Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Power of Story - The Need for Silence

  A mother once asked Albert Einstein how her son could become as smart as he was.  Einstein replied, “read him fairytales.”  “What else should I do” she asked, “read him more fairytales.”  Einstein once said “logic will get you from point A to point B, imagination will take you everywhere.”
    In a lot of ways we have lost the power of the story.  Immediately we want to know if something is true or not.  We get obsessed with data, facts and what we think is real and concrete.  In religious and spiritual realms we settle for beliefs and creeds rather than faith.  It is ease to say “I believe” quite something else to free fall head long into what we say we believe.  Imagination helps us take that step, the step that can lead us to far more than we can possibly imagine or believe.
    Jesus gave us no creeds.  Jesus told stories, stories that would, if we use our imaginations, lead us to new and fuller life.  Jesus told stores about daily life.  The story of the sower, the story of flowers in the fields, the woman who lost a coin and a person born blind. These and all the other stories Jesus tells can, if we use our imaginations, draw us ever deeper into the ordinary things and events we see, hear, smell, taste and touch.  Jesus knew long before the poet Gerard Manly Hopkins “that all of creation is charged with the grandure of God.”
    A few years ago my dad and I drove the Alcan Highway to Fairbanks Alaska.  I took many beautiful photographs but when I got home I was very disappointed with all of them.  None of them captured what I really saw; they all fell short of the insane beauty of that trip.  People who have seen them like them but I knew their shortcomings.  This is true of our words and iyr language especially when we try to tell someone of our spiritual experiences.  Our words, our symbols are only shadows of what they are trying to convey.
    In recent years my dad has told me stories of his landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day.  Interesting stories but only my imagination can lead me into the drama, horror, and full fury of what he was experiencing.  His words are only shadows.  My words, our words are only shadows of what we are trying to convey to each other.  This is why silence is so important for in the silence is the fullness of truth.
    God’s first Word was silence and out of that holy silence all was created in the imagination of God.  Only in awe-struck silence and we appreciate God’s truth all around us; only in such silence can we hold tenderly the truth of our friends, relatives, partners and our community of Faith.  “When you pray, go to your room and shut the door.”   We need to do this often alone and with others to discover God’s truth and love that abides deep within each of us.
    Let our first word, be Holy Silence.

Fr. Michael Evernden, CSP

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Every Creature is a Word of God

Fr. Richard Rohr nailed it with this reflection this morning:

Every Creature Is a Word of God
Thursday, January 22, 2015
God brought things into being in order that his [sic] goodness might be communicated to creatures, and be represented by them; and because his goodness could not be adequately represented by one creature alone, he produced many and diverse creatures, that what was wanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another. For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifold and divided.
-Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, 47, 1

Each and every creature is a unique word of God, with its own message, its own metaphor, its own energetic style, its own way of showing forth goodness, beauty, and participation in the Great Mystery. Each creature has its own glow and its own unique glory. To be a contemplative is to be able to see each epiphany, to enjoy it, protect it, and draw upon it for the common good. (Some Sundays I am drawn to awe, prayer, and service by the Nature Channel much more than by the morning church service!)

Sister Ilia Delio, OSF, a speaker at some CAC conferences, writes in true Franciscan style: "The world is created as a means of God's self-revelation so that, like a mirror or footprint, it might lead us to love and praise the Creator. We are created to read the book of creation so that we may know the Author of Life. This book of creation is an expression of who God is and is meant to lead humans to what it signifies, namely, the eternal Trinity of dynamic, self-diffusive love" (Christ in Evolution, p. 62).

Meister Eckhart, OP, says it even more succinctly: "Anyone who truly knows creatures may be excused from listening to sermons, for every creature is full of God, and is a book." And that is from one who was a member of the Order of Preachers!

Adapted from "Every Creature Is a Word of God," Radical Grace,
Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring 2011, p. 3

Related resources:
The Cosmic Christ (CD, MP3 download)
and In the Footsteps of Francis: Awakening to Creation (CD, MP3 download)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It is only a cartoon

It is only a cartoon. Last Sunday around a million French citizens flooded the streets of Paris to proclaim freedom; freedom from tyranny, freedom of speech, religion, freedom from fear and terror. Freedom, however, does not mean I can do whatever I want. Freedom requires civility. Freedom does not mean just because I can, I should. Words, even cartoon words matter. That said, there is no justification for slaughtering anyone for what is only a cartoon, be it a misguided opinion or not. Freedom requires civility. There is nothing civil about extremism in any form. Extremism never expresses the core values of any religious tradition. Extremism is ego on steroids, what I want at all costs. Addressing extremism and extremists is not the same as addressing their so called religious identities. Extremism is born of a dark fear that I am not going to get my way, that I am only good or right if I can wipe out all opposition to my way of thinking. We see being played out on the world stage, the bulling, fighting, arguments, spats and ego butting we experience as a part of our daily, individual lives. So, the solution begins with each of us individually, how we act and react on a daily basis to daily problems. Our scripture readings this weekend give us a clue to where we need to begin. Like Samuel we are often confused by the voices we hear. Eli tells Samuel what we need to do, to go to a quiet place, sort things out and utter the most important sentence, “speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Only in quiet, only by getting our egos out of the way and listen with all of our senses will we know the next right step to take. In the Gospel, Jesus asks a most important question, “what are you looking for?” They ask, “where do you stay?” Jesus responds, “come and see” and they went and saw and stayed with Him. As we begin this New Year, the question is what are we looking for? Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him and we must stay with Him if we are to know the next right step. This response may seem so small, puny, insignificant we might just say so what. We might say if everyone doesn’t get on board, why should I? The fact is that nothing will change unless we change. We can only begin by taking the next step, and then the next and the next. The march in Paris last week will mean little unless each and every marcher actually changes, lives daily what they marched for. The march ws only a small beginning, the real work lies ahead as it does for each of us. The French did a good thing last week. We do a good thing every week in church but if these good things don’t transform our daily lives it is all for naught. We need to live what we celebrate so we can celebrate what we live; otherwise it is only a cartoon. Peace, and all Good, Michael

Small Train Ride in Wilson Park, Torrence CA

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

CNN has been wall to wall on the disaster in Georgia.  The disaster?  2.6 inches of snow.  Everyone is blaming everyone for this "epic" snowstorm.  Why am I laughing?  Well, a little common sense would have gone a long way.  They were warned 24hrs before the "storm" hit, to stay off the roads.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
There is a strong vein of hostility against orthodox religious believers in America today, especially among the young. When secular or mostly secular people are asked by researchers to give their impression of the devoutly faithful, whether Jewish, Christian or other, the words that come up commonly include “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “old-fashioned” and “out of touch.”
It’s not surprising. There is a yawning gap between the way many believers experience faith and the way that faith is presented to the world.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described one experience of faith in his book “God in Search of Man”: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement...get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal. ...To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
And yet Heschel understood that the faith expressed by many, even many who are inwardly conflicted, is often dull, oppressive and insipid — a religiosity in which “faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion.”
There must be something legalistic in the human makeup, because cold, rigid, unambiguous, unparadoxical belief is common, especially considering how fervently the Scriptures oppose it.
And yet there is a silent majority who experience a faith that is attractively marked by combinations of fervor and doubt, clarity and confusion, empathy and moral demand.
For example, Audrey Assad is a Catholic songwriter with a crystalline voice and a sober intensity to her stage presence. (You can see her perform her song “I Shall Not Want” on YouTube.) She writes the sort of emotionally drenched music that helps people who are in crisis. A surprising number of women tell her they listened to her music while in labor.
She had an idyllic childhood in a Protestant sect prone to black-or-white dichotomies. But when she was in her 20s, life’s tragedies and complexities inevitably mounted, and she experienced a gradual erosion of certainty.
She began reading her way through the books on the Barnes & Noble Great Books shelf, trying to cover the ones she missed by not going to college. She loved George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda” and was taken by Tolstoy. “He didn’t have an easy time encountering himself,” she says, sympathetically. “I was reading my way from darkness into paradox.”
She also began reading theology. She’d never read anything written before 1835. She went back to Augustine (whose phrases show up in her lyrics) and the early church fathers. Denominationally, she went backward in time. She became Baptist, then Presbyterian, then Catholic: “I was ready to be an atheist. I was going to be a Catholic or an atheist. “

She came to feel the legacy of millions of people who had struggled with the same feelings for thousands of years. “I still have routine brushes with agnosticism,” she says. “I still brush against the feeling that I don’t believe any of this, but the church always brings me back. ...I don’t think Jesus wants to brush away the paradoxes and mysteries.”
Her lyrics dwell in the parts of Christianity she doesn’t understand. “I don’t want people to think I’ve had an easy time.” She still fights the tendency to go to extremes. “If I’d have been an atheist I’d have been the most obnoxious, Dawkins-loving atheist. I wouldn’t have been like Christopher Hitchens.”
Her life, like all lives, is unexpected, complex and unique. Her music provides a clearer outward display of how many inwardly experience God.
If you are a secular person curious about how believers experience their faith, you might start with Augustine’s famous passage “What do I love when I love my God,” and especially the way his experience is in the world but then mysteriously surpasses the world:
“It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odor of flowers, and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God — a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.”

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Quick Trip to Seattle - June 24-29, 2013

Pink Door Restaurant, on Post Alley

Post Alley

Pike Place Market

 Wooden Boat Center on Lake Union

 Lake Union Seaplanes

 Kayak Lessons on Lake Union

 Golden Gardens Sunset