#11 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

largeOne of the traumatic impacts of the Dark Night is the fear of being lost on the road, thinking that all spiritual blessing is over and that God has abandoned us.  The experience of both heart and mind is to grow weary, to live out of memory rather than imagination.  It would be like a hunter letting his prey go free in order to hunt it again.  The danger is turning back if there is no one who understands us because we lose courage.

I spent seven years on the most isolated, lonely back country road leading to seemingly no where.  If it were a road then the number of travelers I encountered was only the faint sound of a car on an unseen road on the other side of the ravine.  I have explained my situation to God, myself and countless others who have been my brothers, pastors, and friends without as much as a clue of what I was undergoing.

God is leading us onto another road, away from meditation and reasoning (purposeful roaduse of the faculties) onto an dark endless highway, which is not the same as some divine eternal highway.  This darkened path is the path of contemplation and does not yet boast of any signage of how far you’ve come nor how far you have to go.  In fact, it would be safe to say that there isn’t really any path that one can see.  It is densely encumbered with a plethora of obstacles, stones, underbrush and trees that give no indication that you are on a path.  There is no map, no compass, no light or shadows to give any indication of a journey or of progress.  You are simply groping and stumbling around in a maze of madness.

labyrinth-wallpaper-1The expectation of the Dark Night of the senses is that we are to persevere in patience and to not think of yourself as having been afflicted.  Trust that God will give you everything that you need and that he will be bringing you into a clearing of the light of his love and that it will all make sense.  This all comes about when you encounter the second Dark Night of the spirit if you merit God bringing you into that next dimension.

I can testify that God by means of his favor through many a good person has treated us well and given us wonders in the wilderness with health, provision, love, prayer and visitation during these languishing laments.

This time of isolation appears as though nothing is being accomplished and is a terrible 03f79799a3ae863060f326a67239fa4b--grey-wood-family-treeswaste of time and talents.  I have been sitting on the bench with my glove in my hand just waiting for an opportunity to get in the game, but it has been met with constant rejection.  It seems as though I have wasted all my years of preparation and that my life has amounted to nothing.  I am amazed that anyone, especially my children, finds any reason at all to stand near me, let alone beside me and behind me as I dissolve into nothing.  The testament of their love is my only dim recognition that God exists and that his love must be more tangible than is currently imaginable.

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#10 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

One of the telltale signs that one may believe that he is experiencing a severe purging is IMG_7452.PNGthat the memory ordinarily centered upon God, now finds itself without sweetness in the things of God.

However, this does not come from weakness and lukewarmness, for it is the nature of lukewarmness not to care greatly or to have any attentiveness for the things of God.  Thus there is a great difference between aridity and lukewarmness.

The flesh may be weak, but the spirit is willing.

The senses are devoid of any positive experience of being present to God, however the spirit lives from an inward food even though it resides in an arid and dark state of contemplation.

Because this work is as we mentioned from the beginning is passively welcomed as being worked in us through God’s initiative any efforts of our faculties hinders the work  rather than aids it.  God chooses to bind our interior faculties, blinds our ability to understand, debilitates our will, and creates amnesia in our memories…and more because he is accomplishing in the spirit by the aridity of our senses.

hooded-man-2580085_1920My experience of this dark night has left me floundering in my faith, depressed in my hope and questioning his love and care…really his interest and involvement.  My whole state has gone through overwhelming swells of depression and abandonment.  The will or bodily energy to go on is shattered like a vase across a concrete floor.  I am not anything close to the self that I once knew.  I am dried up and worn out.  I have lost all ability to sustain emotional stability or longevity.  I do not know the me that I have been left with and I do not know why God has chosen to make me abandon all that he made and leave me with nothing but a ghost town of mind, will and emotion.

This has been the most austere treatment I have ever known and I do not appear to myself as myself nor to others to be very well.

 

 

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#9 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

The Dark Night is contemplation and produces two kinds of purging: sensual and katniss-300x157.gif.8c360dd5d85b65c75c45c85614730fe1spiritual in order to be made ready for the divine union of love with God.

The night of sense is common and comes to many.  The night of the spirit is the portion of very few.  The night of the senses is bitter and terrible, but the night of the spirit bears no comparison for it is horrible and awful.  It is an arduous journey toward the heart of God’s love.

This darkness comes in a time of spiritual prosperity, wellness of the soul and then God turns all this light we walk in, into darkness and shuts the door and the source of the well of the springs.  He leaves us in the dark to such magnitude that you do not know what to do or where to go.

under waterWe are unable to advance in any direction of spiritual life.  The inward senses are submerged in this night and left with such dryness that not only do we not find any inspiration to practice the faith, but that to do so is boredom and bitterness.

God sets us down on our own and teaches us to walk on our own, which feels very strange because everything seems to be going haywire.

For the past five years on this blog site and on my Facebook page (an open journal) I have wrestled and struggled in the grosses darkness of my life with Christ which is coming upon 50 years of walking with him.  Never has it been so bleak, wretched and miserable in the confines of my mind, will and emotions.  At least Motel 6 they will leave the light on for you.Motel-6-Sacramento-West-photos-Exterior

This arid place of purging is the land of prophets and poets.  Read the Psalms if you care to…

The Dark Night is so DARK that you cannot take a picture of it because it is on the out skits of utter DARKNESS.

 

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#8 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

E N V Y   &   S L O T H

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ENVY…The experience of displeasure at the spiritual good of others so that we would

envy-lips

Love does not Envy

prefer not to hear others praised and in fact cannot refrain from contradicting what is said in praise of them.  Annoyance grows because the same praises are not said of us.  All this is contrary to charity (love-agape).

If charity has any envy, it is a holy envy, comprising grief of not having the virtues of others, yet also joy because others have them and delight when others outstrip us in the service of God.

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SLOTH…We are wearied by the things that offer to us no spiritual sweetness.  Many would have God will that which they themselves will, and are fretful at having to will that which He wills, and find it repugnant to accommodate their will to that of God.  We measure God by ourselves and not ourselves by God.  We find it irksome when we are commanded to do that wherein we take no pleasure.  We are too weak to have the fortitude and bear the trials of perfection.  They resemble those who are softly nurtured and run fretfully away from everything that is hard, and take offense at the cross.

Next….the DARK NIGHT

CMoai1RUwAAphe6

 

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#7 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

G L U T T O N Y

7/40 …part 2/2

In part one we saw the pride of those (ME!) who relish in their gluttony in spiritual ways. Seeking to go to extremes and beyond moderation and the counsel of wise spiritual guides.  It would be more profitable for them to not engage in these practices at all.

an-evil-spirit-world-where-did-it-come-fromThe devil takes these spiritual Olympians (written at the time of the 2018 Winter Games) and stirs up this gluttony in them through pleasures and desires that come from spiritual practices or exercises (for all intents and purposes they are exercises for holiness and godliness).  The devil and our Flesh (nothing so damnable as religious Flesh) increases these desires within them, to such an extent that they can no longer help themselves and they become obsessive.  As in the Pharisees, so we to do things as Jesus said, to be seen by others.  Many preachers these days literally preach so THEY can be heard by others.

Today social justice agendas in the church are in danger of gluttony…Selah

382274Many of these persons are very insistent with their spiritual masters to be granted that which they desire to do, extracting it from them almost by force.  If they are forbidden then they sulk around like emotional midgets or untrained children throwing temper tantrums.  They are so pigheaded that they believe that their way is God’s way and eventually they not only do not practice the faith, they walk away from it altogether.  This of course smacks loudly across the face of the post-modern culture that proudly proclaims…we do not need the Church, we are hanging out under the banner of just “Me and Jesus.”

Do you have a spiritual master, director, priest or pastor?  Do you belong to a support group of soul friends to walk with in and through life?  Or do you just follow Jesus?

Some others are also so hell bent on finding sensual satisfaction in spiritual work that if they do not feel anything then nothing was accomplished.  This is to judge God unworthily.  Most Protestants do not participate in the Lord’s Supper weekly because they walk by sight, that is they do not sense anything happening in the sensory realm so they see no need in offering or participating in the unseen graces of the Sacrament.  They only desire to feel and taste God as though he were comprehensible by them and accessible to them…that is why they Preach, Pray and Praise every week.  It is impurity in faith.

Christ_Sacrament_Cropped

In our indulgent appetites and attachments to feelings we are very weak and often times to preoccupied for the journey upon the hard road of the Cross.  The way of the Cross, the Cruciform life is not in keeping with our pursuit of happiness and the American Dream.

 

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#6 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

G L U T T O N Y

6/40 …part 1 of 2

Many of us are lured by the sweetness and pleasure in spiritual exercises, but strive 1.24.CC.HOME_.GluttonyASinmore after the sweetness than the purity and discretion that God regards and accepts along our spiritual journey.

The gluttony for the transcendent makes us go to extremes, so that they pass beyond the limits of moderation within which the virtues are acquired.  Some people attracted by the pleasure seek to kill themselves with penances and often weaken themselves with fasts, by performing more than their frailty can bear, without the order or advice of any, but rather endeavoring to avoid those whom they should obey in these matters.  Some, indeed, dare to do these things even though the contrary has been commanded them.

Fasting-black-and-whiteI have in three of the last six years in Colorado have fasted for 40 days during Lent and then other supplemental fasts in January for three years.  My wife at the end of my last 40 day fast forced me to sign a document stating that I will never fast again for 40 days.  The last two years I toyed with the idea of doing another 40 day fast, and was relunctant to honor the agreement with my wife…

Then I read Dark Night this January and was under such conviction that my Fasting was being a Glutton.  I was arrested by this idea and realized that I was going against what my authority (my wife) had the wisdom of a woman’s intuition and common sense to foresee.

St. John of the Cross goes on…These persons (ME!) are most imperfect and unreasonable; adjgluttonyfor they set bodily penance before subjection and obedience.  Inasmuch as all extremes are vicious and as in behaving thus such persons (ME!) are working their own will, they grow in vice rather than virtue.  To say the least, they are acquiring spiritual gluttony and pride in this way, through not walking in obedience.

As I enter into this Lent (2018) I have decided to participate in an inconsistent fast of missing two meals a day throughout the week and to eat at other times when the occasion calls for it.  I wrestle in my mind that this is not really a fast, I mean not eating two meals a day is not hard or a sacrifice so it feels like I am cheating.  Yet what I know I must consider is the loving obedience to my wife and the unmerited favor of grace from God.

Truly, may God help me to gain wisdom, knowledge and understanding of my gluttony in this and in many other areas of my life.  Mercy Lord!

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#5 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

A N G E R

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When our desire to gain tangible benefits from the regiments of our spiritual disciplines hulkstatuemaincomes to an end, or is unmet with immediate or continued delight then we naturally become embittered and bear a bad grace, which affects all that we do.  We can become easily irritated over the smallest matters.

Another type of vexation is to be sorely disappointed in the imperfections of others because we set ourselves up as masters of virtue, which is contrary to spiritual meekness and gentleness.

Anger-is-an-acid-Dont-hold-on-to-itAnother type of anger is with oneself when you observe your own imperfectness and display an impatience that is not humility.  Because of such vanity a prescription is drafted up that purposes to accomplish a great deal and make grand resolutions.  But they are not humble and have no misgivings about themselves.  The more resolutions they make they greater their fall and the greater their annoyance.  They do not reflect the patience to wait for that which God will give them when it pleases him.

Some souls on the other hand, are so patient as regards progress which they desire that God would gladly see them less so.

I have been tragically guilty of displaying multiple signs of the sin of anger/wrath across decades of my life.

My worst sin has been the pride that accompanied my anger (lethal combination) as a young man, husband and father.  I was not patient with myself, thinking that I was better than others and should not have these frailties of ability and virtue.  I was a raucous husband whose need for attention and affection was distorted and came through Dianamoodiness of lowliness or of intimidation toward my wife.  As a young father my wrath was unleashed upon our five young children as I demanded from them perfection in the areas of obedience.

The brokenness of my life as a child had to encounter a deeper and greater brokenness of my will as a young man so that I could be made whole.  In fact, I have given much of my life to the work of repairing my anger and I owe my restoration to the work of God’s Spirit, the revelation of God’s love and my wife’s undying devotion to love me well.

My climax of healing and revelation took place in 2005 when I realized I did not have an anger problem, only a love problem.  Love became my focus and anger has melted away.

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#4 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

L U S T

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Lust is the desire to benefit self at the expense of other, because lust desires to get.  Love desires to benefit others at the expense of self, because love desires to give.  -Dr Edwin Louis Cole

Strange enough, but this spiritual appetite and attachment comes in the midst of our Edwin Louis Colespiritual exercises and practices.  Even when we are deep in prayer or engaged in the sacrament or in confession.

The first cause as to potentially why this would be so is due to the realm of pleasure that accompanies the satisfaction of spiritual accomplishment.  When the soul receives joy and comfort in acts of devotional love likewise the realm of our senses is also elated and can also be seduced by gratification.

The second cause is the works of the evil one as he seeks to stir up motions of impurity in our nature and if the soul gives heed to any of these , they cause it great harm.  The results can vary from backing away or abandoning an inner devotional life because of fear of attack during these times, which is true, since the devil attacks them more than at other times.  He also succeeds in portraying to them very vividly things that are most foul and impure, and at times are very closely related to certain spiritual things and persons that are of profit and prophet to their souls.  In The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen, he refers to these episodes especially during times of solitude and silence as “monkeys in a banana tree.” What I would call as ghastly hauntings of mind and imagination and emotion.

St. Michael prayerThe third source of these impure plagues like the second come through no fault of their own.  Certain souls are so tender and frail in nature that when they experience spiritual graces, gifts and consolations that the spirit of luxury/lust is upon them immediately, inebriating and delighting the sensual nature in such a manner that it is as if they were plunged into the enjoyment and pleasure of this sin.

This can often take place among those who whether speaking, preaching, performing spiritual actions that a certain vigor and bravado is present and they display a certain kind of vain gratification…this is accompanied as a rule by spiritual complacency in the will.

If love arises from the vice of sensuality, it will at once be observed that the soul’s love of God is becoming colder and a certain remorse of conscience.  Only a truly humble and fervent love of, for and from God can withstand and overcome lust’s wintry bite on our soul’s truest affections.

When our souls enter this dark night, it brings these kinds of love under control.  In the beginning of this dark battle both are lost sight of, which is a frightening reality.

May you find your place in God’s love as neither a euphoric exhilaration nor a distant and disinterested lover who only occupies space under the same roof.  May you find harmony, presence, light, strength, wonder, freedom and courage to be at rest and peace in a relational love that will not ever let you go or let you down.

 

 

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#3 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

G R E E D

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7 sins by color

Being discontent with the spirituality that God gives to you…because you do not find in spiritual things the consolation that you desire.  OUCH!

Many can never have enough of listening to counsels and learning spiritual precepts and of possessing and reading many books, and they spend time on all these things rather than on works of mortification and the perfecting of the inward poverty of spirit which should be theirs.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.

They entertain themselves with Christian jewelry and novelties of the faith like children with happy meal toys, they put down one, now take up another.  They walk through a revolving door of one church and out the back door of another.  They try out new crossesgimmicks to give them spiritual happiness, preferring one kind of cross to another because it looks better than the last one.

Pastors as the CEO and Entertainment Director along with their church staff can do this as they seek to make programs and products to feed the greed of making the American Church happy.

All of this is quite contrary to the poverty of spirit which considers only the substance of devotion.  The rest of this is affection and attachment proceeding from imperfection and in order that one may pass into any kind of perfection it is necessary for such desires to be killed.

Those who are to make good progress attach themselves to no visible instruments, nor do they burden themselves with such things, nor desire to know more than is necessary in order that they may act well.  Paul asked in our radical pursuit that we hold true to what we have attained, Philippians 3:16.

snapchatHave we trivialized the person, presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives with “God things” without ever having to face or deal with God.  The last dregs of wisdom of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:12 may provide a Snap-Chat moment into our dis-ease…

In the making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.  The end of the matter…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

I like material things as much as the next guy, but I am not attached to materialism.  I mean I have given up and sold everything in our lives on a number of occasions.  I think we seek to live a life of simplicity.  So I figured I was in the clear on this topic and then I got blindsided by the 18 wheeler barreling down the road of this book.

When reading this chapter of Dark Night of the Soul I was convicted of my greed for spiritual “Turkish Delight”, like Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  I use my prayer, fasting, obedience, faith, sacred reading in an effort to gain the latest “word from God” to ease my plight of desperation.  I am addicted to spiritual things in order to idolsbarter for spiritual life.  Yes, these things are a means of grace, but they are not a substitute for the God of grace.  Whenever you misuse or abuse a strength it can become a weakness.

Don’t be fooled by the apparent innocence of the object you’ve chosen as an idol; what is the function of it? Most of our idols also have a perfectly legitimate place in our lives. That’s their cover, that’s how we get away with our infidelity.

Forgive the rival altars we raise.

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#2 – Dark Night of the Soul – LENT 2018

The next seven chapters are to engage “beginners” of this Dark Night of the Soul to look at their imperfections through the seven deadly sins…Pride, Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth.

7 sins by color

 

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P R I D E

We may be very fervent and diligent in our spiritual exercises and practices, but what it may cause in us is a certain kind of secret pride.  We may find ourselves condemning others in our hearts when we notice that they do not have the same kind of devotion that we vainly speak of in our desires.

In our secret pride, our flesh often increases the fervor and desire to perform these Pridespiritual practices more frequently.  We are then blinded to all these works and virtues becoming meaningless and in fact, becoming vices…Spiritual Pride

Sometimes, when our spiritual masters (pastor, counselor, sponsor, coach, director, confessor, mentor, sage…I recognize most Christians do not have a relationship with any of these people) do not approve of our addictive spirit and behavior we may charge them with not understanding us or believing in us, or support us.  But in reality we are gaining greatness in being able to move mountains, but we do not have love.

Spiritual pride, a damnable vice for certain, causes some to fall into certain ecstasies in public.  It causes us to want to be seen and known among men.  The flesh is always wanting to be on display and it uses shiny religious fig leaves which is the unholy habitation of the devil.  The Pharisees, those inglorious bastards, with smoke and mirrors and cloak and dagger used the Law to show off their flesh/spiritual pride.  But they felt first hand in the person of Jesus how God opposes pride and then they did what pride is bent to do…silence and damn God if they must and they did…for three days.  Self

In our luscious ambitions to be the favorite pupil of our spiritual director we seek to live a sunny-side up life.  We are to embarrassed to expose our fleshly appetites and attachments, less our confessors should think less of us.  Pride seeks to hide so we conveniently find someone else, even God, to make our confessions of fault, frailty and failure.  But we dare not tell on ourselves to those that we intend to impress.  It would be like one of my children doing some wrong and then going down the street to confess the misbehavior to some other parent in the neighborhood.  That mother or father has no jurisdiction over the soul of my son or daughter and therefore they can offer them guidance, but not correction, forgiveness, mercy, counsel, love.

Another mishandling of secret pride is that it eats us up inside, because we cannot stomach ourselves being less than we have gloated and promoted ourselves to be.  We have failed to accept the limitations of our humanity, that we are but dust.  We have not judged ourselves soberly, and we are black out drunk on the slobber-knocker of pride.  Having to face the hangover of the reality that I am NOT God, not perfect, fractured and broken in my design was and is a wake-up call that keeps saving me from myself.  Lessons that were planted in my heart by Pastor Tom Allen and fertilized by my ministry leader years late, Rod Pruitt.

grace not perfectWhen we do go to God with our imperfections (most Christians only ask for forgiveness, they never actually make the confession of the wrong) it’s so he will finally take from us our ghastly deficiencies and leave us a prescription for some narcotic of peace.  We do not realize that God, whose grace is sufficient, will not take this imperfection from us because it would actually make us prouder.

We have to learn to be transformed in and through our imperfections not to be excused from them or gloss over them with a social media airbrush.  We do not hold ourselves to a standard of perfection, but a standard of GRACE. God gives grace to the humble, but he opposes the proud.

 

 

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