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Grasping a concept or idea intellectually is one thing: having it become a real part of who you are is something different.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

I once heard it said,”Scripture contains the word of God in the way that the acorn contains the oak tree. It is all there, but its presence is made known to us little by little.” Living at God’s speed means accepting that my understanding of the way God works in my life will come to me in God’s time.  Sometimes the proverbial light bulb goes on in our heads and we learn something instantly, but most of the time real learning (spiritual growth) takes place slowly, over real time, as our life unfolds. This is especially important to understand in regard to the reading of sacred Scripture.

I had an experience I would like to share with you that might help to illustrate this point. I facilitate the operation of what is called the Relaxation Channel at the hospital where I work as a chaplain. The Relaxation Channel is a closed-circuit television system that is operated within the hospital. The channel is programmed with relaxing and spiritually oriented videotapes offering patients an alternative to commercial programming.

In setting up the system (prior to DVDs and digital technology appearing on the market), I had to make arrangements with a vendor to make copies of the original program tapes. The copies would then be run in a bank of VCRs that are used to run the channel so the original tapes would not get worn out from constant use. In all, I was was asking the company to copy about one hundred tapes, which I did not think would take very long at all. Having one hundred tapes made would provide enough copies to run the channel for about 5 years.

I imagined the vendor putting the original and the blank tape into a machine, then a button would be pushed and, zip, the tape would be copied in seconds. I figured the turn-around time to have the copies made would be a couple of days at the most. I was wrong. Making each individual copy would take two hours – the actual running time of the original tape. The vendor explained to me that every copy had to be made in real time.  The recording process was not zip as I had imagined.

This experience was a real eye-opener. It is a good illustration of the way God’s lessons (often found in Scripture) are revealed to us. God’s word becomes part of who we are – in real time – in real life, though we sometimes wish it were otherwise. It is through the interaction with life and the people in our life that we learn the really important lessons. It isn’t just a matter of reading it in a book. Even if the book is the Bible, experience with life matters. Here is another story:

Indeed there is a story about an intellectual youth who felt he could learn everything from books. He read about the stars and became an astronomer, he read about history and became a historian, he read about swimming and drowned. Some things we can only learn by wading in slowly, from the direct experience of the ocean lapping against our body. To enter this process directly is to participate in the healing we took birth for, is to become fully alive. – Stephen Levine, Healing Into Life And Death

The meaning of this story is not that you can’t sit in solitude with your Bible or some other spiritual book and gain valuable insight. If course you can. What it means is that some of the things that you read about will only be integrated into your life through your active participation. That is how God chooses to work. Scripture, if it is affecting us in a healthy way, if it is to be a source of lasting inner peace, will direct us to find God revealed within the created world, especially in our relationships with others. Usually this happens slowly, over the course of many years, in the everyday situations of life.

Connecting Point:  Grasping a concept or idea intellectually is one thing: having it become a real part of who you are is something different. The latter takes active participation in life and is realized in real time – God’s Time.

Prayer:  God of wisdom, grant that I may give sacred Scripture and other spiritual writing the respect that they deserve. Help me to read with humility, allowing the knowledge you bless me with to move from my head to my heart, that it may truly enter into my life. Amen.

This article is from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time.” A Traditionally Published book.

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The whole point of practicing a religion or of having a spiritual outlook toward life is to help us to connect spiritually with God, other people, and the world around us. 

This article is an excerpt from, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Timewritten by Charles W. Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

My father, Charles B. Sidoti was one of the most peaceful people I have ever known; he was also one of the most hospitable. On good terms with everyone, he always greeted people with a friendly smile. Everyone liked my dad. I think it was because he made them feel comfortable.

I recall times from my childhood when we would be on an elevator together or standing in line waiting our turn to get into some type of event. Dad would often initiate a conversation with someone standing nearby. He felt comfortable enough to speak to a total stranger just to be friendly. He would make a comment about the weather or some current event. Often the conversation included a corny joke and laughter. Most people responded to him so well that I would eventually have to pull at his hand to get him away from the person he was talking to so we could get to where we were going. In his own simple way, Dad was able to achieve almost instant familiarity with strangers by breaking the silence that so often keeps us apart. It was a sincere and natural form of hospitality that I try to emulate in my own life.

Much of our time is spent in close proximity to other people. Things like going to school or work, shopping at the grocery store, or going to a place of worship. All of these things bring us into close contact with others. Yet much of the time, we only really engage with those we already know or happen to work directly with. We may greet a stranger, but often that is just in passing, a fleeting acknowledgment while we continue on our way to something or someone else. To a great extent, this is completely natural and perfectly fine. We cannot expect to actively engage and interact with every stranger we walk by or happen to cross paths with. But it is worth some self-examination as to how open or closed we are to receiving strangers into our life. There is a strong spiritual implication found in the way we relate to strangers.

The whole point of practicing a religion or of having a spiritual outlook toward life is to help us to connect spiritually with God, other people, and the world around us. Genuine hospitality is one of the keys to authentic spiritual growth in that it helps us to connect with other people. Practicing hospitality leads to the expansion of our conscious awareness beyond our own familiar environment, reaching out to others in their world and welcoming them into ours.

People respond to hospitality. Have you ever experienced a day when you felt so good inside it showed on your face? Maybe something really good happened to you, or something you had been looking forward to was about to happen. For whatever reason, on that day you had a smile on your face, a distinctive glow about you, and you cheerfully greeted others. On such a day, the world seems to be a friendlier place. It isn’t your imagination; there is a reason why you experience the world differently when you feel good. Recall the old adage “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” Often dismissed as trivial or trite, most clichés actually contain a kernel of truth that can direct us to an important life principal. This one certainly does. When you feel good, you give off positive vibrations that people perceive, and they are therefore naturally drawn to you. When you are angry or otherwise feeling bad, you give off negative vibrations, and people are naturally repelled. Think about it; Do enjoy being around someone who smiles, is friendly, open and welcoming? Or do you like to be around someone who is often very intense, complaining, and frowning much of the time?

Important spiritual insights can come from all parts of life, even from the animal world. On my way to work one morning, I observed a bumper sticker that creatively focused on the importance of communicating positively with others. It said, “Wag more, bark less.” I instantly thought of a dog, as you most likely did. This simple statement contains a great truth that can be very helpful to us if taken to heart. Dogs have a way of winning people over. Not all people of course; there are some people who simply don’t like dogs, and it is okay if you are one of those people. But by and large, people like dogs. The reason is that dogs communicate unconditional love in the friendly affection they naturally give and so freely convey to humans. Dogs relate so well to people that they are used for therapy in hospitals and nursing homes. Petting a dog, or simply being around one, has been shown to lower blood pressure and lift the human spirit.

When a dog wags its tail in our presence, it is communicating with us in a visible and powerful way. It is conveying its inward happiness in a way that we instantly understand. Most often we respond by petting the dog or speaking kindly to it. The opposite happens when a dog barks or growls at us. It is conveying its displeasure, again in a way that we instantly understand. We react by moving away or by protecting ourselves in some way. As humans, we do the very same thing, just differently. We, like dogs, express our inner feelings in a visible way that others instantly understand. We do it through our facial expressions, body language, and speech; and they have the same powerful effect as the dog wagging its tail or barking.

In large part a dog’s hospitable nature is built in; they are hardwired, pre-programed, to be friendly. Compared to people, dogs are simple, uncomplicated creatures. But that does not mean we cannot learn a valuable lesson from them. For some humans, like my father, hospitality also seems to come naturally. The rest of us have to work at it. Learning to practice hospitality can be challenging.

One reason it may be difficult for us to reach out to others is that in our human brokenness, caused by past hurts or rejections, we may have come to believe that we have nothing to offer. We may believe that our attempts to reach out to others will be rejected. The truth is otherwise. This world is full of people who would love and welcome your expression of hospitality. It may take courage, and yes, there is always the risk of rejection. Not everyone responded favorably to my father’s hospitable nature, but most people did. There is certainly a risk involved in reaching out, but the benefits you stand to reap make it a risk worth taking.

God is hospitable. If it is true that hospitality is vital to human interactions and relationships, it follows that it would be an important part of how God chooses to relate to us. It is clear in many places in the Bible that God acts with incredible hospitality toward human beings. For instance, the book of Genesis (17:1-24) tells the story of Abraham, who at the age ninety-nine undergoes circumcision, and needless to say, has a very difficult healing period. Though he likely received many human visitors to help comfort him in his pain, the Bible tells us that he was visited by none other than God. In the story, God does not simply bestow a blessing, or even send a miraculous cure, but instead graces Abraham with a personal visit.

More than a moving story, this becomes the basis for the biblical commandment to visit the sick. Sacred Scripture is filled with examples of God’s hospitality toward humankind and all of creation. In Judaism, Rav Dimi Of Nehardea, in the Talmud, said: Hachnasat orchim, Hebrew for the welcoming of guests, “is more important than study, or even the worship of God.” The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once commented on the command to welcome the stranger:  “Love the stranger and the sojourner, Moses commands, because you have been strangers in the land of Egypt.” In Christianity, Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of God-like hospitality for us to follow. We can draw enormous personal benefit by finding ways to imitate God’s hospitality, found so often in Sacred Scripture, in our daily interactions with others.

God’s hospitality is not only found in the pages of the Bible, but is readily visible in the way the world is created. Sure, life is difficult and full of challenges, but it is also filled with things that did not have to be made so good, so tasty, so enjoyable, for any other conceivable purpose than to show God’s divine hospitality to the world’s inhabitants.

So much in this world seems to have been tailor-made for human enjoyment. The way something is created (designed) often expresses the hospitality of the creator. Consider something as simple as a banana. The potassium, other nutrients, and the relatively few calories found in this fruit could easily be provided in a tiny, tasteless berry that you could pop into your mouth. But instead, God wanted to put a lot more into the package. It is made not only to be healthy; a banana has a lovely sweet taste that does not have to be there. Next, any eater of a banana would need to know when it is ripe, so included in its packaging is a “high-tech” color sensor that tells you, to the day, when it is ready to be eaten. If you don’t have a plastic bag to protect your food when you toss it into your knapsack on the way to work, a banana has a built-in carrying case. It can be eaten by anyone from a baby to an adult human or a hungry monkey, due to its ease in being mashed up our cut into bite-size pieces.

There is a beautiful Christian song, written by Dawn Thomas, called “That’s How Much I Love You.” It’s like a love song by God to us, about how all the beautiful things in creation were made out of God’s love for us: “The mountains fair, the beautiful oceans are there to remind you I can satisfy your every need. That’s how much I love you, that’s how much I want you to know that you are my child, and you mean so much to me.” Max Ehrmann’s great poem “Desiderata” explores the individual’s place in creation, but it concludes with advice about the need for happiness:

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Do the best you can to put this advice into practice by reaching out in hospitality to others, in your own unique way, even though you may be hurting inside. This won’t solve all your problems, but it will not add to them in the way having a bad temperament or openly displaying a bad mood often does. When we “wag more and bark less,” feelings of isolation and separateness slowly begin to lose their grip. People respond to us differently because we are more pleasant to be around.

Connecting Point: Nurturing a spirit of sincere hospitality within yourself can be very helpful in discovering the wonderful person God created you to be. Hospitality is very much an attribute of God. Growing to be more God-like, acting in union (more often) with God’s creative love and welcoming spirit, can only lead us closer to God, to others, and to all of God’s creation.

Prayer: Gracious God, Creator of all that is, help me to hear and respond to your welcoming call, your gentle embrace in my life, and to respond with that same love toward others. Give me the courage to reach out to other people, in their world, and to sincerely welcome them into mine. Help me to realize that everyone I meet is truly my brother or sister and you are God of us all. Amen.

Living at God's Speed, Healing in God's TimeA TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOK

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Disenfranchised Grief is a term describing grief that is not acknowledged (or is trivialized) by society.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

At the hospital where I have worked as a chaplain for the past twenty years I was recently consulted to visit an elderly, chronically-ill patient.  I was informed by the referring social worker that the woman,”Lost her husband last week.”

The woman shared that her recently deceased husband spent twenty years in prison.  As our visit continued she further revealed that her husband had been in prison for the murder of her son.  The patient shared with me that she did not leave the marriage.  She waited for him to get out of jail and for he past five years cared for him at home until he died of cancer.  This was an experience of chaplaincy that I will never forget; it is also one of the most beautiful examples of inner-healing I have ever witnessed and been privileged to have a small part in.

Disenfranchised grief is when your heart is grieving but you can’t talk about or share your pain with others because it is considered unacceptable to others.

Disenfranchised grief is hidden grief.  Often, it is never revealed.  Some, for fear of not being accepted, take their painful secrets to the grave with them.  As a chaplain I strive to create a sacred spacean environment where the other person feels safe to share what they are experiencing inside and find acceptance in their vulnerability. I try to create a space where the person feels confident that they will not be judged, but listened to, and accepted for who they are.

The following are just a few of the countless examples of loss that may be experienced as Disenfranchised Grief: 1) A miscarried or aborted pregnancy, giving a child up for adoption 2) Loss of gay or lesbian partner 3) Rape or sexual assault 4)  Loss of a pet 5) Retirement  6) Loss resulting from suicide 7) Divorce 8) Families of incarcerated individuals.  9) Loss of a grandchild 10) Any grief that exceeds society’s preconceived time limit for grieving.  To find many more examples and additional information on disenfranchised grief click:  https://www.vision.org/visionmedia/grief-and-loss/disenfrachised-grief/2202.aspx

____________

Check out “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” – By Charles W. Sidoti with contributing author Rabbi Akiva Feinstein – A Traditionally Published Book

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Evidence of God’s presence is within and all around us.  One common barrier to our experiencing it is our tendency to become lost in our own imaginations.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

As a young child I remember a picture hanging on the wall in my grandfather’s house.  It showed Jesus standing outside a door and patiently knocking upon it.  This picture is often accompanied by a caption taken from Sacred Scripture, “Behold I stand at the door and knock…” (Revelation 3:20).   I realized at that time that the closed door represented the door to my life, the door to my heart.  I knew it was about letting God in, and yet I did not know how to put the wisdom that the picture represented into practice.  I remember thinking to myself even at that young age, “I will be happy to open the door…but where is the door?”  As an adult, reflecting on words of Rumi,

 “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”  (Rumi – 13th-century poet, Islamic scholar, theologian and mystic).

brings me back again to that image of Jesus and the meaning of that closed door.   The picture of Jesus knocking outside the door relates directly to Rumi’s statement because it relates to whatever barrier we may place between ourselves and love.  It relates to whatever barrier we place between ourselves and God, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  The question I remember asking as a child, and which remains relevant today, is “What does it mean to open the door of my heart to God?’’

In saying that our task is not so much to “seek love” but rather to work to remove the barriers that keep us from experiencing love, Rumi is describing the work of the contemplative life, which is to grow in the awareness of God’s presence.

Evidence of God’s presence is within and all around us.  One common barrier to our experiencing it is our tendency to become lost in our own imaginations.  In our imagined isolation and self-sufficiency we have learned to see life through the eyes of what famous Catholic writer Thomas Merton calls the false self. This is the barrier, the door, between us and God.  Seeing through the eyes of this false self we do not realize that the things in our life, the people, the miracle of simply being alive, and the entire created world are the ways in which God comes to us.  These “things” are the tangible presence of the Living God.  We need to die to the worried, preoccupied false self and learn to see with new eyes.  Jesus spoke of this death and rebirth when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Removing the barrier of the false-self involves spiritual work.  It involves the spiritual discipline of prayer and true humility to acknowledge our faults and to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.  It involves asking for God’s help to remove the falseness that stands between us and the realization of God’s love.

The Contemplative Connection:  While talking to his fellow monks about searching for the presence of God in their lives, Thomas Merton once said, “We have what we seek. We don’t have to rush after it.  It was there all the time.  If we give it time it will make itself known to us.”

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 This article is a sample of my new book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.”  Click below to view  and / or  purchase  on the publishers website:   http://vesuviuspressincorporated.com/simple-contemplative-spirituality/

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If we can remain open in the midst of our inner struggle, the struggle itself can help us to change our mind about what life is about, and to take our proper place in the universe.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Learning to become a more relaxed and easygoing in life is a wonderful thing. However, if I hold on too tightly to what I think needs to happen before I can be happy, I find myself in a power struggle with the universe. This power struggle makes it impossible to live a harmonious, peaceful life. Unless something changes, this is how I live. If I were God, if I had ultimate control, there would be no conflict, but I’m not, I don’t, and there is.

The conflict, however, can be a good, even necessary, element in our personal growth. If we remain open to what the conflict has to teach us, our inner conflict can lead to a new awareness ow who we are and who God is. On the other hand, it can cause us to harden our hearts and close our minds. I often ask myself, “Do I really want peace…or is it that I simply ‘want what I want’?”

Nineteenth-century American author and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes made an important point when he said, “The great act of faith is when we finally decide we are not God.” This quote captivated me because this is exactly where our conflict needs to lead us. I believe this statement is the hinge on which real transformation, and therefore real inner healing, rests. While none of us consciously thinks of himself or herself as being “God,” our attempts to control life, manipulate people or situations, and the thousand other ways we try to force life to go the way we think it should, suggest that at a deep level we believe in our own God-like importance.

The good news is that the more hard-headed and persistent we are in behaving as though we were God, the more frustrated and tired we are likely to become. This can lead us to give up trying to be what we are not, and to finally surrender to the fact that we are not God, and become aware of God’s presence in a new way.

If we can remain open in the midst of our inner struggle, the struggle itself can help us to change our mind about what life is about, and to take our proper place in the universe. Our personal inner conflict can lead us to experience a radical revision and transformation of our whole mental process. It can help us to live with authentic humility.

Prayer:  Loving God, Creator of the universe, help me to know you as my creator and to respond with trust, accepting my proper place as part of your creation. Help me to let go of the things that are not my responsibility, those things that are not within my power to control, and help me to entrust them to you with confidence. Amen.

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Living at God's Speed, Healing in God's Time This article is from: “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time Buy it on Amazon $14.92  https://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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God isn’t removed from us, sitting on some throne up in heaven somewhere. The “universal creative life enerty” is found within the created world, within life’s natural cycles.

This article is an excerpt from, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,written by Charles W. Sidoti.

From womb to tomb, our lives are fundamentally affected by the cycles and rhythm of life. The beat of our hearts and our breathing, without which nothing else would matter, are examples of our inseparable connection to life’s rhythm. The cycles at work in the world are easy to see. For instance, every day the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, marking the start and end of each new day, a cycle to be repeated far into the future. Like the sun’s movements, our cycle of rising in the morning and going to sleep each night demonstrates one of many similar cycles present in the working of the human body. The four seasons, the ocean tides, the cycle of life, death and rebirth are taking place everyplace you look.

Reflecting on these cycles is worthwhile for anyone who would like to live more peacefully. Being aware of life’s rhythm makes it possible for you to enter into the dance of life in a more deliberate way. It enables you to have a more patient attitude toward life, with yourself, and with others. When you learn to appreciate the natural rhythm and cycles of life, the sense of urgency that can have such a tyrannical effect on your mind begins to slowly diminish. Awareness of life’s rhythmic cycles and conscious movement with them, promotes peace, harmony, and healing. Our essential oneness connects us with the entire universe, and with God.

An interesting way of understanding how cycles can affect our lives is found in the ancient Chinese theory of how things work called Yin-Yang. Many have found this theory to have invaluable meaning and true wisdom. The symbol that represents this way of understanding is:

The outer circle of the symbol represents “everything,” while the black and white shapes within the circle represent the interaction of two energies present in our lives, called “yin” (black) and “yang” (white), which cause everything to happen. They are not completely black or white, just as things in life are not completely black or white, and they cannot exist without each other. “Yin” represents the movement of energy in our lives that is dark, passive, downward, cold, contracting, and weak. “Yang” represents energy that is bright, active, upward, hot, expanding, and strong.

The shapes of the yin and yang sections of the symbol give you a sense of the continuous movement of these two energies, yin to yang and yang to yin. This representation demonstrates the understanding of cycles in our lives. In the yin-yang theory, the cycle demonstrates the relationship of positive and negative energy flowing within our lives. Our moods, our outlook on life and how life happens, seem to relate to this yin-yang movement from the dark to the light.

Rhythm heals. Why does music make us feel better? It is because rhythm is so basic to the human body and mind. Getting lost in our desires and worries has a way of fragmenting our psyche, causing us to be out of out of balance and out of harmony with the rest of life. We become lost in our minds and imaginations. Music, whether it is classical music, popular music, or the rhythm of an African or Indian drumbeat, can help bring us back in sync. It has a way of de-fragmenting our minds that inwardly heals us.

The purpose of reflecting on, or paying more attention to, the hidden cycles and rhythms in life is that you might gradually learn to struggle less against their movement and begin to move more gracefully with them. It is important to realize that life’s cycles and rhythms are the way God chooses to work in the world as well as in our personal lives. Remember, God isn’t removed from you, sitting up on some throne in heaven somewhere. The “universal creative life energy” is found within the created world and its natural cycles. God comes to you and me through the very essence of our lives. This is true from the farthest reaches of the universe to your own heartbeat and your next breath.

Connecting Point: Becoming familiar with life’s natural rhythmic cycles helps us to relax and move more easily with life, to resisting less and growing more.

Prayer: God of spring, summer, fall, and winter, help me to see your presence in the many seasons and cycles of my life. In the lapping of the waves on the shore, in the wonderful rhythm of my favorite song, and in the beat of my own heart, help me to recognize your creative love in the rhythm of my life. Amen.

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Read the Introduction: http://pastoralplanning.com/23rdBookParts/LivingGodsSpeed_Intro.

“The art of being wise is in knowing what to overlook” – William James, American psychologist, philosopher and physician.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

The above quotation penetrates to the very heart of the way in which God sees us, which, over and above all else, is with an attitude of love, “…for God is Love” (1 John 4: 8). It is important to realize that an inseparable ingredient in that love is mercy. In mercy God patiently overlooks many of our faults. Rabbi Akiva Feinstein, contributing author in my first book, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, explains:

“During our relatively short lives, God is patient with us. A particularly strong proof of God’s patience is the fact that our lives are sustained even when we do wrong. Imagine a universe where there is absolutely no margin for error, where punishment is instantaneous and total. Thankfully, that isn’t the world we live in. God is graciously patient and merciful with us, preserving our lives even when our actions hit way off the mark, so we have time to come to deeper realizations, make amends, and return to a straighter way.”

God’s patient way of interacting with us has the effect of being generative. Like the sun that draws life from the earth, God’s love nurtures and draws us forward, encouraging our spiritual growth and healthy human development even when our actions “miss the mark.” I once heard it said that at least part of what it means to love someone is to “will what is truly best for them.” Sometimes this means our overlooking their faults and having a generative attitude toward the other, like God has toward us.

In one of the Eucharistic Prayers used during the Catholic Mass the priest says, “Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness” (Eucharistic Prayer I). Perhaps more than being a request, this prayer is an acknowledgement of the way in which God relates to us. The following verses from Psalm 103 beautifully describe God’s loving attitude toward us:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust”(Psalm 103: 8-14).

The importance of God’s merciful love communicated to us in this Psalm cannot be overstated.  It is very important for us to remember that God’s way of looking at us is very heavily weighted with mercy, loving kindness, and forgiveness. God interacts with us in our lives in such a way that “…mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2: 13).

An inseparable part of living an authentic spiritual life is that we increasingly learn to treat others in the way that God treats us. In other words, we are to love others as God loves us. Jesus is very clear in regard to how we can accomplish this. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6: 36 – 37).  If we are to be compassionate as God is compassionate, it is critical that we reflect upon our own image of God, our own understanding of how God loves. If our intention is to imitate God, then our understanding of the way in which God behaves toward us will be reflected in our treatment of others. What type of behavior is it that we attribute to God that we wish to emulate in our own lives? What do we personally believe about God? In regard to the words of the referenced quotation, do we really believe that God overlooks our faults? Or do we have a different way of understanding God? Donald P. Gray in, Jesus the Way to Freedom, challenges us to think about what we believe about God when he asks:

“Do we really believe that God is love? Or have we learned to fear this loving and gracious father? Have we come to see the Son as love and the Father as the one who settles accounts, the one who demands that justice be satisfied, the one who works his wrath? Jesus is the revelation of God’s love and graciousness. He came to show us the Father’s compassionate care for us. “He who sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45). The Father is not justice and wrath and the Son love. The Father’s love is revealed in the Son.  The Son was given to us by the Father’s love so that we might give up fear. There is no fear in love. Jesus came into the world because we are so wrong about God and because that wrongness is destroying us. The father is not our enemy. If we think that we are wrong. The Father is not intent on trying, testing and tempting us. If we think that we are wrong.”

Gray explains so well that, for Christians, Jesus is the revelation, the incarnation, of God’s love. It is a love that, to use Rabbi Feinstein’s words once again, “patiently overlooks our many faults so we have time to come to deeper realizations, make amends, and return to a straighter way.” The way that Jesus looked upon and treated people during his life on earth is the way in which God, whom Jesus called Father, looks upon us.

I once participated in a very practical and eye-opening spiritual exercise that can be helpful in getting at least some sense of how our love compares to God’s love. You may be familiar with it, as it is commonly used in retreat settings and in homilies. It is to read the selection from 1st Corinthians that speaks about the excellence of the gift of love, substituting the word love with your own name. It would read like this.

Chuck is patient and kind; Chuck is not jealous or boastful; he is not arrogant or rude.  Chuck does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Chuck bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1st Corinthians 13: 4-7).

When we experience the merciful, abundant love of God in our own hearts it is that same love that will be communicated in our relationships with others. We will then, more consistently, as it is written in the Prayer of St. Francis, be an “instrument of God’s peace.” We will see ourselves differently as well. Able to be gentler with ourselves, we will finally begin to love ourselves as God loves us. The spiritually enlightened person, realizing how God overlooks his or her own faults, knows intuitively that while some things demand our immediate attention, at times even our correction, the art of being wise, more often than not, is in knowing what to overlook.

The Contemplative Connection: The unfathomable wisdom and mercy of God is revealed in that God overlooks so many of our faults throughout our lifetime. Ask God to help you extend that same merciful love toward yourself and toward others.

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This article is a sample from my newest book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.” Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers websitehttp://amordeus.com/giftShopProductDetails.aspx?itemID=520 

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