From My Reading – May

“Sin is easier to write about than grace, I suppose, because the territory is so familiar and because, too, it is of the nature of grace, when we receive it, to turn our eyes not inward, where most often writers’ eyes turn, but outward, where there is a whole world of needs to serve far greater than the need simply for another book. I was too occupied with my job to think much about the next novel I myself might write, but it occurred to me that, if and when the time ever came, it would be the presence of God rather than his absence that I would write about, of death and dark and despair as not the last reality but only the next to the last” (Frederick Buechner).

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“Living a spiritual life requires a change of heart, a conversion. Such a conversion may be marked by a sudden inner change, or it can take place through a long, quiet process of transformation. But it always involves an inner experience of oneness. We realize that we are in the center, and that from there all that is and all that takes place can be seen and understood as part of the mystery of God’s life with us. . . .

“All these other things,” which so occupied and preoccupied us, now come as gifts or challenges that strengthen and deepen the new life that we have discovered. This does not mean that the spiritual life makes things easier or takes our struggles and pains away. The lives of Jesus’ disciples clearly show that suffering does not diminish because of conversion. Sometimes it even becomes more intense. But our attention is no longer directed to the “more or less.” What matters is to listen attentively to the Spirit and to go obediently where we are being led, whether to a joyful or a painful place?” (Henri Nouwen).

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“[Jesus as teacher] wants us to experience his freedom. . . . He wants us to enjoy his self-realization, his union with the Source of Being, whom he calls Father. It’s his own interior experience that he wants to share.

This means that the rest of us are to have this kind of experience. Whatever is reported of Jesus, therefore, is to be replicated in us. Just go through the Gospels and find out what he is like. It’s a revelation of what is in store for you, what is expected of you, what is promised to you, and what you in your profoundest reality always already are. What he experiences in his consciousness, we are to experience in ours. We are to enter into his very heart, the center of his being” (Beatrice Bruteau, Radical Optimism: Rooting Ourselves in Reality).

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Like stained glass which refracts sunlight into the inner world of a church sanctuary, or like sacred images which channel the eye of the beholder outward to the person who is the fullness of what the image contains, every human bears an imprint of an image, an image which, in Christ, might be set aflame with heavenly light. We who know and follow Jesus are illuminated images, made to reflect the divine light of Jesus to a world in need, acting as sacred depictions of God’s love which might redirect longing eyes toward the fulfillment of their desires in him.

And we are able to be such expressions of grace not only because of our witness to the light but because we are seen by the light. As Christ-bearing images, we receive the love of a Father who has adopted us as sons and daughters. The delight we behold in the aspect of his eyes is the love He has for us, and the joy he takes in bearing forth the life of his light through his Son in us” (Joel Clarkson in Sensing God).

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 “I’ve come to believe that few things are more powerful for the good of the soul and society at large than gratitude. I was recently praying about a situation that I wanted changed, and as I began my earnest petition I felt prompted to first list out all the things I was grateful for about the situation. I didn’t much like this idea and at first found it extremely difficult, but after some time I was able to discover a number of wonderful things that were directly a result of the situation. By the time I had finished my list, my perspective had shifted so much that I no longer necessarily wanted the situation to change as so much good was coming from it. Gratitude brought me to the ability to collapse into God’s providence, and so with a playful smile I relinquished — ​Oh you just do what you want with this situation and I’ll say thank you” (Nathan Foster, Renovare Weekly Digest, April 23, 2021)

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