“What is the Spiritual Life?” (Randy Woodley)

I read these words from Dr. Rev. Randy Woodley; Dr. Woodley is a member of a First Nations tribe in North America and writes eloquently, simply, and gracefully about spirituality.

His words ring true with recovery and my own recovery journey and my own spiritual development.  I hope it helps you find some Connection, which is for me the ultimate ‘goal’ of spirituality – to connect with sobriety, sanity, self, and God as we experience God.

What is the spiritual Life? 
It is life itself, not what one does but how one goes about doing. Spirituality is flesh and blood walking on this earth in real time. It is the embodiment of our whole selves being present in the moment it occurs. Spiritual life is living daily with the full acceptance of everything around us as real and attachable to our being as it happens. To be un-spiritual is to ignore any aspect of our whole selves, in our whole context, on this whole earth. Spirituality is appreciating it all.

What is Spiritual Exercise?
Listening to others is a spiritual exercise. Not just what they are saying but how they are saying it. Why they are saying it. Why they are saying it to you. Hearing the voice in your head and silencing it so you can hear their voice and recognize what is happening at the moment around you as their words make sense to your heart. Listening to others means connecting with them and discovering what is happening between you at the time and being grateful for it all.

Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley, Indigenous person and Public Theologian/Scholar

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“The Journey” (Mary Oliver)

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-Mary Oliver, Dream Work (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Breakdown or Breakthrough?

The following piece was sent to me by a friend in recovery whom I both love and respect.  I share it with you because sometimes the difference between a Breakdown and a Breakthrough is all in how we perceive what we are going through.  The original link to the article appears at the end of the piece.

Struggle is Good!   I Want to Fly!

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.

The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress!

The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

But neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

It never was able to fly…

As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.

As you go through school, and life, keep in mind that struggling is an important part of any growth experience. In fact, it is the struggle that causes you to develop your ability to fly.

As instructors our gift to you is stronger wings…

Source: http://instructor.mstc.edu/instructor/swallerm/Struggle%20-%20Butterfly.htm

Surrender or Resignation?

In recovery, we are told constantly that the key is surrender.  In fact, we are not only told that we are sometimes berated, beaten, and bludgeoned with this spiritual discipline.  But whether I like the delivery of the message, the truth of it does not cease to be life-changing.

Surrender or Resignation.

One of them is giving up and one of them is giving in?  One of them is active; one passive. Is there really a difference?  And if so, would I even know what that difference is?

As I ask these questions I am merely speaking to myself, not to anyone else.  At this point in my journey of recovery, and my journey with God, I’m not sure where I stand: am I at a place of Surrender or Resignation.  It could be one, the other or both.

I truly do not know.  But the good news is that God does.

When it comes to giving up or giving in, faith and fear become guides that in some ways ‘will’ me forward.  The question is which one will I choose to be my guide: fear or faith?

Surrender involves faith; faith in a God I have come to experience deeply as Love and compassion.  Resignation is about fear; fear that is a poisonous and ruinous drug.

Surrender is about journeying towards something while resignation is about running away from something (or Some One).

If truth be told, I have much and little of both.  But the choice is mine.

So which one will it be?  Faith or fear?

The answer will change everything!

 

Advent Thoughts: God or the World? (Repost)

“We are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God IN the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world…[and] this turns out to be a sacrificial love.” 

– Sallie McFague

Here we are again at another Advent season (for those of us who like the “liturgical calendar”).  It’s that time of year again where we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace by proclaiming “Merry Christmas” as we over shop and overeat, rabid consumers in an age of technological saturation.

During Advent, I try and re-center myself by getting back to the simplicity of what this season means: the God of all creation entered our realm to be with us and to live and love as one of us.  And so we are called to do the same: to enter into the world and love it.  We are called to love the world as God loved the world, which included dying for it; which included dying for our enemies, those who are different, those who are not like us, those who do not believe as we believe.  That is the kind of love we need this Christmas.

We are called to love God through the world, by loving all that God has made: all of creation, all that is created, all people, and creatures and the entire cosmos.  For every created thing is but a mere reflection of God, a glimpse of the Beauty of the One Who is Infinite Love.

For if I say I love God but hate another then it is plain and simple: I am a liar.  Anyone who says they love God but hate another (regardless of whether that “other” is queer, gay, Muslim, atheist, republican or democrat, Russian or American, white or black) is a LIAR.

1 John 4: 7-8; 20-21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And [Jesus] has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

And every Christmas it happens, that thing I find almost hilarious and odd this time of year: people seem more concerned about “keeping Christ in Christmas” than they are about actually loving people as Jesus loved people – unconditionally and lavishly.

And Jesus loved people where there were as they were, seeing them as images of his God, people created in love.  And I also find it odd that many of the people who are screaming about keeping Christ in Christmas don’t really care too much about keeping him in all the other parts of their lives or times of the year…

There is much hatred and fear mongering all around us; from politics to religion to my country versus your country.  But in the end, it is Love that will lead the way.  And if I am judged because I try daily to love as Jesus loves, then so be it.  I would rather be judged because I am to gracious and messy with love than to be judged for being an asshole.

So, I will show my love for God by loving this world as God loves this world; by actually loving it as it is, not as I would have it.

For God so loved this particular world – this hate-filled, messy, mixed up beautiful world – that God chose to come into it, as a fragile human being, to be close to us, to love us face to face, to love us even unto death.  And it is this love – this divine love – that is still scandalous even to this day.

Maybe the best thing I can do this Christmas is more about keeping Jesus in my living and loving throughout the entire year than just focusing on keeping him in my holiday greeting….

From Annie Dillard’s “Holy the Firm”

“There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead – as if innocence had ever been – and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been.”

-Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

 

Scriptures of Hope

As we begin Advent, a time of remembering that Hope springs eternal; a time of remembering that although love may be the greatest things, Hope is the most necessary.  As a child of a loving God, I am steeped in the Truth that I am also a child of eternal Hope.  Here are some Scriptures to meditate on to help you find the Hope needed to carry on and to trust…

 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Psalm 34:8

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

“The Truth of Who You Are” (Henri Nouwen)

“Prayer is listening to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved.  [Prayer] is to constantly go back to the Truth of who we are [in God] and claim it for ourselves. I’m not what I do.  I’m not what people say about me.  I’m not [my posessions].  My life is not rooted in the world, the things the world gives me.

My life is rooted in the truth of my spiritual identity.  Whatever we do—we have to go back regularly to that place of core identity.”

-Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

“God Is” (Douglas Wood)

God is indeed deep,
and much higher than high.
God is swift and free as the wind,
and still and solid as a great rock.”

God is the life of the world, always close by,
yet beyond the farthest twinkling light.”

God is gentle and powerful, above all
things and within all things.”

God is all that we dream of,
and all that we seek,
all that we come from and,
all that we can find.

God is.

Douglas Wood, Old Turtle

 

Ruminations from the Shadows

I’ve been struggling with some intense sadness and loneliness the last few weeks.  It hit me particularly hard this Sunday morning when I was walking Juno – admiring the beauty of the day while simultaneously saturated in emotional density.  And the words that came out of my mouth surprised me (yes, I talk out loud to myself), and what I said was this: no woman, no amount of activity, no form of intimacy will fill this deep void meant only for God!

I’m sure some of it is the fact that I am less than two weeks away from my 51st birthday, then add in living in a new city, having a new job and then there is the fact that I have been single for over 6 years.  Some of it is reality; some of it is age, and some of it is the depression I have lived with on and off with for four decades.

And some of it is where I am in my recovery.  I started re-working the 12 Steps last year and I have gone deeper than ever before into me, into God and in closeness with my Sponsor.

One of my commitments to my spiritual development and journey is to never judge nor shrink back from the shadowy parts of me, and of life.  As a true-blue Scorpio (the sign of sex, death, and rebirth) and someone with an attraction to mysticism, my experience is that God is to be found just as deeply in the shadows as in the light; that God is found everywhere I choose to embrace the all-pervasive Presence.

Walking into the shadows intentionally can be mind-blowing and emotionally disruptive, just ask anyone who has done a thorough 4th Step and they will tell you).  Walking intentionally into the darkness within can lead to feelings of “Stuckness & Suckness” and lead us deeper into the parts of life where anger, resentment, and fear dwell – places where God’s loving and healing power must touch.

And that, my friends, is where I find myself again.

I am feeling so stuck these days that all I am ‘feeling’ is resentment and anger, which can be quite dangerous for this ragamuffin if left unchecked.  But awareness and honesty are two ways through it for me, and I am quite aware of it and I am ‘sharing’ it.

A few years ago, I had a major spiritual breakthrough (that started as a spiritual breakdown) when I came to know that I no longer wanted to, nor could, be the servant of another person’s dream for that equates to spiritual slavery for me.

In the end, I am the one responsible for my own happiness.

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