Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tears of Paradise

https://thegreenthumb20.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/bird_of_paradise_flower_in_the_grounds_at_cordial_mogc3a1n_playa.jpgI attended a retreat this weekend given by Terry Tempest Williams author of Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.  Seventy-five writers gathered to find "refuge in change and solace in uncertainty in difficult times where the violence of hurricanes, floods and fires are the norm."  This is what the retreat brochure promised.  However, none of us could have known when we signed up that the deadliest wildfire in California history would be blazing away too close for comfort.  Massive clouds of smoke poisoned the atmosphere for miles, including the air above San Rafael where the retreat center is located.  The smell of smoke lingered in our hair and our clothes throughout the weekend.  As I write this reflection two days later the smell of smoke is still in the air, search teams have identified the remains of 42 bodies and are heading back to locate and identify many more in the rubble that once was Paradise.  The fire has already consumed 125,000 acres including 7,600 homes and buildings.  All of nature is on high alert and birds and creatures even far enough away to be out of danger are chattering in a frightened pitch.  

Terry is a writer-in-residence at Harvard Divinity School who puts into brilliant lyric prose her ethical stance toward climate change that threatens to devastate the global environment and extinguish the existence of many species including our own.  As a chaplain in a trauma center I thought my retreat would be a respite from the sorrow and tragedy in my daily work, but I soon realized this is not what God had in store.  We sat in concentric circles and listened to each other's stories from the school of the dead, the school of dreams and the school of roots.  We wrote in the light and we wrote in the darkness.  We gave each other the courage to be honest, to tell it real and write it strange if that is how it is.  Writer after writer pulled up stories of abuse, sickness, shame, sorrow, frustration and fear.  We listened with a critical consciousness, with sensitivity, compassion and deep respect for each others labor.  I was able to unravel some tangled strands of multiple tragedies I have born witness to in my daily work and feel relieved of burdens carried so long I didn't know they were there.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

From the Inside Out

3D rendering Cosmic wormhole tunnel 

This and the preceding fourteen blog posts this month are from this month's retreat with Ilia Delio at Santa Sabina in San Rafael.  I'm sharing what I learned and the ideas I am reflecting on after the retreat.  To be itinerant does not mean to keep on the move all the time, it means not getting fixed on ideas and positions that have drawn us in the past.  We can enter into deeper levels through acceptance of ancient means of disciplining the body found in yoga and contemplative prayer.  We have capacities within us to enter into latent levels of new ways of being in the world. Our minds create the world we inhabit rather than the other way around.  The brain is plastic and changes through interaction with the surrounding environment.  The mystics have trained brains disciplined to focus on union with the divine.  We all have the capacity for this kind of focus and deeper experience of God but we deny ourselves the practice that would attain it. Even after taking time to seek God in deeper moments of contemplation and retreats,  when we return to the world we allow ourselves to go back to the so-called "normal" life that is fragmented, thinned out and false to who really are at heart. We have to learn to live from the inner world outward instead of letting our interior whole self take its cues from the outer fragmented world. The deeper we turn inward the more in tune we are with the reality that lies at the heart of all matter, and that reality is God's love.

Reflections from Ilia Delio retreat based on her new book  A Hunger for Wholeness: Soul, Space, and Transcendence.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dynamic Engagement

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Incarnation is an ongoing dynamic engagement of God loving creation into its divine potential. Every end is a new beginning.  Redemption and resurrection are dynamic infinitely intertwining processes that culminate in the person of Jesus the Christ. Revelation is the climax of creation, not a sidebar to a scientific reality devoid of any theological meaning.  The world we hear about in the news is an unnatural world we have constructed, a without consciousness of the love or God who created it.  This is the world that is destined to annihilate itself.  Christians are followers of the way into the fullness of life. Jesus came into the world to begin the evolution of a new consciousness.  In the world of Jesus people are of God's presence and that consciousness governs a way of being that gives life and sustains life.  Jesus offers a spontaneous response to God's presence and a deep sense of inner freedom.  The martyrs risked all to witness to God's incarnate love active and alive in the world. The scandal of Christianity is that God really is part and parcel of our life, not something we can choose or decline to choose to believe.  By accepting a dualistic view of life with mind in one place and matter in another, and by erecting intellectual boundaries between nature and divinity we put God in one box and humanity in another. These boundaries are false. They do not impede God, but they impede our ability to be conscious of God's love active in our lives and in the world.

Reflections from Ilia Delio retreat based on her new book  A Hunger for Wholeness: Soul, Space, and Transcendence.