What’s Love Got to do With It?

What’s Love Got to do With It?

Reflections on Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, by Gerald G. May, M.D.

Dr. May originally wrote Care of Mind/Care of Spirit as a teaching text to enable Spiritual Directors to appreciate the psychological-spiritual aspects of persons (p. xiv).  I found and underlying theme behind the psychology of the mind and the spirituality of the spirit to be the concept of divine love.  May states that human spirituality is the active process of love in one’s life (p. xvi) and that the integration of psychology and spiritual insight automatically occurs for spiritual guides when the spiritual guide remains open to the Source of Love, (p. xviii).

I noticed the concept of Divine Love as crucial to the foundational premises of this book.  For those called to be Spiritual Directors, we should each be given the gifts to practice the art of spiritual guidance, and freely given the love for others to help care for others’ minds and spirits.  This sharing of love, sharing of eternal mystery, is the root of the art.

Ignatius asks us to give up everything to live only in the love and grace of God.  This is self-giving surrender (p. 17).  It is surrending love.  Our minds and spirits become whole as we surrender to the incarnated desires God has placed in our spirits, – desires of spiritual longing and union to attain, realize, and express divine unconditional love (p. 24).  We are drawn by a force deep within to release our attachments, our very selves, in response to God’s beaconing love which asks for our very hearts (p. 24).  For some, the fulfillments of this surrender to inborn love comes when young, for many it comes at a point of crises, for all I believe it comes as we grow old or are about to die, but we cannot just make it happen.  It is a gift.

This underlying love of God and inborn desire to love God is not just for us.  Although we are individually mind and spirit cared for by God’s love, we are not alone in this universe.  We are not loved alone, we are loved and to love in communion with others, and with animals and other physical and spiritual beings like angels and those who have died and whose spirits reside in God, who is love (see p.54).

Interestingly, I write this on Ash Wednesday, 2018.  Before our services I was praying for spiritual poverty to receive the grace of humility.  Fr. Tom Ackerman’s homily happened to be on what we should give up for Lent.  In short, he asked us to give up ourselves for Lent.  What a wonderful idea!  I quote from Dr. May:

Unconsciously that self-image is engaged in a life-or-death battle, and although all conscious intents may be in the direction of spiritual surrender and dying-to-self, a host of unconscious defenses will be brought to bear in order to preserve, bolster, and reassert that image of self, etc… (p. 59).

It is our crucial role as spiritual directors to attend to God’s power, love, and grace in facilitating this surrender of giving up ourselves too, to live only in God’s love and grace.  Therefore, transcending the self-love we all have is giving up ourselves for Lent, as Fr. Ackerman recommended.

This is a loving surrender, somewhat like Jesus’ self-surrender on the cross to show us how much He loves us.  So too, should we surrender ourselves on the crosses we bear in this life for Jesus.  We offer ourselves to the unknowable mystery of God, giving up everything, surrendering our all (p 65).

As we give up ourselves in love to the divine Mystery, the divine Majesty, our attachments often seem to fall away like scales off our eyes.  We lovingly die to the self and surrender to love, sharing God’s love in our lives and the passions we once held dear, like making money, being well thought of, golf, or football, politics, lose importance as we long to rest in a loving God.  It is like dying (p.77).

In some ways we can be sad, losing ourselves, just like that.  It is a grief similar to dying, really (p.98).  We can mourn for our loss.  Love hurts in many ways as we transition our lives for God’s purposes for us, as we give up all.  The not knowing what to do, exactly, the dark nights groping for Divine love, the unknowing of it all, the loves lost, the loves gained, all meld together for the care of our mind and the care of our spirit.  That is what love has to do with it, everything…

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Enslaved to War: A Grace Solution

Enslaved to War:  A Grace Solution

Looking back upon the one thing that stands out most to me regarding the four books we are reading and studying so far this Spring semester, I am most impressed by Dr. Gerald G. May’s insight in his book, “Additions and Grace” that we are all addicted.   May states that “we all suffer from both repression and addiction (p 2).  He says “To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.” (p. 11).  These addictions attack our desires and in effect keep us from our true desire for freedom and our infused desire for unity with God and our desire for God.  At first I partially dismissed the premise that we are all addicted but in view that as Ignation thinkers we are to be willing to give up everything to live only in the love and grace of God, I realized that is something to accept, in view of spiritual and or actual poverty, to realize I am still holding to some inordinate attachments myself.  I am a mixed bag of goods with my own attachments still clinging in some ways, and in some ways partially dispensed of.

Even with this self-realization, I am also conflicted with those sins and addictions of my society at large.  Due to this personal and societal complicacy I am not free to desire only God’s love and grace.  Even to explain it this way makes me realize I have not accepted my own responsibility for evil and if I am concerned so much, why don’t I just STOP IT, or at least stop my part of it?  For instance, take our society’s love of war, for our main example in this reflection.  What am I to do about it?  Originally I thought of entitling this reflection “War Junkie”, or “Addicted to War”, or War and Grace”.  However, these names have already been used by others who recognize the same problem that I have chosen to discuss.

I am complicit with our nation’s war mentality which some believe insures our freedom and creates peace.  The prior statement, ensuring peace by war, to maintain a nation, is exactly opposite of Jesus’ instructions to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us in seeking the inner Peace and Kingdom He was really discussing.  Dr. May echoes rule 98 of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises when he states “detachment does just the opposite.  It seems liberation of desire, an enhancement of passion, the freedom to love with all one’s being, and the willingness to bear the pain such love can bring.” (p.15).  The Spex, rule 98 promotes the willingness to bear all wrongs.  It is this suffering love that brings detachment and personal freedom as it is greased by the wheels of grace.

See:

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life (http://spex.ignatianspirituality.com/SpiritualExercises/Puhl#marker-p101)

True freedom is the freedom to love one another, including our enemy.  If we maintain our addictions to war and killing this is what May describes as a security addiction (p.31).  May states, “we can and should trust in God for our ultimate security” and he speaks of relaxing our grip about lessor sources of security.  So, why has religion, including Christianity as a whole, including the institutional Roman Catholic Church, which I attend, supported war in the past, even calling it “just” war?  Why do some Jesuit institutions of higher learning support ROTC programs on campus and teach little about non-violence?  Also, why do I pay my taxes, 60% or so which go to support of war, not including hidden taxes we are not considering? Complicacy, is that why?

Satan does not want us to realize we are in slavery.  We deny we are in slavery.  You may deny it and may be mad at me now as you read this.  I deny my own slavery in many ways too.  We are at war with Satan, not flesh and blood, and generally do not know it or admit it.  War, the myth of redemptive violence to establish “freedom” is really enslavement to Satan’s original desires and intentions for us. It separates us from God’s love and grace, whatever addiction we are battling. We defend our addictions and enslavement to war, killing, and redemptive violence with repression, rationalization, and denial.

Tomorrow we will quit, just after we win the battle.  Our minds have been tricked and we have been addicted.  Our only solution is to quit it, and quit it now.  But how?    We are in collusion with the system, we are complicit.  There is no easy way out perhaps until we hit “rock bottom” as may happen one day.  How do we confess our own sins and the sins of a nation?  How do we stop the mind tricks?  How do we STOP IT NOW!?  I am not so sure I know.  May states “our motivations are always mixed and our hearts are never completely pure (p. 108).  It is not just war, but all our addictions to which we are enslaved.  Maybe one day we have hit rock bottom, then we can STOP IT.  Maybe, when the Kingdom comes.

John Cooper

Jesus, You Here?

 

Jesus, You Here?

          It was a beautiful day yesterday, a fall day at the end of October in 2017.  Leaves are changing and I am at St. Ignatius House in Atlanta, GA, for a class in Spiritual Direction.  I arose very early this morning intending, I thought, to do my daily reflections with Scripture and do some review of material for the class, but I didn’t.

It came to me to go first into the Adoration Chapel to just sit with the Host and Jesus (Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist).  I did some centering prayer, trying not to think of anything, just breathing in, “Yah” and out “weh” or “Yahweh.”  I did that a while and since I was very close to the Monstrance,[i] I got up just to be sure the Host was actually in there.

Now I believe that God is in all things and all things are in God.  The Apostle Paul noted a Greek poet, “In Him you live and move and have being.”[ii]  I believe that, but some theologians don’t believe Paul really believed what he quoted.  I recently talked to one of them who does not believe that.  But I do.

I was reminded while I sat in meditation of the last complete sentence my Uncle, Bill McCulley, said to me as I, my wife, Wink, my sister Janelle Deblois, and I heard as we put him to bed toward the end of his life and Bill looked up in a fleeting glimpse of his old self and asked, “John, you here?”  Bill soon died of Alzheimer’s, an insidious disease.  Bill didn’t know anything much, even most of the time what his name was.  Of course I “know” a lot more how to talk, how to add and subtract, how to read and write, etc.  Bill did not know anything.  It was like he was in a vast cloud of unknowing[iii]  But as I looked down on him and heard the words, “John, you here,” it was so precious to me.  I hope to remember those words all my life.  Maybe he is looking down on me now as a part of the vast cloud of witnesses or the Communion of Saints.[iv]  Maybe he will welcome me again when we meet again and I arrive wherever he is, in God, in heaven, wherever, and Bill greets me in a loving voice, with the words, “John, you here.”

Now I was not supposed to be thinking of anything in my centering prayer, attempting to enter the vast cloud of unknowing, the Divine union with the Mystery, the One God, but my prayer turned into meditation and I went up to the Monstrance and looked closely, knowing not to touch it, and looked to be sure the Host was present there, it was, and I asked, “Jesus, You here?”

I sat back down and wept silently since other people here are in a silent retreat, although I was all alone in the Adoration Chapel, excepting with Jesus, of course.  Jesus was there too.  If you don’t believe that, believe Jesus was is in me and He is in you, at least the image of the Divine and Mysterious One is in us all.  I thought that as little as I know, and all the religions and religious institutions of the world know, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic, if all poured together in a bucket, would know nothing, being just be a drop in the ocean compared to what God knows.  God knows how to talk in all languages including Angelic ones, He knows how to read and write in all languages too, and how to order and create the whole universe, how to create life and how to take life, just at the right time, like he took my uncle Bill’s life and received him unto Himself.

I know God heard me when I asked, “Jesus, You here?”  I know He was looking down when I asked Him that, thinking I am precious in His sight, that I am a beloved sinner and He knows all of my sins since He lives in me, and I live in Him.   I love you Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Divine One, and you too, Bill McCulley, and you too, the reader whom God loves, and is in, at least by His image inside of you.

Please ask yourself, if you do not believe, or if you do believe, “Jesus, You here?”

 

John Cooper

 

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance

[ii] Acts 17:28

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cloud_of_Unknowing

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communion_of_saints

Little Boy

Luke 7: 11-17

2016 Version

A PRAYER OF IMAGINATION

Little Boy

After a little while, Jesus went to a town called Nain with His apprentices and a great big crowd following Him.  Nain is a town just off the beach in Greece and a little dead boy had just washed up on the beach.  There was a war going on in Syria and his mother and the little boy were fleeing the war because the father had been killed by a bombing raid on a hospital.  The little boy drowned but the mother just barely made it to the shore alive.  They were having a funeral for the little boy who was the woman’s only son.  The little boy was all she had left on earth.  She had spent every penny she had on having the little wood casket made.  She had no money for flowers.

Jesus saw the funeral procession and the woman crying and Jesus cried too.  It just is not right, Jesus muttered in between tears as He went up to the coffin and felt the smooth wood.  The coffin was 5/4” thick cypress.  Jesus was a carpenter and He had made some similar to this one before.  It had hand cut dovetail joints.  This was like the coffin Pope John Paul II was buried in, but a much smaller one and this one was square, not trapezoid.

Even though tears were coming out of Jesus eyes, He told the woman, “Don’t cry”, and as He opened up the lid of the coffin, He said, “Little Boy, get up, I tell you”.  The little boy got up and started talking and Jesus helped him get out of the coffin, holding his little body in His arms he and gave the little boy back to his mother.

Everybody was filled with awe and they praised God, even though not all of them were Christians.   Some of these refugees were Muslims and some were Christians too, but they all praised God, “A great prophet has appeared among us” they said.  “God has come to save His people”.

They put the whole story up on the internet, and someone recorded it with their cell phone and put it on You Tube for all to see just how much Jesus loved the little boy and all the refugees for that matter.  Because of this mystical and mighty event, the whole world sustained from war for 49 days.

 

John Cooper

 

Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit,

Worthy is your name,

Holy is your name.

In you and you in us, we are one.

Help us to give our lives to you,

As we live in your love,

As we give up our sins.

We love you,

Holy Spirit.

We love each other too,

It’s all because of you.

It’s “just” because you live in us all,

Who believe in you,

Holy Spirit.

Thank You, Holy Spirit.

Thank you for your Peace.

Thank you for being so gentle with us.

May we be your instruments?

Holy Spirit, you are so good.

We confess we love you again, and again…

Holy Spirit, we speak to you.

We praise to you, and find you deep down inside of us.

We know you, Holy Spirit.

Blessed be your name…

Amen…

290 Yards

290 Yards

I normally take off at noon on Friday and play golf.  Last Friday I went to Old Colony Golf Course.  I have been thinking about joining there after 40 years of playing tennis and golf (tennis 20 years and golf 25 years) at the Country Club of Tuscaloosa.  They closed the Country Club of Tuscaloosa…  When I arrived at Old Colony Golf Course, I found there was an “A” Day golf tournament for ex “A”labama “A”thletes and I could not play golf.  I know, although I do not follow Alabama football, very much, several of the old time Alabama athletes who played for Alabama.  I have played golf with some of them and I have employed some of them.

When I could not play that day, I watched and talked with some “A”thletes.  The majority of them still have fairly pretentious bodies, and others have bodies more like mine, euphemistically called “portly.”   After eating a great big well done cheeseburger as I watched the athletes, young and somewhat “older” drive out to play golf, including some of my friends, I went to the golf club showing event at the same course.   There were various vendors there, Ping, Wilson, Callaway, Mizuno, and others of the big name club manufacturers.  One gets to try them out for free.  There were lots of young guys there in there 20’s and 30’s, and I in my 60’s (actually 67 years old) watched them.  The Ping booth had a computer type tablet thing that told about the young man who was hitting balls. He was little portly like me, but much younger, hitting balls with the Ping driver they were letting him test.  His good ones were called out by the man operating computer screen as something like 261 yards carry and 290 yards total.  I watched this exhibition and others hitting balls and just watched the people involved, evaluating what I was hearing and seeing.

I meditated upon the matter.  The meditation turned into what they call “active” contemplation, but did not reach the heights of passive contemplation… :):)  I am thinking now…

I started playing golf at the age of 42 years old at the Tuscaloosa Country Club, after playing tennis there for 20 years or so.   I “used to be” able to hit a wooden head driver up to 275 “total” yards and I just loved my one iron too, but these new modern clubs and younger people are just ridiculous.  I can still hit a my newer type, but 7 years old, Taylor Made metal driver up to 240 yards or so, total, but after watching and contemplating upon these matters, I decided on that Friday:

  • I need to slack up on golf a bit.
  • My back hurt just from watching these guys.
  • I decided to go back to work and take a nap on my Coleman folding cot which I keep at work and try to use every day just a little bit.
  • I need to concentrate on writing my book on St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises. That might do more good than hitting golf balls a long way off into the sky.
  • These young bucks probably do not know anything about St. Ignatius Spirituality.
  • They need to know, and I need to rest my back and knees a while.

My wife, Wink, graciously typed up my notes.  While editing the draft, I noticed I do not have a conclusion to this matter… I think we should wait a bit, and see what happens..  In St. Ignatius Spirituality, one of the general principles is to never make a decision in times of Desolation.  One should only make decisions in times of Consolation.  Therefore, since a Conclusion is a decision, I have none to give at this time.  :):)

 

Grace & Peace,

 

John Cooper

 

 

Peaceful Thoughts

Peaceful Thoughts

As a matter partially of time and chance this past week, I stopped by Panera Bread at a time of the day I would not normally be there because I was on my home to pick up a check out of my home office. I noticed as I sat down a Muslim man in the back of the restaurant. I have had several conversations with this man and his friend, Sammy, also a Muslim, when I used to go by Starbucks on the way to work early in the morning. (Since we were given a Keurig coffee machine, my Starbucks visits are virtually nil.) I noticed him sitting in the back of the restaurant in what appeared to be deep thought or meditation, so I did not greet him. After several minutes he came by me on the way apparently back from getting a drink refill and he asked my, knowing my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence, this question:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

“Yes, I have,” I said, and invited him to sit down with me at my table. I got out my small Samsung tablet and opened my You Version Bible App up to the place already in the memory, which I reflected on just the day before. I quote it below from Philippians 4:

1 And so, my most beloved and most desired brothers, my joy and my crown: stand firm in this way, in the Lord, most beloved.
2 I ask Euodia, and I beg Syntyche, to have the same understanding in the Lord.
3 And I also ask you, as my genuine companion, to assist those women who have labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my assistants, whose names are in the Book of Life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice.
5 Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious about nothing. But in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.
7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Concerning the rest, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is chaste, whatever is just, whatever is holy, whatever is worthy to be loved, whatever is of good repute, if there is any virtue, if there is any praiseworthy discipline: meditate on these.
9 All the things that you have learned and accepted and heard and seen in me, do these. And so shall the God of peace be with you.
10 Now I rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, because finally, after some time, your feelings for me have flourished again, just as you formerly felt. For you had been preoccupied.
11 I am not saying this as if out of need. For I have learned that, in whatever state I am, it is sufficient.
12 I know how to be humbled, and I know how to abound. I am prepared for anything, anywhere: either to be full or to be hungry, either to have abundance or to endure scarcity.
13 Everything is possible in him who has strengthened me. (Emphasis is mine.)
The Muslim man studiously and respectfully silently read the text for several minutes in deep thought as I silently watched. After a while he looked up to me and said, “It is very Islamic, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is,” I agreed, and we started another long and mutually respectful and, by the way, Peaceful, conversation.

I told him about the Inter-Faith city wide Prayer Service I had attempted to activate a couple of months ago for the sake of the Refugees, both Christian and Muslim refugees and pointed him to my blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org where I posted the Prayer Service. I told him my idea had already been shared with another of my Muslim friends, Mirza Beg, who was to forward it to the local Mosque, or Islamic Center as they call in here in Tuscaloosa. I asked him to talk it up and perhaps just a few of us could have a smaller event than the city wide event I had envisioned. Even though the Mayor of Tuscaloosa had agreed to help in any way he could, I could not garner support from the Christian churches I had contacted whom I was asking to host the event.

We continued our conversation and the Muslim man told me he had been looking into the Spirituality of the Native American Indians. One of the American Indian wise sayings, he said, is: “If God created you a crow, you do not have to become an Eagle.” I told him I liked that and many Indian Spiritual sayings and I had recently been through an 8 or 9 month St. Ignatian Spiritual Exercise Retreat. I told him of the many ways I personally think God can reveal himself to us humans, and concerning the Indians we were talking about, that God can reveal himself and to Indians as one walks in silence through the forest, even without a word written or spoken, God can do this, as one walks in Peace. I mentioned that to me, God has revealed himself sometimes as a Father, sometimes as a Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit, but still, I believe there is only one God. I shared my idea that one could take all the knowledge of the American Indians, and the Jewish religion, the Christian religion, and the Islamic religion, and all the knowledge of the Atheist religion, and put them all in a bucket, stir them all up and dump them into the ocean, and it would not be a drop in the ocean compared to the vast knowledge of an infinite God. He understood, and I mentioned again the Scripture we had just read, although I did not quote it again at that time. Here is a principle part of it below.

7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

I don’t think he would have agreed exactly with the Jesus Christ part of it, but then, apparently many Christians do not believe it either, not understand it, in that many Christian folk like to be guarded by weapons, guns, and “Peacemaking” six-shooters, not by the Peace of God. It appears in America that the “tougher” and more one believes in guarding oneself, the better, especially in the Political realm.

I cannot share everything now, we talked about, this is already too long, but the point I want to highlight especially at this “season” of Christmas 2015 is this:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

If you have not had any, I ask, why not? Could it be the Prince of the Power of the Air is getting through to us through the Media and the Political systems of this world? Why not turn off the Media for an hour or two a day and silently reflect upon your Scriptures, either your Hebrew ones, Christian ones, Islamic ones, or, even just take a silent walk in the woods, just like the Indians and reflect on the Peace God has very clearly said he came to give us, which goes beyond understanding. This Peace is a gift of Grace and Mercy. Yes, it does sound Islamic, but it sounded to Abraham, like a gracious and merciful God, before the Jewish people, before the Christian people, and before the Muslim people. It is a Grace that has extended to all Abraham’s offspring, which by extension is all mankind.

Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately? Accept this gift, get some of it; Let this be the year of God’s favor for you…..

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper