Monday, August 25, 2014

INTERIOR CASTLE -- St. Teresa of Avila quotes

As mentioned in the title, these excerpts are all quotes of St. Teresa of Avila in her book INTERIOR CASTLE, God be with and bless...

*FOOTNOTE* the reason she addresses the reader as "sister" throughout her writing is that, she initially was recording all these writings for her Nun Order ... but it can (and for the purposes of this post) be applied to all Christians in my opinion ... all my love:

"True perfection consists in love of God and of neighbor, and the more nearly perfect is our observance of these two commandments, the nearer to perfection we shall be."

"If then you sometimes fall, do not lose heart, or cease striving to make progress, for even out of your fall God will bring good."

"Although we get few or no comforts here, we shall be making a great mistake if we worry over our health, especially as it will not be improved by our anxiety about it--that I well know.  I know, too, that our progress has nothing to do with the body, which is the thing that matters least.  What the journey which I am referring to demands is great humility, and it is the lack of this, I think, if you see what I mean, which prevents us from making progress."

"Let us look at our own shortcomings and leave other people's alone; for those who live carefully ordered lives are apt to be shocked at everything and we might well learn very important lessons from the persons who shock us.  Our outward comportment and behavior may be better than theirs, but this, though good, is not the most important thing:  there is no reason why we should expect everyone else to travel by our own road, and we should not attempt to point them to the spiritual path when perhaps we do not know what it is.  Even with these desires that God gives us to help others, sisters, we may make many mistakes, and thus it is better to attempt to do what our Rule tells us - to try to live ever in silence and in hope, and the Lord will take care of His own.  If, when we beseech this of His Majesty, we do not become negligent ourselves, we shall be able, with His help, to be of great profit to them.  May He be for ever blessed."

"The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; do, then, whatever most arouses you to love.  Perhaps we do not know what love i: it would not surprise me a great deal to learn this, for love consists, not in the extent of our happiness, but in the firmness of our determination to try to please God in everything, and to endeavor in all possible ways not to offend Him, and to pray Him ever to advance the honor and glory of His Son."

"O My Lord and My God! How wondrous is Thy greatness! And we creatures go about like silly little shepherd-boys, thinking we are learning to know something of Thee when the very most we can know amounts to nothing at all, for even in ourselves there are deep secrets which we cannot fathom.  When I say 'amounts to nothing at all' I mean because Thou art so surpassingly great, not because the signs of greatness that we see in Thy works are not very wonderful, even considering how very little we can learn to know of them."

"But here the Lord asks only 2 things of us: love for His Majesty and love for our neighbor.  It is for these 2 virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing His will and so shall be united with Him.  But, as I have said, how far we are from doing these two things in the way we ought for a God Who is so great!  May His Majesty be pleased to give us grace so that we may deserve to reach this state, as it is in our power to do if we wish.
      The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbor; for we cannot be sure if we are loving  God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor.  And be certain that, the farther advanced you find you are in this, the greater the love you will have for God; for so dearly does His Majesty love us that He will reward our love for our neighbor by increasing the love which we bear to Himself, and that in a thousand ways: this I cannot doubt."

"When I see people very diligently trying to discover what kind of prayer they are experiencing and so completely wrapt up in their prayers that they seem afraid to stir, or to indulge in a moment's thought, lest they should lose the slightest degree of the tenderness and devotion which they have been feeling, I realize how little they understand of the road to the attainment of union.  They think that the whole thing consists in this.  But no, sisters, no; what the Lord desires is works.  If you see a sick woman to whom you can give some help, never be affected by the fear that your devotion will suffer, but take pity on her; if she is in pain, you should feel pain too; if necessary, fast so that she may have your food, not so much for her sake as because you know it to be your Lord's will..  That is true union with His will."

"The thing is inexpressible, for this distress and oppression are spiritual troubles and cannot be given a name.  The best medicine-is to occupy oneself with external affairs and works of charity and hope in God's mercy, which never fails those who hope in Him. May He be bless for ever. Amen"

"Oh, let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are doing anything whatever by merely putting up with insults!  Let us endure everything, and be glad to do so, and love those who do us wrong; for, greatly as we have offended this great God, He has not ceased loving us, and so He has very good reason for desiring us all to forgive those who have wronged us."

"I was wondering once why Our Lord so dearly loved this virtue of humility; and all of a sudden -- without, I believe, my having previously though of it--the following reason came into my mind: that it is because God is Sovereign Truth and to be humble is to walk in truth, for it is absolutely true to say that we have no good thing in ourselves, but only misery and nothingness; and anyone who fails to understand this is walking in falsehood.  He who best understands it is most pleasing to Sovereign Truth because he is walking in truth.  May it please God, sisters, to grant us grace never to fail to have this knowledge ourselves. Amen."

 "Fix your eyes on the Crucified and nothing else will be of much importance to you.  If His Majesty revealed His love to us by doing and suffering such amazing things, how can you expect to please Him by words alone?  Do you know when people really become spiritual?  It is when they become the slaves of God and are branded with His sign, which is the sign of the Cross, in token that they have given them their freedom.  Then He can sell them as slaves to the whole world, as He Himself was sold, and if He does this He will be doing them no wrong but showing them no slight favor.  Unless they resolve to do this, they need not expect to make great progress.  For the foundation of this whole edifice, as I have said, is humility, and, if you have not true humility, the Lord will not wish it to reach any great height: in fact, it is for your own good that it should not; if it did, it would fall to the ground. Therefore sisters, if you wish to lay good foundations, each of you must try to be the least of all, and the slave of God, and must seek a way and means to please and serve your companions.  If you do that, it will be of more value to you than to them and your foundation will be so firmly laid that your Castle will not fall."

"In a word my sisters, I will end by saying that we must not build towers without foundations, and that the Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it.  If we accomplish what we can, His Majesty  will see to it that we become able to do more each day.  We must not begin by growing weary; but during the whole of this short life, which for any one of you may be shorter than you think, we must offer the Lord whatever interior and exterior sacrifice we are able to give Him, and His Majesty will unite it with that which He offered to the Father for us upon the Cross, so that it may have the value won for it by our will, even though our actions in themselves may be trivial."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kozy-isms and quotes I like

(If someone tells me I SEEM cool [which I'm not])  Well I'm glad I seem cool, that prevents me from actually having to be cool.

Awkward moments are all my moments.

"We are not bodies with souls, but souls with bodies." -Kevin R. Bean

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

God of the streets ...

I'm sure I'm not the first one to connect these dots (....and certainly not the most articulate on the subject -- that usually goes without saying though)  -- nevertheless I felt the need to write this post.

My heart really went out to the patrons of Chicago when I saw the PBS frontline special THE INTERRUPTERS about violence interrupters (ex. gang members, incarcerated, social activists, etc. etc.)

It was really eye-opening: I mean not that I needed a PBS documentary to underscore the brutal fact that we've had a kind of a genocide in our own country that has been largely ignored because of the economic and social failures of Chicago -- but sometimes we all overlook things right in front of our face.

And being an acclaimed Christian -- someone who claims to base his life off the teachings, workings, and person of Christ -- it made me re-evaluate a Jesus who could be the ULTIMATE violence interrupter, who I MYSELF have overlooked more often than not.

You see, what makes these people, these violence interrupters, so impactful to the community is -- that they've been there.  They don't just sympathize, they EMPATHIZE.  They are ex-gang bangers, drug dealers, prostitutes, hustlers -- they don't just talk the talk they've walked the walk.

Jesus Christ is claimed as many things by Christians:  He is claimed to be "King of the Jews", the "Jewish Messiah" according to the Jewish Scriptures (...because if one remembers, Christianity was originally just a radical sect of Judaism -- Jesus and the twelve apostles were all faithful Jewish men).
He is the "Lamb of God" sacrificed for the sins of the world. "The Alpha and the Omega" according to Revelation.  The first of many "brethren" according to the epistles of Paul. 

But most importantly and all encompassing of all these attributes ... He is God made flesh (John Chapter 1).

No matter what else Jesus is or was, He is that, God in the flesh, as proved by His resurrection as a historical event, in actual human history ... that anyway is the Christian claim.

So let me add a title to the "King of the Jews", the "Lamb of God", the "Son of God", "The Word made Flesh" -- with the divinity of the God-man being the common denominator of them all His titles.

Let me call that title of Jesus "the God of the streets."

What do I mean by this, well let me break it down, assuming that Yeshua bar Joseph, the 1st Palestinian Jew, was in fact God, here's what we could infer as God being human in this human:

-God was born into poverty:  He was born to a "mason" and a home-keeper, probably a brick layer and carpenter, hard labor in any century, but especially in primitive history, where the most sophisticated tools were a wooden hand mallet, large nails, rope, mud and straw (...there was no Wal-Mart or Lowe's back then ...).

-God was born into a large family:  Some say that Jesus had anywhere from 6-12 siblings, including his older brother James, which Joseph had from a previous marriage, who was a doubter of his brother, but later one of his boldest proclaimers and followers.  Jesus probably felt the responsibility and need to look out for all his brothers and sisters growing up, just like many people on the streets feel.

-God was born a minority:  God was a poor Palestinian Jew in ROMAN OCCUPIED Palestine ... and as most people have educated themselves by now, He didn't look like a Swedish rock star, but had brown, olive, Middle Eastern skin and black hair (most likely).  Romans ran things, everyone else either walked in step or were trampled under foot, God was basically a second hand citizen in his hometown.

-God left his family, who He loved, and trade for a social movement, i.e. love for humanity:  God was all about bringing forth "the kingdom of God" which was God being expressed through individuals with open hearts to the power and grace in their life.  "My prayer is that the love you have for me will be IN THEM, and that I MYSELF WILL BE IN THEM." (John 17-20-26)

-God was essentially homeless during his social movement:  "Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."

-God was misunderstood and sometimes abandoned by his family and friends, being isolated from everyone save "the Father" during some of His most difficult times, and God felt grieved, alone, and abandoned at times :  "His mothers and brothers came to gather him and He said 'My mothers and brothers are those who do the will of God' " ..................... "and He said to his disciples, 'I'm  grieved to point of death, stay up with me and watch.'" He came back and they all had fallen asleep, and he said disappointedly, "Could you not even stay awake with me for one hour", and "he sweated blood" ...... On the Cross: "My God my God, why have you forsaken me."

-God healed people, spoke truth and encouragement to people, especially the most down cast in society, people with pores and sores and black spots on their skin, prostitutes, tax collectors, He was called a 'glutton and a drunk' .... "I came for the sick, not the self-righteous in their own mind."

*Essentially God did ALL OF THE ABOVE, to save humanity, or as this recent book by Tony Hendra puts so well "He came to reveal the GOD in humanity, and the humanity in GOD." [Messiah of Morris Avenue]*

Now if that is someone who can't empathize with someone on the streets, GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, who AS A MAN was poor, homeless, loved, healed, befriended prostitutes the downtrodden and the sick, was misunderstood by times even by those He LOVED MOST ... preached love and truth, ESPECIALLY when people didn't want to hear it and needed it most. 

God of the streets who "didn't entrust himself to man, for he knew what was in a man."  YET knowing what was in mankind, LOVED, HEALED, PREACHED and EVENTUALLY DIED FOR AND BY the very people he came to save (....I.E. EVERY HUMAN BEING WHO EVER EXISTED) ....... if that MAN, that GOD can't relate to someone on the streets, He, "the God of the streets" .... no one can.

He knows what you're going through little thumper, street bumper, lady lumper ... He knows what you're going through little hustler, flexin' muscle, feather ruffler .... put down your guns and pick up your cross, just like He did .... spread love, stop hate ....... if someone strikes you don't STRIKE BACK, and DON'T STAND DOWN -- if you face evil TURN THE OTHER CHEEK, and STAND YOUR GROUND -- that's strength, that's God, that's Christ, the God of the streets ..........

Let God bless others through you, and God will bless you through others, just keep your eyes and hearts open.

Read about Christ, the "God of the Streets" in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and stay encouraged -- "Keep your eyes on Jesus (NOT Jay-Z or Lil Wayne) ... "look to Him He endured such hatred and scorn from sinful men (us men and women He loved and came to save!) so you will not lose heart or become faint in spirit."

The Holy Spirit, Christ Yeshua bar Joseph, "the Spirit of the God of the Streets" in you, is the only drug you need -- it's the only drug that gives life and doesn't take it .

To receive just ask "you have not received because you do not ask"  .... God is the Father of ALL, whether you accept it or NOT ... He is YOUR Father ... the only question is "will you be his child?" []

God be with and bless you, as He ALWAYS IS and DOES.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Letter to Mom

Dear Mom,

Why is it that I love you and want you around for as long as possible?

First of all because you’re my Mom … and other than that:

I love your belly laugh that is so full of glee I can almost see the reflection in the glow of your face. And that your love is more infectious than the latest version of the flu.

I love that you spoiled me rotten, and poured out love for me from your heart that you never got, that you protected me from bullies and meanies and when Dad wanted to spank me even when I deserved it.

I love that you fought for your whole life … from your terrible childhood … to your tumultuous young adulthood, and strength as a single mother … to choosing to give birth to me … that you fought for it all, everything you have … that somehow through everything you’ve been through God put love in your heart that you never got, that you were able to squeeze the stuffing out of me, and protect me and love me … and I’m in awe of everything you are, and do and how far you’ve come … and when I see you I don’t see a victim, someone who suffers and is beaten down by life, but I see someone who fought for everything in her life … who fought FOR A LIFE … who fought for the love of a family of her own … who MADE love of a life where there was none … who instilled in me faith in God, in love, in family.

And that’s what I’ll remember … I’ll remember the woman who fought, who loved, who laughed … that’s my MOM, and nothing NOT anything, not being sick not what you become … but what YOU are, my Mom, who I love - who’s given and fought for her whole life and my whole life - that’s what I’m going to remember, when it gets hard, when you get sick when you go to be with Jesus.

It is not what you become Mom, but what you already are, and what you have been and what I am because of what you are, that I will remember, and is where I will find the strength and love to love you even when it’s hardest for both of us.

And I hope that’s how you see yourself, because that is the truth … you are a strong fighter, full of love and goodness and have passed that on to your two kids who have loved their life no matter what comes because you taught and fought for them how to love … Because you loved them with God’s love, you ALLOWED GOD to love US through YOU, and that’s what you taught me, that’s what you raised me on, and that’s what completes and sustains me – that love that was through you and Dad, from God.

That’s the truth … and I hope you continue to fight until the end, because whatever happens I’ll always remember you for what you are, and you are always my Mom no matter what you become … and you’ve always fought, for everything in your life, and I hope you fight until the end.

I love you, but my love is not good enough, because you gave me so much more, so my prayer every day that I am blessed enough to have you in my life to Jesus, is that He loves YOU through ME, the way HE loved ME through YOU, and that He always holds you and carries you in His arms, forever, and ever, and EVER, so that you will know that YOU HAVE ALWAYS and WILL ALWAYS be loved, for just the way you are.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Common Ground: Belief

We all believe something ... even if you believe nothing -- to believe in nothing is to have a belief ... that there is nothing.

This is akin to "doing nothing" as my dad says, "even doing nothing is doing something (i.e. you're breathing, you're seeing, you're thinking, etc., etc.)."

So why do I bring this up -- because it really gripes me off when Atheists say "we don't have faith or believe in anything."

As the theologian pastor Josh Harris says, "Even a belief that there is no God, is a belief about God."

I have atheist friends who have told me as a Christian that I "cannot have my cake and eat it too." Well ... ok, but if that's the case neither can you my brothers and sisters of humanity!

You can't say you don't have faith in anything -- let's say your "god" is reason and scientists -- great tools for and of the Lord by the way in their proper dynamic -- but you have faith, your faith is in scientists and their experiments.

I am sure very little of you when you "accept" a scientific discovery or report do the experiment yourself -- or understand all the science and formulas for this or that theory -- maybe some of you do, but if we're being honest, atheists take reports of scientists, and science "articles", if you will, on as much faith as believers take into account the universe (science included) as evidence (NOT proof -- evidence) for God.

So let's find some common ground .... we all believe something -- even if we believe nothing, we believe something (like alluded to above) .... so my dear atheistic friends, fellow creatures, and beloved human beings made in the image of the Creator who "desires all men to be saved and come unto a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) Let's call a spade a spade -- you have as much faith as we do ... you have as much faith that there is no God as believers have that their is one it's still FAITH -- a belief -- just like believers.

And you have a 'god' too -- your god is man's reason and science (both gifts of God properly used -- by the way -- man doesn't even create anything at an elemental level -- all rudimentary and fundamental building blocks of the universe and life we are totally dependent on from other forces of the outside ourselves -- so who is responsible for all the life sustaining forces that keep the universe and life on this planet going? It takes a lot of faith to believe that all came from "random" chance) -- so you have JUST AS MUCH BELIEF as believers atheistic people -- it's just placed in other 'gods'.  But please my friends and brothers and sisters, COME OFF this pseudo-veiled concept of "not believing anything" because as I have tried to demonstrate, "not believing anything" is still believing something.

And why did I bring this up?  To just stir up a semantics debate -- no -- but because whatever you believe, politically, environmentally, fundamentally, or as I'm speaking -- theological -- has to work out for you in real life.

If you believe something just to believe it (Atheism, Christianity, Islam, Jedism ... and no I didn't badly butcher Judism ... I meant Jedism based off Star Wars) that is not good.  If you can't question or be open minded about your faith to the point of discussion and challenging your beliefs, then you have to question if what you believe in is really worth believing in -- but don't fall in the other trap either of being too open minded as my grandpa says "don't be so open minded that your brains fall out of your head."

So that being said the reason I am a Christian is because it works for me in real life -- one of the most fundamental questions for human beings is "why is there suffering"  especially in the context of an all good all powerful deity?

Everything I have to say on this vein is borrowed, but also sprinkled with my own sentiments.  To me personally, and that's all this is -- is a PERSONAL opinion (gleaned surely off my many influences, but my opinion in the sense this is what and why I stand for Christ).

To me, if there is a God, all powerful, all good all loving who in His very essence IS love as we Christians claim to believe -- then there are only two answers to suffering, (1) either God should take it away, because He can, OR (2) He has to redeem it by glorifying Himself and honoring the person enduring the suffering like gold refined in fire, coal burnt into diamonds, or the pruning of a tree for more fruit -- the cuts and burns of life must lead to an ultimate end.

Christianity promises that ..... not only so, but in Christianity God HIMSELF who ALLOWS suffering SETS the example ..... God Himself becomes a poor, homeless, man, heals the sick, befriends the lepers and prostitutes, saying tax collectors are closer to kingdom of God then those who are "religiously" righteous in their own eyes .... He is misunderstood by His own family and best friends .... often isolated, probably sometimes depressed .... but always ULTIMATELY submitted to the Father's will, for "He and the father are one." (John 10:25)

He not only undergoes all this suffering, taking upon Himself all the challenges and hardships that life has to offer, but is KILLED by the people He came to save (i.e. ALL of us ... the people of the world).

Think about how wild this is, this man lived 2000 years ago, he never wrote anything down and He is the most influential man in history -- He was poor homeless, only preached for three years, and people from Sir Isaac Newton to Katy Perry have been influenced by this man and every one inbetweeen.

Christianity, whether you agree with it or not, is the largest religion in the world.  This religion is based on a man who claimed to BE GOD, nothing less -- and whose followers believe as  A FACT, the historical event of the Resurrection of this man who is God, Jesus.

If you were a poor, homeless man, and told people to love each other, and lived your life and claimed to be God do you think that you would have 2,000,000,000 followers -- TWO THOUSAND PLUS YEARS LATER -- who believed that (A) you were God and that (B) you rose from the dead after becoming a human being and living on earth for 33 years as a real historical event ......... I know I wouldn't!!! I only have 2 followers on this blog (.......and one is an advertisement, thanks Chris, you're my only true friend!)!

Just from a rational standpoint, even if I wasn't a Christian, there HAS to be something to this religion -- it is so radical even from Islam and Judaism which it shares 90% of its beliefs in (again from my personal opinion and study).

BUT that 10% is Jesus, the man, BEING God -- that is a CRAZY claim and yet it is the NUMBER 1 religion worldwide, let that sink in to you no matter what you believe and try to think who else in history, as many great men and women as their have been has had as much impact on the world as -- AGAIN -- this 1st Century Palestinian, poor, large familied tradesman (probably a bricklayer/carpenter) JEW (who DEFINITELY looked more Arab than Swedish ... sorry folks), who never even wrote a book -- preached for 3 years -- never wrote anything down, and was hung on a Cross -- how did this guy get people to STILL believe He was God about 2.18 billion (almost a THIRD of the world's population) to this day, and why hasn't anyone else EVER even come close to this?  Just something to be pondered in my opinion.

Whatever you believe has to work out in real life, I can say the nicest and truest things about Jesus and be a real asshole in real life and that ruins all my credibility, and EVEN worse it is a poor representation of the TRUE Jesus who gave his life as a ransom for the world (i.e. you me and everyone we know and has ever existed or will exist .... wow) ....... and equally there can be an atheist, who "hates" Jesus (or says he hates Jesus) and yet is very loving and kind and follows the GREAT COMMANDMENT to "love your neighbor as yourself," better than his Christian friends.  An "anonymous Christian" as Karl Rahner would say.

We will all be judged by God, so there's not much point in arguing about what comes after ..... all we can do is keep lovin, keep pluggin ..... the rest is in God's hands (whether we like it or not).

And I urge you to look to Christ who is always with you, and within you whether you want to acknowledge it or not God's presence is like oxygen and gravity -- it permeates all of creation at all times whether one is conscious of it and acknowledges it or not -- "know and embrace the truth" that God is love, and His love is the foundation of ALL creation of ALL time "and it shall set you free." (John 8:32)

Christ be with you all (atheist or believer ... EVERYBODY ... EVERYWHERE), as He always is,
Peace, Love, Blessings,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

FORTY RULES OF LOVE by Elif Shafak selected excerpts

This whole book is going to stick with me forever, and I left many of my favorite parts and quotes out of it, because anyone who is able should read the whole thing for themselves! But here are a few quotes that I particularly wanted to have handy and share with anyone willing to read them.  As always, God bless, God be with, and Godspeed.

"Pity the fool who thinks the boundaries of his mortal mind are the boundaries of God the Almighty.  Pity the ignorant who assume they can negotiate and settle debts with God.  Do such people think God is a grocer who attempts to weigh our virtues and our wrongdoings on two separate scales?  Is He a clerk meticulously writing down our sins in His accounting book so as to make us pay Him back someday?  Is this their notion of Oneness?  Neither a grocer nor a clerk, my God is a magnificent God.  A living God.  Why would I want a dead God?  Alive He is.  His name is al-Hayy--the Ever-Living.  Why would I wallow in endless fears and anxieties, always restricted by prohibitions and limitations?  Infinitely compassionate He is.  The name is al-Wadud.  All-Praiseworthy He is.  I praise Him with all my words and deeds, as naturally and effortlessly as I breathe.  The name is al-Hamid.  How can I ever spread gossip and slander if I know deep down in my heart that God hears and sees all?   His name is al-Basir.  Beautiful beyond all dreams and hopes.  Al-Jamal, al-Kayyum, al-Rahman,  al-Rahim.  Through famine and flood, dry and athirst, I will sing and dance for Him till my knees buckle, my body collapses, and my heart stops pounding.  I will smash my nafs to smithereens, until I am no more than a particle of nothingness, they wayfarer of pure emptiness, the dust of the dust in His great architecture.  Gratefully, joyously, and relentlessly, I commend His splendor and generosity.  I thank Him for all the things He has both given and denied me, for only He knows what is best for me." [Shams, Elif Shafak, FRL, p. 180-181]

"It was as if I had no more fear left inside me.  One way or another, I didn't care.  I was determined to dedicate what remained of my life to God.  Whether this would be for a single day or for many more years to come did not matter." [Desert Rose the Harlot, Elif Shafak, FRL, p.230]

"Sometimes it is necessary to destroy all attachments in order to win over your self.  If we are too attached to our family, our position in society, even our local school or mosque, to the extent that they stand in the way of Union with God, we need to tear those attachments down." [Rumi, Elif Shafak, FRL, p. 240]