Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: May 2011 (page 1 of 4)

June 1st

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

We all long for someone that can be fully with us- present, open, attentive, and available to receive us and our experience. Being fully present is much harder than it may sound because it takes stillness that is nurtured by silence and solitude.  We are so full of distractions, preoccupations, plans etc. that our inner world seems to be always turning. Even when we go to a quiet retreat place and are alone, we need the inner solitude which is a state of peaceful being with our self.  We can also have outer silence by not talking but we need inner silence where we listen and are open and attentive.  Inner stillness is challenging and important. We can be still by not moving but an inner stillness is letting go. It is detachment from all that moves us off center, like cravings and attachments to disordered desires. Our mind often believes the lie that if we only possessed a certain something we would be happy. But desiring anything or any one more than God  will rob us of our stillness and love for God.  We need to let go and be present to ourselves and God. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10

May 31st

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

We need to listen to our life and recognize the many parts of our story over which we had no control…like the family we were born into, skin color, body type, temperament etc. We all have an ideal of what we want our life to be like but it isn’t always the actual. We must embrace the tensions between this gap of our ideal and actual self and our inconsistencies. If we are truly alive, there will always be parts of our self that do not fit easily with other parts of our self or with our values. We are all a mixed bag of contradictions and mystery. We have a shadow side that needs to be acknowledged or we will not know our true self. We need to accept all that we are, all that we have done, and all that has been our history and experience so we can live life fully. God is in the midst of the realities of our lives. Prayer is the place we can honestly share our true self with the true God. Too often we bring to God in prayer our false self of who we wish we were or would like to seen by others. But prayer is grounded in reality and we have to meet God in those realities. Prayer then becomes a help to living our lives with authenticity and being truly alive.

May 30th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

Reality is the place where spirit and soul meet. Apart from a grounding in reality, both our soul and spirit wither and our spirituality is just pretense and posturing. We generally want truth on our own distorted terms so we can make ourselves more acceptable and comfortable. We can rationalize, project, and display feelings that are opposite of our real experience   but this only leads to a life of illusion.  When we choose the path of reality even though it may lead us through experiences we would never choose, we will discover that life can be lived with more intensity, passion, clarity and vision. Life will have deep meaning and substance. “Authenticity is living the reality that we are.”  This is like coming home to our true self.  Too often we confuse who we are with what we do or what we have.  Instead let us live the life that is ours. “Finding and living that unique, authentic self is the challenge on which all our existence, peace, and happiness depend.”  Let us accept our life as it is and live the gift of life that we have in the midst of our present realities.

Our inner Cauldron of desires

Within every man is an inner cauldron of desires, or as David Benner describes it a, “inextinguishing burning bush that is at the core of our being.”  Our desires keep us “molten.”  They are what keeps us moving and awake.  Like an unquenchable fire,  there is within a restlessness that keeps us from ever getting our deepest desires, passions and longings under control.  They will never allow us to be satisfied. Rather then trying to control or ignore our passions, our task as followers of Jesus is to integrate these desires.  Ronald Rolheiser observes that the spiritual journey is “about being integrated or falling apart.”  When I think of falling apart, I visualize myself being torn in various directions almost against my will.  Instead of being a flame for God, I so often go up in flames.

I know that it has taken years for me to become somewhat confortable with becoming aware of my passions and deepest longings.  For years I thought that these deep yearnings were sinful; something to avoid or to have crucified as part of my “old nature.”  But in these latter days I have been learning to befriend, accept, integrate and at times even rejoice that I am a man with deep, mysterious passions that are a natural part of being a man.  I ask each man reading this blog the questions, “What have you done with your passions?  How has they shaped of your journey?  Most of all, how have you learned to distinguish between godly passions and those passions that you know have gotten you in trouble?  I personally have come to believe that the deepest desires in my soul are those that come from God.  In my opinion, men need to come together on an honest basis to share their struggles with passionate longings. 

The Psalmist was a man who was in touch with this cauldron of desires.  For example in Ps 42:1-2 we read, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirst for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”  Now I ask you, is not this a man who is in touch with his passions.  So I ask you as a man to consider the proposition that those deep, hidden, mysterious passions, that seem to influence your spiritual life more then you would like to admit, are to be befriended and integrated into your life with God.  If our passions are to be integrated they must first be accepted and known.  A healthy expression of life in God will help us to gather up all the disparate parts of self. A growing relationship with God will allow us, “to embrace rather than repress our deepest longings and passions and then to draw  energy from them to live life with abundance and resilence” (Benner)

Our deepest desires call us to greater heights and greater depths.  Desires point us to that which is outside ourselves, to God, while they also invite us to plumb the depths of our being to know the vitality of God’s energy flowing through our lives through the work of His Spirit.  Our desires challenge us to move beyond the small, cramped places where we have learned to be comfortable.  A healthy life with God is a life of zest and staying glued together, rather then living under control and then coming apart –  going up in flames.  “As we move toward an integration of our inner being that is based on channeling our vital energies into self-transcendent causes, we are more likely to avoid fragmentation under stress and our lives will possess passion and vitality” (Benner).  So men lets not be afraid or deny our passions, but with God’s help and those of other brother, learn to channel and integrate our passions.

May 28th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

Genuine Hospitality has great potential to enrich relationships. The Rule of St. Benedict Order is “ that all guests who arrive should be received as Christ.”  When we welcome others and treat them as sacred it helps both them and us to flourish. They have their own story to tell and it has the power to transform how we see things and inspire us to new ways of living.  When we enter into true dialogue with others we may be changed. As we share how we experience the world and seek to understand how others do so, both of us are touched in new ways. What we have to give to others is in direct proportion to the depth we know ourselves. If we don’t know ourselves, what we have to offer will be our false self.  But when we are genuinely and deeply our true selves, others who we meet can also be their true selves. We must relinquish our need for control too as it inhibits true dialogue and intimacy with others. As we honor others, let us remember that they bear the image of God. When we show hospitality to others, it becomes a gift to see greater realities beyond the comfortable place in which we make our home.

May 27th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

“When we open our heart’s experience to each other in trust, we are entering on holy ground where there is no place for comment, criticism, or correction, but only for a response of loving acceptance. On this holy ground God-in-you  is listening to the God-in-the-other.” It is so important to honor the otherness we see in people, rather than seeing them as extensions of ourselves. Each one is a unique individual and as we honor their individuality we may feel challenged in our own way of being. It is good to see how others approach the world from another vantage point, and as we are open to them it has the potential to expand our horizons, de-center our ego, and bring benefit to our soul and spirit. We may find fresh ways of living our life more authentically. Each one of us is a person with our own unique identity and no one can ever know another person fully. This is both a mystery and the loneliness of our individuality. Intimacy comes as we welcome and embrace the other’s difference from us.  When we don’t want to own the undesirable parts of our own selves we often project them on someone else. Instead we need to accept the good and the bad, and not make someone else the scapegoat. The author suggests reflecting on the person closest to us and affirm the parts of them that are different from us.

May 26th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

“The gift of wonder begins with the awakening of awareness. Our part is then simply being open to seeing the ordinary in a new light-through childlike eyes of wonder.” When we wonder about anything it is like holding the object of our attention gently without having to solve it or figure it out. Mary, the mother of Jesus, pondered the angel’s message in her heart. ( Luke 2) Wonder is like heart-pondering, more than mind-thinking. It leaves space for mystery and questions. When we wonder we stand in awe and pause to see what may come from being still and open. We receive it without having to do anything to it. Wonder however does things to us. It expands our spirit and deepens our soul. It tunes us into the sacred. It softens our ego and creates space within us for surprise and awe.  It is the natural source of prayer. But this kind of prayer has few words.  This sense of wonder can also help us appreciate the mystery of our own being and we may discover new aspects of our lives. It opens us up to the world and we begin noticing something in a fresh way. Let us take time to pay attention and to be still enough to see the sacred in the ordinary.

May 25th

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

There are two ways of knowing and responding to the world: the way of reason and the way of wonder.  The way of reason eliminates mystery and tries to control. The way of wonder accepts mysteries of life and responds with awe. When we pay attention and see things through the eyes of wonder, we see the world charged with the grandeur of God. Have you noticed when you watch the star-studded sky there are no words, just awe and reverence. A cynic tries to minimize simple wonders and doesn’t see life as sacred. In many ways we are all blind to the wonder that lies hidden in the ordinary events of our daily lives. Wonder gives us new eyes to see the world and keeps us fresh and open and curious. We don’t have to make an effort or do anything other to be open and welcome it. We might take a prayer walk and look at everything with fresh attention. We can walk slower and allow ourselves to respond and to listen. I like doing this and may not say much to God but just to think about Him and enjoy Him. Try it!

May 23rd

Devotions based on David Benner’s book,  Soulful Spirituality

Often we need to be reminded to get off autopilot and actually live our lives rather than just unconsciously flowing down the stream of life. Mindfulness is being aware and awake in the present moment. For most of us, we get lost in our thoughts and feelings and miss what is happening in and around us. Our inner mental and emotional experiences keep us self-preoccupied and block us from awareness. Mindfulness isn’t eliminating thoughts and feelings but being ware of our experiences. We need to be reminded often throughout the day to wake up to what is happening around us. We can only be mindful of something that is in the present. Like walking in the park…. Our body may be walking but there is a good chance our mind is somewhere else-either in the past or future. I know that is true of me. To be attentive is to live in the present moment and embrace the now. We can’t control life but we can accept life for what is, as it is. As we become more mindful it also enhances our attentiveness to other people. We are most open to others when we are open to our own self.  Learning to live with increased awareness is allowing ourselves to awaken and begin to unfold. Let us live with openness and presence.

May 23rd

Devotions based on David Benner’s book, Soulful Spirituality

Being aware and awake are very important aspects of our spiritual journey. We go through most of life as sleepwalkers and need to awaken and become aware, lest we live shallow lives. The Bible encourages us to rise from our sleep, listen to what the Spirit is saying and pay attention. Inattentiveness deprives our souls and we end up living soullessly. Paying attention is not scrunching up our willpower but opening ourselves to what we encounter. We need to allow ourselves to be absorbed by our present experience. “Contemplation is an apprehension of existence that is wide awake and uncluttered by thought.”   Instead of thinking about what we are experiencing and trying to analyze or understand it, we just simply allow ourselves to be captivated by it. Rather than us trying to GET IT, we allow IT to Get us!  Children are better at being absorbed by a single thing, which seems to be more difficult for me. When we pay attention to the details of experience it has potential to enrich our spiritual journey. Let us take a few moments each day to pay attention to what is happening in and around us. “Paying attention is the foundation to living spiritually and mindfully.”

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