I surrender

Well, I have wanted to write many a time this last week, and again this morning, but alas I have met my match. Preparing for my classes this semester, along with the endless considerations of my side work, and the rest of life, has left me with no intellectual time and space for anything else.

I am certain I will be able to write now and again, but this semester seems it may be a wash for my blog. That makes me very sad, as this is my spirit’s playground, but such it is.

I am grateful for all who read here and ask you to hang in there, as I expect in May I will return full force. All in God’s providence.

Peace and joy.

Bible Marathon!

At the Seminary I work at, we have a 24/7 public reading of the entire Bible through Saturday afternoon, outside at the fountain in front of the Seminary building. My wife and I will read for 40 minutes Friday morning (9:40-10:20 CST). Feel free to tune in any time on this live stream (below) during those days to hear God’s Word proclaimed aloud!

“God is the friend of silence” — Mother Teresa

[In keeping with the demands of an incredibly busy semester, I will likely not post again until Friday]

Archbishop Theophilus came to Scetis [a monastery in the Egyptian desert] one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, who had said nothing as the archbishop entered his cell, “Say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified.” The old man said to them, “If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.”

My first spiritual director, a Trappist monk, wrote me once that among the most important signs of a man’s greatness is his capacity to be at home in silence. He said, “If you can’t be at home with yourself alone and in silence, you are not yet fully human … Praying demands more listening than speaking. Thinking requires a space free from noise. Friendship demands an intimacy that transcends words. There are those who have no place for inner silence and talk out of compulsion, and there are those who are at home with silence and speak deliberately with serene freedom. While the first leave you unsettled, the second bring you peace.”

A seasoned marriage therapist I know asks couples who reach an impasse in a counseling session to stop and sit in silence for a period of time, just looking at each other. She says, “It’s almost always the case that when we resume, the dispositions are better and more open. In the quiet, both relearn how to receive the other as they are.”

Recently, a friend of mine texted me after he had gone to spiritual direction with an elder priest who, I can say from first hand experience, is about as close to human sanctity as I have gotten. Here is what my friend said, which I will leave as the last word today:

All I will say is that towards the end, he finished a comment and we sat in silence for 4-5 minutes. And in that silence I learned more than discussion with him over the past 2 years. It was indescribable. Felt like heaven just ripped the veil and sat there with us. I don’t quite have words to process it. I feel like I need to go back and do a time of lectio on that silence. Don’t know if I have felt the presence of a person more powerfully. Like his whole life, everything he stands for spoke for itself…it was the humility of his silence…the humility of someone who knows how to be silent like that and doesn’t feel need to fill the empty void with idle chatter. I kept being tempted to fill it. A minute, three minutes went by. He was unphased, like he could have been there for an hour like that. I actually think it was longer than 5 minutes…it was the sense of the humility of this man. Only thing I can compare it to is the humility of heaven. So present, so exposed. All his words to me earlier took on a whole new meaning in that silence…

White Winter Hymnal

Ashley and (daughter) Maria could sing nursery rhymes or the State Farm theme song, and I’d be totally sold on it. But, all paternal bias aside, here’s a super fun video of a song they recorded back in December. As is often the case, I’d never heard of it before. White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes. They sing it a cappella, and with no instruments. Which, like saying “Mashley rocks,” is a tautology.

I hope to post at the end of the week. Life is packed these days.

Enjoy, and just know if you don’t watch and ooh-aah with me, I forgive you in advance.

Like being for the first time seen

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“It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.” ― Annie Dillard

Only twice in my life can I say that I had the sense of someone looking into my soul through my eyes. One was back in 1991 with an elderly woman who was a Holocaust survivor. She was unquestionably a mystic, a person whose life was highly porous to the spiritual world. She had suffered greatly in her life. A priest I knew connected me with her, and offered me an opportunity to pray alone with her. It was at once terrifying and thrilling.

She took my hands into hers and prayed for me to God the Father. As she prayed, she mentioned in vivid detail an event from my childhood that was very difficult and, looking in my eyes, said, “God wants you to know He saw what happened to you and was with you. And wants you to know that He will bring great good from what you suffered. But first you must forgive and you must give it to Him. Only then can He bring good from it.” Then she said, “Through the cross to the Father.”

Needless to say, I was stunned and shaken. I had never encountered anything like this in my life. But what stood out most to me was that awareness of being “seen into,” of being known in such detail. How can I best describe it? It was like the feeling of being intensely loved by someone who really cares about you, and having them ask you to reveal some painful memory to them. You feel safe letting them in, not violated or ashamed, even though you’re absolutely vulnerable.

And to receive counsel to “let go and forgive” from a woman who had endured what she did?

When I shared this with my spiritual director later, he said, “Well, remember, mystics simply remind us in an extraordinary way what is already ordinarily the case. Granting God admittance to your deepest self and allowing Him to see you is prayer. He doesn’t want to know facts about you, He wants to know you. To get into your stuff and just be with you. If you give it over, as she said, He can recycle the raw materials of your soul into treasures that enrich others.”

Then he said, “Now all that’s nice, but it’s had its effect. Let it go. Don’t focus on the extraordinary details and do the hard work of the cross now. And remember, this didn’t happen because you’re special, but because the people who rely on you having your act together are…”