be gotten, by the mind never.” If God can be gotten – and I believe that He can – it will happen in movement away from intellect toward one that embraces passionate heart desire. It will not be found in the fulfillment of a rigid set of spiritual blueprints. It will be found in the confluence of God’s grace and our openness. That confluence, when embraced, results in profound shifts in our awareness and experience of God. It is in those shifts that we are moved from the image of God to the likeness of God.