Thomas Merton: I must – in my writing, my prayer, my life – take this further step and go beyond my limitations and the limitations of thought, art and religion of our time. And this requires effort and suffering. I simply cannot sit down and accept my limitations – that is impossible. But I must take care most of all not to be content with merely fanciful transcendence – going beyond my limitations in thought and imagination only. It must be a real transcendence. October 31, 1958, Journal III.227-28
II Corinthians 12:7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Kelli: Our human weakness is that we become enchanted and enthralled with our own creative fruit, as if we could produce it all by ourselves. Our creativity, our thoughts and imagination, blossom within a larger framework. Just as “might oaks from tiny acorns grow”, the beauty is not in the acorn expressing itself in a tree but in the Creator that first imagined and created both the seed, the full-grown plant and the process of growth and fruitfulness. The acorn can’t take credit for the tree any more than we can take credit for the cosmos and the way it expressed the Holy Love and creativity of its Creator.
Breathing In – Forgiving ourselves and other people, September 9, 2014
Artwork by Brooke Summers Perry
Holding on to unforgiveness is like preparing the poison of revenge for another person and then drinking it yourself.
Kelli: I have been preaching a lot about forgiveness lately. I finished the sermon series last Sunday, so today I want to finish up with the quotes and ideas that I found useful and practical. Forgiveness is part of the very nature of God. When we are called to be like Jesus – to take on his competency and character – forgiveness is the key that opens the door to grace.
Although disagreement is inevitable and forgiveness is hard, forgiveness brings in our healing and peace. (I don’t know who said this first because I found the magnet hanging on my refrigerator with these words printed on it).
Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible. Romans 12:18 TLB
Larsen and Hegarty, Days of Healing, Days of Joy: We need to rebuild the bridge. People, like islands, need ways to see and reach and touch hands over all that separating water. Making connections is the only way. Unless we can hear each other singing and crying, unless we can comfort each other’s failures and share each other’s victories, we are missing out on the best that life has offer. The only real action takes place on the bridge between people. Today, I ask my Higher Power for the courage to build another bridge.
Kelli: We can only build those bridges when we are willing to forgive ourselves and each other.
Thomas Merton: The one thing necessary is a true interior and spiritual life, true growth, on my own, in-depth, in a new direction. Whatever new direction God opens up for me. My job is to press forward, to grow interiorly, to pray, to break away from attachments and to define fears, to grow in faith, which has its own solitude, to seek an entirely new perspective and new dimension in my life. To open up new horizons at any cost. To desire this and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest. But really to desire and work for it. September 21 and 22, 1959, Journal III. 331.
Kelli: In preparing the sermon series on forgiveness, I relied heavily on Ev Worthington’s work on forgiveness and reconciliation. His REACH method of forgiveness is a practical way to put forgiveness into action in our own lives. I wanted to sum it up here because I find it so useful. Forgiveness is like so much of Jesus’ teaching. It’s not hard to understand, it’s just difficult to live out if we try to do it all by ourselves.
R is for Recall. Recall the events and the hurt as accurately and objectively as you can.
E is for Empathize. Try to understand what happened from the point of view of the person who wronged you.
A is for the Altruistic gift of forgiveness. Recall a time that you hurt someone else and were forgiven. And offer this gift to the person who wronged you.
C is for Committing yourself to forgive publicly. Write a letter of forgiveness (whether you send it or not), write in a journal, tell a trusted friend, or, if you can, tell the person who wronged you.
H is for Holding onto forgiveness. Forgiving is not forgetting. Memories of the wrong and feelings will come up. Remind yourself that you have made a choice to forgive.
Kelli: Two books of that I would highly recommend for anyone who struggles with forgiving themselves or someone else are: Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past and Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope. They are both available form Amazon and as Kindle books. Also worth reading is the world of Miroslav Volf and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. All three of these men have lived though unbelievable suffering come though it healed and holy by the grace of God. It is our great privilege they have taken the time to write it down for the rest of us.
This is where forgiveness brings us in the end – an entirely new perspective and new dimension – where we live into our own forgiveness by Holy Love and, out of gratitude for that grace, we find unlimited freedom. My identity and behavior choices bubble up out of forgiveness and grace instead of my human intellect or emotions. But my intellect and emotions are not useless or inconvenient. It is through my human intellect and emotions, I become a partner with Holy Love in the world and the world is transformed by forgiveness and grace. My life has purpose and meaning and I can live without fear of other people or the grave. Death and meaninglessness have been swallowed up by Life and Abundance.
P.S. On the Musical Expressions page of this site,
there is a track from my first album . The song is a cover of The Judd’s Love Can Build A Bridge. I hope you will take the time to listen.
Upper Room Disciplines 2014: God endows each of us with particular gifts and abilities and then tries to encourage and inspire us to develop and use those gifts. That rarely happens fully or without the distortion of human sin. Still, God calls us to particular tasks or endeavors in the service of love and mercy. God knows that there are no perfect humans to be found to accomplish holy purposes; so instead, God chooses people like us – people who are available…Neither does God always choose the firstborn, the rightful heir, the one with seniority, the obviously qualified. God does not allow human conventions or traditions to get in the way of God’s will. Seemingly, God does choose the person most able to accomplish God’s desires. (228)
Rokelle Lerner, Daily Affirmations: I will view all new situations as occasions for a richer life. I will value all people I come into contact with as teachers giving lessons in survival, speaking volumes in smiles and postures, carving whole histories in the creases of cupped hands….Today I trust and delight in my capacity for rejuvenation, and I shake off the fears and doubts that would drag me down. I will burst the confines of habit and stale routine and enter an arena alive with variety and diversity. I will feel expansion and joy in rejuvenation. (188)
Kelli: How are the two quotes above related? Often when God calls us to a task outside our comfort zone that seems to be serving someone else, God is resurrecting/rejuvenating/recreating our hearts at the very same time.
Thomas Merton: This morning, the indescribable magnificence of the dawn. Cirrus clouds on the horizon, first glowing with angry and subtle purple fire, then growing into a great mottled curtain of iridescent flame, of what color I don’t know. But off to the south, a pile of mottled grey with all kinds of delicate pink highlights in it, like some Oriental porcelain. St. Eucherius on that sunrise! “Think of how much more the splendor if the light will be for us in the future, if it shines upon us so brilliantly now. In what magnificent form will the light shine on eternal things, when it shines so beautifully now on what is passing away!” July 28, 1962, Journal IV. 234
Thomas Keating, Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit: The second fruit of the Spirit is JOY. Joy is an abiding sense of well-being based on the experience of a conscious relationship with God. It is the sign of liberation from the false self and the growing awareness of the true self. Flowing from joy comes the freedom to accept the present moment and its content without trying to change it. (italics mine) (18)
Kelli: In the changes and chances of this life (which seem a little overwhelming to many of us today), joy seems far off, some sort of cosmic joke. What I need is practice in what is italicized above – the freedom to accept the present moment and its content without trying to change it.