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Joy

The most infallible sign of the presence of God is joy.  Joy is not pleasure or excitement or even happiness. True joy fills us so full that somehow we must let it overflow or we feel that we would burst.

Sorrow stretches our capacity for joy. True sorrow is not sadness or discouragement or even depression. It is heartbreak.

We expend much energy avoiding heart break by choosing sadness or depression and we settle for pleasure or excitement in place of costly joy.

Joy comes from the deepest part of us where God resides. The path there is through fearful darkness, but once you have found it, perfect Love casts out fear and you know it’s safe to return

Hitting Bottom and Finding Gold

Religion begins with personal spirituality. Spirituality begins with the question: Is there meaning to life? If so, what is it? How does that play out in my own life? And is this life all there is? In seeking meaning in life, inevitably we come to the question of the reason for suffering. No religion seems to have come up with an easy answer to that, but many including Buddhism and Christianity have come up with similar ways for dealing with suffering. The core spiritual response to personal suffering seems to be acceptance in the sense of embracing it. Much of the time we are unable to bail out of the actual situation that causes us pain, but we can and often do seek the means to dull the pain or at least pass it on to those around us. A few of these escape attempts are emotional denial, depression, addictions, self-pity, resentment, anger, or the delusion that if we can somehow overcome a particular difficult situation, then our troubles will be over. Unfortunately, these responses to suffering will eventually cripple us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Acceptance/embracing is scary. It means going down into the snake pit of our feelings, into the black bog of our fears and sorrows and actually experiencing them, even feeling the overwhelming pain of them. But at that point, we find solid ground, the fire tested gold at the core of our being. And while we may go through the pain of this process many times in our life, it is no longer a terrifying free fall into the unknown. In letting go of our own will by embracing reality, we find God, grace, strength, peace, even joy, within.
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Mother Teresa’s Dark Night of the Soul

The Book, Mother Teresa * Come Be My Light is a collection of her letters and her journals, which she had wanted burned when she died. Through them we see her terrible interior struggle with despair and feelings of abandonment by God.
She had mystical experiences and years of a sense of God’s presence when she was struggling to get permission and the means for the ministry she knew God was asking of her. But once she actually begins working with the poorest of the poor, she loses those, and not only feels abandoned, but sometimes even doubts the reality of God.
In her uphill battle to get permission from Church Authorities all the way up to the Pope, she harasses them incredibly, all the while saying, “I accept your authority and your decision. But could you hurry, because this is God’s call and people are being lost.”  I love that.
She says that she has no ego left, just her desire to love God more than anyone ever has. Hmm. I’m not sure that’s not a form of ego, but it beats heck out of most forms.She is honest with her Spiritual Directors about her spiritual darkness, but fakes it with her community for fear she will damage their faith.
At eighty years of age, she never slows down in her exhausting physical ministry and even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, she still humbly does dishes and cleans along with the other sisters in her community.
All the time she is without faith, joy, or even meaningful prayer, she is having tremendous success in her ministry and accolades from the world. But she is only able to go through the motions, heart-broken, doing her duty by fulfilling her promises to a God that seems to be gone.
That seems to me to be more awesome, than her mystical experiences or winning the Nobel Prize.
And it confirms what my minister answered one day when I asked him, “What’s it all about?”
He replied quickly with great assurance, “Perseverance.”