How Do We Become More Loving?

Oftentimes, when I have learned a powerful lesson, I embrace it but I don’t verbalize it.  Other times, I verbalize it but the words fall very short.  Today I read the following excerpts from Elizabeth Lesser’s, The Seeker’s Guide.  This is what I want to say and often want to explain.  I am so grateful to her for putting it so well. I add just this one imput: We cannot love well in our own humaness.  We need to tap into the source of love in order to do that.  God is that source, for God is love.

‘…Love is the fruit of spiritual labour; it is not a technique you try or a dogma you adopt.  Love is the secret you unmask yourself to find; it is the foundation of the spiritual life, the destination where all roads of the journey lead. But it does no one any good to rush the process, nor to enforce loving behaviour.  Loving behaviour is unenforceable and herein lies the mystery of the spiritual life and the mistaken role of religions.  You cannot legislate forgiveness; you cannot make hate illegal; you cannot require love.  Just as you can’t pull a shoot out of the ground and demand that it flower then and there, love cannot be forced.  Spiritual work prepares the ground.

Love will blossom when our egos and our wounds and our fears have been worked with, tilled into the soil of our understanding.

When we do the hard work of stilling the mind and opening the heart, we come into love….

You can’t force yourself to love others.  If you could, the world wouldn’t be in the mess it is now…’

–Elizabeth Lesser

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In the Still Hours of the Morning

Photo Source

Photo Source

Thomas Kempis  1379 – 1471

If we live in peace ourselves, we in turn may bring peace to others.  A peaceable man does more good than a learned one.

In the still hours of the morning,  I had decided to hope. As I quietly got out of bed, I assured myself that peace can be found. I crept down the stairs with hope in my heart.  Stepping over my dog who laid sprawled on the mat, I opened my livingroom door.  By simply hoping, I was already beginning to perceive peace.

However, that was not the way my day ended last night.  Last night I was worrying.  Christmas will soon be here and I still had a lot to do.  I had been doing a lot of rushing around.  I upset a friend because I hadn’t rung her in two weeks.  My husband was sad that I hadn’t spent time with him in awhile.  I was conscious that I hadn’t phoned my mother in ages.  Even my teenage children commented that I was always disappearing after dinner.  I LOVE Christmas but I craved a ‘Silent night, Holy night’ leading up to Christmas.  I knew I had to stop and slow down.  God knew that too which is probably why he woke me up at 4:30 this morning. I needed time in silence.  When all around me is awake, the noise can be quite deafening to my spirit. Where did I go?  I lost myself because I lost my way.

In the still hours of the morning, I crept into my living room.  Turning on the Christmas tree and lighting a candle, I created the ambience to be a cosy haven. Propped against my cushions and covered in a fleecy throw, my heart was leading me back.  I discover that I am still here. My hand is being held in a loving grasp as I begin my day in prayer.  All is calm, all is bright.

As I contemplate the quote from Thomas Kempis, one thing comes to mind.  In order to ‘live in peace ourselves’, we must persue times of silence. Peace does not materialize out of chaos.  Peace is found from that wellspring within.

 

Thought For Thursday: Curiosity

Photo Source

Photo Source

“Never lose a Holy curiosity.”

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

                                                                                    —–Albert Einstein

Curiosity is the battery pack for the development of our species.  It is what fuels our ambitions and our tenacity of spirit. It motivates us in a surprising way–by exciting our thoughts of possibilities and giving us hope in our inventiveness.  Without our innate curiosity, we would give up without trying or even thinking of trying.  Without curiosity, there would be no wonderment; no exploration of anything new, perhaps not even love.

Although we are born with it, curiosity needs cultivating.  By fanning the flames of your curiousity, you bring to life more positivity and inspiration. Like yeast to dough,  curiosity has a way of increasing and expanding any element or concept which it is added to.  You want to increase in knowledge?  Begin with curiosity.  Are you unsure how to go about something?  Be curious.  Don’t know what your purpose in life is?  Follow your curiosity.  Try something.  Ponder.  Explore.  Poke about a bit and see what you find.

Now add Holiness into the mix.  Be still.  Be silent.  Pray.  Meditate. Pick up your tool of choice.  Your camera.  Your pen.  Paintbrush.  Keyboard. Use your hands to create.  Your feet to explore.  Your mind to think. Your heart to ponder.

Thought For Thursday: Take Off Your Shoes!

Our Thought for Thursday quote today is from Singer and Songwriter James Taylor:

“I find it a lot healthier for me to be someplace where I can go outside in my bare feet.”

I know  this is such a strange choice for today’s quote but something about it struck a cord within me that I had to take notice and question why.

The reason I suppose is twofold.  One is that there is something about being outside and feeling natural elements under your feet.  Springy moss, crisp grass, squishy sand, the sea.  There is a stronger connection with nature that is felt when your shoes are off.  As James Taylor says, ‘it is healthier’.  Mind, body, spirit healthy.  We often forget the importance of connecting to nature.

The other reason that the quote struck me is that there have been moments in my life where I have had the instinct to take off my shoes. Moments when I was in prayer or have felt a connection with God or my natural surroundings, or when I felt grounded or the need to feel grounded.  Those moments were completely instinctual.  The funny thing was I also noticed that my minister took off her shoes when she began her sermons.  I never asked her about it because I didn’t think it needed an explanation.  Some things can be understood without words.

The quote also made me me think of the bible passage from Exodus.

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Holy Ground?  What makes a place suddenly holy?  Would the ground have been holy to someone else who happened to come along? Is the altar less holy if a layman stands on it rather than a minister? Many have said that the place with the burning bush was holy because the presence of God was there, but when is God not present?  Often when I take off my shoes,I have the deep impression of Holy Ground.  I humbly believe that all ground can be or ‘become’ holy.  I believe that the ground is holy when  Holiness is instinctively recognized by the person standing there.  In their bare feet.  It is in the moment we plan to come into the presence of God and it is in the moment when we didn’t plan but we are met THERE anyway.  It is just before we become awestruck, when we know our connection with God is about to happen or that something is about to happen but we have not yet realized that it is God or we don’t recognize it as God but we give the experience another name.  We may call what is happening a God thing or inspiration or cosmic phenomenon.  I don’t know how best to explain it but we feel compelled to take off our shoes.  What compells us to do it in nature, compels us to do it when we are entering God’s throne room.  The taking off of our shoes is the same as the bringing our hands together in prayer or closing our eyes.  We don’t know why we do it, but we do.  So if the compulsion comes over you, just do it.  Just take off your shoes.

dscn1988

Thought For Thursday: Paulo Coelho

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” –Paulo Coelho

The force with which we sometimes proclaim to others that our way is the only way leads to disharmony within that relationship.  It is an indifference towards our own kind and a particular arrogance that results in conflict and animosity. In short, it cost us friends and it is the impediment of peace which can result in war between nations. I am not promoting conformity but empathy and the understanding that since we have not walked in their shoes, we may not get their choices.

Also, we may think that we know something without a doubt but most of what we may be sure of is not worth fighting about.  Our haughtiness is disrespectful and an ugliness which permeates our own spirit.

My suggestion for us all is this: Choose what you value most of all, then respectfully communicate your thoughts on that, leaving out all the bitty things which doesn’t matter and above all listen without interrupting.

Thought For Thursday: Madeleine L’Engle Quote

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”  —Madeleine L’Engle

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I actually chose the quote and photo a week ago before yesterday’s message.  The quote speaks volumes on its own and on a personal note, I feel it is for me.  Of course it is true.  It is truth in it’s highest sense.  God always wants more for us and from us just as we want that for our own dear children.  It is the voice of Love that beckons us, “Further up and further in.” ** Why should we choose to do any less?  We can be more of who we are with the help of the Spirit who is ever within.

Namaste

** From C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle

Ancient Rhythms of the Earth

 

Photo by Marilylle Soveran

Photo by Marilylle Soveran

“The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows.”

—John O’Donohue

There is knowledge we obtain by studying books or listening to teachers.  There is knowledge we obtain by experience which is often called wisdom.  Then there is the knowledge we don’t obtain at all.  It is inner knowledge.  Where did it come from?  We always had it.  We don’t always know it but it is there just the same.  We can call this truth.  We can call this inner wisdom.  We can call it the word of God.  Like opening a book, we have the ability to tap into this inner knowledge.  Usually, we tap into it on a subconscious level.  Sometimes it is when we are in a state of awe or bliss that we sense it. Other times, it is through meditation or meditative prayer. If we want more of it, we receive it by the simple act of relaxing and opening ourselves up to it.  If we try to force it to come, then like a frightened child it disappears.  If we place our hand reverently on the trunk of a tree, or allow our hand to dip into the cool water of a lake or stream, we sense it.  If you think about it, haven’t you always known we were connected to the earth?  The trees, the oceans, the mountains all know our names.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Nature Quote

“It does me good to do difficult things. It does not prevent me from having a terrible need of–shall I say the word–religion.  Then I go outside in the night and paint the stars and I dream ever of a picture like this…”  –Vincent Van Gogh

The above quote is from a letter which Post-impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo.  They exchanged hundreds of letters over many years and at times Theo sent money with them.  My guess is that Theo was greatly concerned about his brother.  Vincent was a religious man who wanted to be a minister but failed the theological entrance exam. Perhaps this is why years later he refers to religion as ‘a terrible need’.  The way Vincent’s quote is worded appears to me that he is trying to reassure his brother by explaining how he tries to use his art as a coping mechanism for assuaging himself of this ‘terrbile need’.  But was he freeing himself of his need for religion when he painted stars? Perhaps.  But I think more likely that Vincent Van Gogh was actually fulfilling his spiritual need by first gazing at the stars and then using that inspiration along with his own spirit and creative genius to express what he felt when he did.

And…

although he never did become a clergyman, perhaps in some ways, his paintings have ministered to many over the years.

Picture credit: Vincent van Gogh

Picture credit: Vincent van Gogh

Thought For Thursday: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pic Source: hplusmagazine

Pic Source: hplusmagazine

In what is probably de Chardin’s most infamous quote, he challenges us to think of ourselves not as people striving to be spiritual but to recognize that we are already in fact spirit.  Suddenly, we are faced with the choice to flip our general thinking and to allow ourselves to be challenged into seeing ourselves in quite a different way.

All the striving we do to be ‘spiritual’ is pointless. Why?  Because we don’t need to strive, we just need to BE.  What is needed is for us to relax into our true state of love.  Rather than strive TO meditate…simply allow yourself to BE there.  What can be more natural than being who we really are? Spiritual beings loved by God and created in God’s image.  We are the product of Love and in essence we too are love.

Namaste

(Fulfilling Our Calling)- Quote by Joan Chittister

“Albert Einstein didn’t like his job at the patent office either.  That didn’t make him incapable of it.  He simply stayed where he was but filled the remainder of his days doing what he had been born to do.  On the side. In addition to. Wherever he could.”–Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight

Photo Source: Amazon

Photo Source: Amazon