Monday, February 28, 2011

Devotional Reading 280211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was a blessing to host a guest from Singapore in our home last weekend. I discovered later on that this “stranger” from Singapore is a friend of some good old friends of mine. What a small world! We never know the kind of blessing that we may receive from the Lord when we submit to His Will and Word, just as the Bible said, “Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrew 13:2). The ministry of hospitality is truly a way to experience blessing from the Lord!

Returning back to our reading on silence, in the beginning, most of us need a place that eliminates practically all outer sensations. It is hard enough to forget one’s own body, and until a person learns how to cut consciousness off from the usual sensory barrage, one needs—figuratively at least—to shut the outer door. Wherever the place, it should be free of personal clutter, no letters to answer or papers to read or clothes to mend. Any position is right which relaxes the body’s control over our thoughts and feelings…Sometimes after every whisper of activity has ceased, the body is still too tense to let go. It communicates in jerks and twitches, even cramps. Of course, the tension may be caused simply by a hyperactive day, but even this is usually a sign of emotions and desires which we have not faced and which have dropped into the unconscious. From there they are sending up messages to the body to be vigilant and ready to act. As human beings, however, our first task is to get the psyche alert and vigilant so that it can take direction of our actions, and to do this, the body must be taught to be still and wait. The simplest way—the one to try first—is to let go as best one can and quietly tell one part of the body after another to relax, waiting patiently.

Besides this there are visual aids to settling down which may be helpful at one time or another. One can fix the eyes on a single object, perhaps on the sanctuary lamp in a church, on a distant vista m a picture or a rock in the bubbling water of a stream. At other times one may find that the only way to stop thinking and sensing is to close the eyes and focus on a black dot in the center of nothingness. Some people are able to concentrate on sound as a more or less meaningless object, one that brings up few associations, so that the sensory world dies away into stillness. At times music may be quieting to start with, but this is true only in settling down. In the silence itself music is a distraction, and the greater its impact the greater the distraction. I find music a spur to creativity, particularly in writing, but this is very different from silence.

Obviously silence cannot begin until the outer flow of talk has ceased, but something more than the mere sound of words must also die away. Words themselves can be used rhythmically to help produce silence…Our talking does not end with articulated words. It goes on a mile a minute inside the individual. Much of our thinking is actually an inner dialogue. Our minds are full of ideas and pictured desires and purposes that we talk and think and discourse about to ourselves. One can almost feel the tension in mouth and throat in this kind of thinking and inner talking. If one is to lay it aside, the approach must be cautious, like a policeman stepping into the intersection, first motioning traffic to slow down, and then holding up a hand that means “Stop!’ This must be done without words, without adding to the disturbance when one more item of unfinished business slips in demanding to be considered.

Just as the silence seems complete, a noise or other sensation may intrude. Or an interruption may come purely from within, perhaps an idea about to- morrow’s plans or a worry about a foolish remark or something one has forgotten to do. It does no good at all to get angry. This only adds to the activity that is trying to break in. With good-natured patience, one puts the cares of yesterday and tomorrow into the suspense file…Out of nowhere daydreams may also pop up. One may see the Little League team become national champions. We may find appetites and desires we scarcely recognize as our own. Perhaps we see ourselves handling millions of dollars, or as movie stars giving autographs, or as kings and queens. Daydreams are the partially conscious spinning out of desires and hopes in a pictorial fashion. They are an extension of our ego consciousness. Even when they reveal more than we have figure about ourselves, they are the ordinary stuff of private fantasies which anyone can discover with a little imaginative play.

This kind of silence cannot be hurried or forced; it does not come through effort. Instead, it must be allowed to happen. This is like eating an artichoke. It must be done a leaf at a time, down to the heart. If one tries to take it in a single bite, all he gets is a mouthful of thistles. One has to set aside time for silence and then turn toward it with composure, letting go of immediate things a little at a time in order to enter a world where dreams and also the energy for life are born.

This is the point at which something in the silence takes over and become active on its own. One is no longer involved just in a world of personal experiences or even private daydreams. There is contact with a flow of images of different nature, images which have a life and power of their own. Some may find themselves powerfully moved as they act out scenes of a drama within their own psyches. The images are charged with emotion, and they have the same autonomous life as dreams and the same psychic significance…It is very difficult to deal with these basic psychic realities that we meet in the form of autonomous images. Most of us are afraid of experiencing the emotions they arouse, which underlie our human behavior and with good reason. Yet these archetypal images and forces do not remain dormant simply because we keep out of touch with them. They go right on working, hidden from our conscious minds so that we often fail to understand them and either react negatively or become possessed by them, causing untold difficulties. The worst difficulties people get themselves into are generally the result of their failure to respond in the right way to these universal forces of the spiritual world which we meet as images in the silence.

I heard of many stories in terms of how people saw images while they practiced silence. It sometimes stirred up fear, guilt or shame within their psyches. They either resisted or avoided them, fearing that they were being attacked by some evil forces. But this could also be the process of soul cleansing by the work of the Holy Spirit. Some of these images may represent some hidden sins that God surfaces for us to remove. It is like the process of purifying gold. The goldsmith will remove unwanted particles that are surfaced in the melting pot under blaze. Without paying much attention to such images, one simply relinquish them to the Lord and return to silence before Him. If one is too anxious to hear from the Lord or expect something from the Lord in silence, our impatient could also become a distraction or hindrance when we encounter these images. One needs to simply surrender himself or herself to the Lord in silence, and let God have the full freedom to act, cleanse and mold us in whatever way He desires. Hope you find time to enter into silent interaction with your Loving Father today.

With Love from Him,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Devotional reading 250211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. How wonderful it is to have a break of sunshine after the storm! It is so refreshing and cool. The budding tree looks so lively and beautiful like a new born baby. The nature indeed proclaims the glory of the Lord in all the earth. Praise God for this precious gift of life to enjoy His creation on earth. God does not want us to “hate” this materialistic world as though it is totally evil. In silence, we learn to appreciate this world from God’s perspective.

In Western religion detachment is equally important, but not as an end in itself (like Eastern religion). Instead the aim is freedom which will allow the individual to find new and richer attachments to God and to other human beings. Christian devotional practice stresses this goal of freedom from relationships of actual dependency. It is mainly in this way that we can come to the inner wholeness that allows us to give ourselves freely to God and to our fellow men.

So much of the time our lives are scattered in unconscious reactions to the demands of one attachment or another. Often we are not even aware of their strength, and only in silence can we begin to seek detachment from them. As one begins to withdraw and feels the surge of emotion of losing something, self- knowledge begins. By discovering this lack of freedom, one becomes able to loosen the ties that need to come unbound. Then one can gradually discover the bits and pieces, fragments of responses and reactions and emotions, can be gathered together into a whole personality.

Neither freedom nor inner-directedness is a final goal. Instead, each is valuable tool in moving toward wholeness. They are steps on the way to learning the meaning of God’s love for us. As one finds the reality of that love, it becomes possible to offer oneself to God in a mature way and to give some of the same love and understanding to others, self-giving love without strings attached. This way of wholeness and love is central to the life and teaching of Jesus, and to most Christians who have caught the inner meaning of His life and words. Whatever else it involves, one finds in this process of detachment and reattachment the meaning of being born again, of giving up an old life and being given a new one.

This is not an easy way to follow, however. Detachment is a tricky process. And the word itself can be twisted into all sorts of meanings. By a simple shift of emphasis, detachment can be twisted to mean denial and a practice of devaluing and rejecting anything that is stamped “worldly.” Anything not purely from God, or leading directly to God, may be seen as evil and harmful to the religious way. This is the kind of attitude that rejects and hates all that is natural and human in this world, and it can lead to the most extreme and dangerous asceticism.

There is danger in mixing detachment with asceticism in this way because it may be prompted by masochistic self-hatred rather than by a search for relationship with God. It is one thing to start with a judgment on the body, or the psyche or the world, with two strikes against them, and quite another to try to stand off from these things so that they can be put into a proper perspective of value. They can then become allies in training for the true freedom of a life of service to God.

This takes effort. Detachment in this sense demands as much discipline as either Western asceticism or Eastern separation for its own sake. There is no shortcut that leads to instant wholeness or mature attachment. Meaningful relationship is born out of detachment, which is usually first quickened by reflection in silence. The importance of detachment for the religious way, and its dependence on silence, can hardly be overemphasized. One reason for the power of social action of Martin Luther King was the way it sprang out of his wholeness which was the wholeness of a person recollected in silence and the presence of God. Almost all Christian reform of any significance which in the end healed rather than destroyed, has sprung out of the same source.

Silence can be a mini-experience of death and resurrection It is a temporary cessation of one’s doing and planning and desires. When we actually die we give up the possessions that have mattered to us and entrust them to the care of others. Much the same thing happen when one stops in silence. Action, planning, desiring are all suspended, entrusted to the Other in silence, while the thoughts and emotions and realities that surround them are given a chance to regroup.

It is much easier for introverts to turn inward than for extraverts. The introvert feels at home in the silence for such a person’s interest is already there. For the extravert this means an about-face or turning away from all that seems valuable and familiar. The difficulty for the introvert is in stepping out of the self, in reaching out, say, to a stranger in church or at the swimming pool. Turning towards the inner world is just as difficult for the extravert, and also just as necessary and valuable. Both are as vital to the Christian life as the two halves of a beating heart. But today’s world applauds our efforts to reach out and tries to forget that those efforts require an inner basis which is found in silence. It is silence, and the fact that something happens in the silence, which needs to be stressed today.

Kelsey’s discernment here is absolutely correct. We rediscover our true meaning of existence through detachment in silence. Not the silence itself can produce any effect but our encounter with the Holy Other in silence that makes a difference. The attitude is therefore important in silence. We don’t detach for detachment’s sake. We detach so that we can focus on God, and allow Him to surface our wound that needs to be healed and transformed. It is not by our might and our wisdom that can produce lasting change in life; it is purely the work of God in us. The author of Proverbs said, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is the commanding center of our reason, emotion and will. Our heart is our passion which is like an engine of a train or a car. If the driver is evil, the potential of this train will be destructive. If the driver is good and faithful, the vehicle will become blessings to many. That’s why our Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). The word “meek” is a tamed horse. A tamed horse is a potential under control by its owner. A meek person is someone who surrender the control of his or her potential for God’s use. In silence, we allow God to surface our inner drives that always want to be in control. Once we recognize our inner desire to drive or control, we surrender it to Christ willfully for His usage. By doing so we become blessing to God and to those around us. A new life in Christ involves detachment for prayer and meditation each day for His glory. Have a blessed weekend to refresh your soul.

Love you in Christ

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Devotional reading 240211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is a calm and cool day before the storm – I look forward to see snow in Daly City or San Francisco tomorrow. By God’s grace, I finally submitted my dissertation yesterday and finished all my academic requirements for graduation. The most pleasant word from the Chair of my dissertation committee was: “approved!” So I am expecting to earn my doctoral degree in Missiology on April 30th. I can now start a new “pattern of life” without academic pressure to submit papers constantly. It is time to truly enjoy reading all the books (textbooks and reference books) that I bought during the course of my study. Praise the Lord!

I agree with Kelsey that the idea of linking silence with prayer may sound like an out-and-out contradiction to many Christians. We are accustomed to thinking of the familiar forms of prayer that people use when they join together to worship or ask God for something. These forms almost always follow a lead given in the past. They shaped by words set down in the Bible, particularly the psalms, or by other poetry and by the liturgy. They can vary from the words that come spontaneously in the simplest service to the most elaborate prayers that have grown up und the Eucharist and other sacraments, and either may be used in private devotions. Of course, there is no question about the value and importance of this way of turning to God, but it is not the only kind of prayer that we need.

There is another, equally important way of praying in which a person becomes silent and tries to listen instead of speaking. Instead of picking up a familiar lead and speaking about the things that all of us feel are needed, one tries to become still. One’s effort is to be silent enough to hear, first, the deepest needs of one’s own heart, and then the prompting of the creative Spirit in whatever direction it may indicate. In this second kind of prayer, which we call meditation, one is trying to follow one’s own inner road as it is opened.

For the most part, however, modem man sees no place for silence among the realities of life, and so finds little time for it…Most modern life is a studied attempt to avoid ever being alone, faced with the reality of the inner world. Obviously to find the way of silence one needs to disconnect, to unhook from much of the activity and even turn off some of the light that seems so necessary to modern living. In a very real sense the way of meditation is a way of detachment.

Almost every approach to religious practice suggests ways of human growth and development that depend on separating from one’s ordinary round of activity. In most religions the understanding is found that people must nearly always let go of reactions and ideas that are simply customary or habitual before another level of life and meaning can break through to them. As long as one is like a ping-pong ball, bounced back and forth by every emotion and outer relationship, it is all too easy to overemphasize detachment as if this were the only route to God, and this often results in a pathological and distorted denial of life.

So long as a person thinks that life cannot be lived without someone or something, perhaps father or mother or parental substitute, or that life will fall apart without the accustomed indulgences or the round of activity, that person has not approached psychological maturity, but is living a dependent existence rather than becoming a self-contained individual, a person is in his own right who can give love without any strings attached. The ability to give love without expecting anything in return is one expression of maturity. The mature person is also able to be alone and silent, and the effort to turn inward in silence leads toward this detachment and the maturity that goes with it.

Becoming inner-directed, of course, does not guarantee maturity. Unless the individual takes the inner direction out into the world around him and tries to put it to use, this inner-directedness can become just as one-sided as today’s total emphasis on outer direction. It can even be schizophrenic. What maturity requires is a balance between the two.

One basic difference between Eastern and Western religion is this matter of balance between detachment and attachment. In both East and West the immediate goal is the same, to help the individual achieve self-containment through detachment. But in Eastern religion this is final as there is nothing further to become attached to. Buddhism sees no God at the end of the process, and so one of the central themes is escaping from. The final goal is to become detached from this miserable wheel of existence. Zen, springing from the soil of Buddhism, also seeks detachment as an end in itself. Yoga is based on a similar principle of freeing one’s self physically, emotionally and spiritually from entanglement in the world.

This kind of detachment practice is easier for or us Chinese to understand, because we grow up with this kind of religious concept. If you want to be serious in religious life, you should detach yourself from the “worldly” environment and enter a monastery to practice meditation and prayer. And the goal is definitely “escape.” Thus, Easter religious practice is an attempt to escape from the entanglement of life which creates all kinds of stress, frustrations and pain. The way to resolve the pain of entanglement is detachment.

However, this is not the way Jesus taught His disciples. Jesus emphasized detachment as a rhythm of life. Detachment and engagement are equally important in forming a godly lifestyle. There is time for detachment and time for engagement. Over-emphasis of either one can be damaging to holistic living. Nevertheless, Kelsey is correct that modern day people needs to learn detachment because the whole trend is to promote engagement. The social network technology emphasizes on reaching out or in touch with someone out there. We seem to live without not engaging with someone else. We need time to rest and connect with ourselves and God through prayer and meditation. Do you feel comfortable to detach from the world in silence for a lengthy period of time? It is healthy lifestyle not only spiritually but psychologically too.

Lover you through Christ in silence,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Devotional reading 230211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Life is full of all kinds of challenges and surprising turns. Who knows how the political unrest in the Middle East may lead to at the end? The spirit of revolution is spreading like wild fire in that general region. Many M workers who have been ministering in that region for a long time, believe this political unrest should bring better future for the grass-root people. The question is how much will it cost for such revolution. Let’s pray for peaceful transition and minimum casualty in that region. Pray also for churches and Christians in those countries that they will not become scapegoats in the conflict…

One of the most positive of the ten commandments stresses the need for a weekly time of reflection. The commandment to keep holy the Sabbath requires that once a week we stop every kind of active endeavor, that we rest and turn to our Creator and to our fellow creatures. We meet together for worship. It makes little difference whether the time of rest is Saturday or the Christian first day of the week; the principle is the same. We need both the activity of worship and the time for preparation, time for a little spiritual housecleaning beyond the daily tidying up and dusting. We need to take out the trash in ourselves and perhaps straighten up the deepest closet or file away some of the things on top of an inner desk.

I find that I need a couple of hours each week for this, to see what I have been doing, how I have been doing, and what I need to be doing. This is a time for centering and getting my perspective back, in which my daily times of quiet are brought together and come to fruition. This time can be used in various ways, perhaps to read more in the Bible, or to take a longer look at either a problem or a project in one’s spiritual life. It may be needed to probe deeper, to get at the roots of things and unravel those too complex for the daily times of quiet. Sometimes these hours are needed just to become really still, to let the rush within one die down. Or again, they can be used to check one’s life and action against the priorities one has set for oneself…When these longer periods of stopping have borne fruit, they carry over into ordinary life. We become aware of this deeper level of reality in the midst of ordinary preoccupations, and strangely it does not make us less efficient, but more so. It is almost as if, even when we sleep, we become conscious of the presence of God touching us.

I have learned to try to check with this deeper insight and when I do, the best intuitions come. They are purely given, striking like an arrow with a message hanging from it that passes before the inner eye. Even in public when I am speaking from a prepared talk. I find that if only I can hang loose, often a new idea inserts itself into my outline and I say something unexpected that gets through to people. This is just a sample of the ways in which one can catch momentary reflections of the spiritual dimension and find oneself looking both horizontally—at the physical world—and vertically at the same time.

The same thing happens when people use the Eastern Orthodox technique that has become so widely known as the “Jesus prayer.” As a person says this brief prayer over and over again—“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”—gradually the entreaty becomes the undercurrent, the very foundation of life and action. Somewhere deep within, a person becomes aware of contact with another reality. The classic story of this devotional practice, the Way of a Pilgrim, describes the growth of this awareness and some of the effects on the world of people and matter. This kind of sustained concentration on another level of reality can go on while one is at work mowing a lawn, or even while adding a column of figures or writing a letter. It is possible to live on two different levels at once, and even to increase one’s efficiency in the outer world at the same time.

Someone has said that the lives of most persons are like jewelry store where some trickster has mixed up the price tags. The diamonds are priced at next to nothing and some worthless baubles at thousands of dollars. Unless we stop business as usual and take stock, we are likely to end up in bankruptcy. So long as the store is crowded with people, there is no chance of taking inventory and putting things to rights. We must close the doors and take the time alone. Then we can check with the stock list, our list of priorities, and give the right value to the right object. If we truly believe that God is a loving Father, there need be no fear He will take away what we need (or think we need). He wants us to find Him so that He can bring us to our deepest and most lasting satisfactions.

Still, life has a way of keeping our priorities or price tags shuffled, and to bring order and harmony into life, to find meaning in it, requires stopping and redeeming time by reflection in quiet and silence. Indeed, we need to quiet before the Lord, collect our many fragmented pieces in life and submit them to Christ. If we are attentive to the Author of Life in meditation, we will discover how He can put all these fragmented pieces of life into a beautiful picture for us. It is energy saving when life is integrative. It is draining when life is compartmentalized into different pieces – we feel like we are being torn apart by different demands in life. Through our quiet time in the Lord, He put us back into one wholesome being again. So again, devotional time is not something you do for God’s favor but for yourselves. You are being built up and healed through your daily devotional time with the Risen Christ or Holy Spirit…Remember. God wants to make you whole again.

Enjoy His love with you in Christ,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Devotional Reading 220211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thanks for some of your prayer, I had a fruitful weekend preaching in Vancouver, Canada. God spoke through me to challenge this historical church (100 years old) in the heart of Vancouver Chinatown. I had the opportunity to minister to the English and Chinese congregations. The Mandarin group was vibrant and active in serving the Lord. Pray that God will continue to revive this congregation for His Kingdom.

Unless one takes the time to turn inward and be silent, meditation and the spiritual quest will not get very far. We seldom find God in a hurry, or in bits and pieces of reflection on a day of busy activity. An efficiently busy life, which keeps us occupied without being harried and keeps our attention entirely on interesting outer things, is probably more potentially destructive of spiritual growth than debauchery or alcohol or hard drugs…On the other hand, a quiet, efficient and busy life spent continuously in good works can shield an individual most effectively from any plunge into the depth where God dwells. Time for silence is a prime requisite for finding that inner depth through meditation.

The reason that most of us fill up our time and stay busy is that we are afraid to be alone. We do not want to deal with everything we find in ourselves. It seems that if we will just keep busy enough, we won’t have to deal with them. But that is an illusion. Fact of the matter is, if we stay busy enough, we do not even notice the mischief our inner demons are doing to others.

People find excellent reasons for turning to these Eastern practices since the Church makes almost no effort to offer instruction about such practices, or even to suggest that finding God is an even more vitally important reason for meditating. Are we afraid to ask this much of people, or has Western religion been so brainwashed by our emphasis on the material world that we really don’t think there is value in taking time to turn inward? Or has Christianity lost its under- standing that spirit can restore both body and mind?

For a long time the Church was sure of the value of time for meditation. The early Church simply assumed that all Christians would have their daily times of meeting the Risen Lord. When Christians lived with the knowledge that at any moment they might be apprehended and condemned to death for the treasonous art of supporting an illegal religion, they had reason to seek this presence. I doubt if they could have survived the tensions of that world and changed it as thoroughly as they did without the vivid consciousness of God’s presence.

In the Protestant Reformation there was an attempt to provide some sense of responsibility for the average Christian. In some sects there was a measure of success, but when religion for most people was a matter legislated for them, it was hard to persuade many of them to take the religious life seriously. In the end the theologians of most of the major Protestant groups concluded that humankind was caught in a totally physical world, shut off from any experience except the physical one. In the long run most people are more consistent than we generally realize, and Protestants of almost every brand fell in line with the understanding that it is silly to think of stopping to get in touch with another dimension or realm of reality. Thus there is little understanding of the practice of meditation among the standard Protestant groups. I remember how it worried one of my professors in the seminary that some of us were always in chapel before the rest. He considered us a little too intense and thought it might well represent some psychological imbalance. As a result of this attitude more and more Christians have turned to TM or Zen or Hare Krishna.

There is good reason for letting go of enforced routines of prayer and imposed periods of silence in the religious Orders. No one can force another person to take the inner way. Turning inward is a venture that each of us must assent to and pursue on our own, because we desire it. It turns sour if another tries to take me by the hand and pull me along against my will. Unless I ask for these experiences out of my own need or for my own reasons, I can receive little spiritual insight or guidance from them, and I am likely to feel put upon, or even tyrannized in the most devastating way.

I had a lot of quiet time while I was in Vancouver. I chose not to go anywhere but spending time with the Lord at my host home or at the airport. My plane was delayed in San Francisco for 2 hours because of weather problem, and delayed again in Vancouver for another 2 hours because of mechanical problem upon return. It gave me some quantity time to spend with the Lord. I enjoyed the quiet time to draw close to the Lover of my soul, and allowed Him to speak freely to me while I was “wasting” my time at the airport. It was an interesting experience to see people rushing around you but you feel so serene to be with the Lord in prayer and meditation. We need this kind of quiet time to rejuvenate our whole being. It is truly a gift from God that we are created with this ability to interact with God and in touch with the spiritual realm.

Hope you can find time to rest and focus on the Lord in prayer and meditation…

With Love in Him,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Devotional reading 180211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. The traffic was very heavy because our President was flying out from SF airport. Helicopters were flying over our area for precautions. Road blocks were set up in all the major roads in and out of airport just in case some terrorists may launch any attack against him. The whole city was in high alert even though most of us were not aware of it. Kelsey talked about some precautions that we need to be aware of as we enter into the spiritual realm. Most Christians, especially those who were brought up in the West, were not aware of these potential dangers regarding the spiritual realm. This chapter is something we definitely cannot neglect.

The experiences of the inner world are the prime realities that give us our approach to life. The basis for our widely varying emotions and feelings and values. If we don’t deal with them directly, at the point of entry, these realities can operate autonomously within us. We can become puppets of the inner world, sometimes pulled happily by forces of light (which unfortunately have a way of shifting), or perhaps more often sucked into aggressiveness and destruction…If we are free of such problems, if we are healthy in body, mind and personal relationships, we can probably avoid looking inward, unless we become tormented by the collective ills of society in which we all share. So far, however, I have run into very few people whose lives were going this well at every level. When we really look at our actions and reactions to others we may realize how often they are unconscious and unsatisfactory, and this can be the first step toward an inward venture.

Most of the people I have known needed this relationship with the inner world more than they realized. When their masks were down, it was clear that they did not need judgment. They were already dissatisfied with themselves, already judging themselves too much. I have found in counseling that my task is often to encourage people to be more gentle with themselves. Many of us really need to discover what is good about us and to develop these qualities rather than to concentrate endlessly on all that is wrong. Often people who are the most vocal about their religion are lacking in balance for just this reason. They are practically unconscious of their best qualities, and they try to make religion compensate for what they feel is the muck in themselves.

There always seem to be people who try t to reduce religion simply to the act of turning inward and reveling in what is found there. But this is a very immature idea of religion. Similarly, when meditation is reduced to going inward and luxuriating in either images or simply feelings, it does not touch the real meaning of religion. In genuine religion, looking inward to discover what is there is only the first step. The real task begins as one learns to deal with the images and feelings that arise, and then goes on to relate them to one’s practical outer life at the office, helping or playing with one’s children, or going on a vacation with friends.

Our trouble in dealing with the inner world begins at the point where we see ourselves in the driver’s seat, responsible for our own actions, with no need to go back and discover a step at a time how our rationale is born out of interaction with spiritual realities. It is when men and women begin to feel that they have a rational knowledge of all there is to know about religious ways of dealing with these realities that they go off the deep end, with destructive results. Real maturity starts with realizing that we must go back again and again to the source and keep seeking practical religious wisdom and methods of handling what we find. We all remain beginners at this level.

Playing around with either the spiritual world or the physical one without this guidance makes us vulnerable to all kinds of forces we cannot control. We in the West have learned a great deal about matter and how to release its energy. But we are babes in the woods when it comes to understanding how spiritual forces influence what we do with our science. Eastern peoples, who are basically more introverted, have learned a great deal about accommodating themselves to the spiritual world, but they have not worried much about understanding matter.

What I am suggesting is that—although entering the spiritual realm is dangerous—if the three main conditions for going inward are met, then the perils can be lessened and largely avoided, and one can begin to think about some of the real rewards. These conditions, which we have discussed as making up the climate for meditation, are: (1) to be conscious of personal human need, particularly in starting on this way; (2) to realize that there is a spiritually creative center, a higher, loving will that has already conquered evil; (3) to keep working to form real human relationships. They are all so vitally necessary that without them the process dead-ends or worse. P 70-77

It is true that we seldom take spiritual world seriously. We enjoy hearing ghost story or supernatural phenomenon, but we don’t realize we can be influenced by it even though we don’t enter into the spiritual realm. We assumed there is a chasm that separates the spiritual world from the physical one. But what we don’t know (at least from a Western perspective) is that the physical world in many ways is interconnected with the spiritual or oppressed by the spiritual reality. We don’t admit or face it simply makes the spiritual force become unconscious or hidden. It does not go away or stop making impact in our lives. Our denial only makes things worst.

By connecting with the loving Heavenly Father through prayer and meditation empowers us to deal with this spiritual reality with ease. We focus not so much on the negative or evil undercurrent that are prevailing around us but on God. The victory of the cross is our shield and our weapon. We rely not so much on our will power to have victory over Satan but by the Cross of Christ. Satan had been defeated by the Cross and we simply proclaim his victory in the spiritual realm. Meditation and prayer are means for us to listen to God and to be molded by Him daily. As we train our souls to be constantly attentive to God, we walk in the light just as He does. The Apostle John said, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Our outward behavior should be an expression or display of our inner reality. Pray that you will spend time to meditate on His word over this long weekend.

With love from Him in the spiritual realm,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Devotional reading 170211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. This is a wet day for nature. Hopefully it is a cleansing day for us from inside out. Nature regenerates itself from season to season. Wet winter is for roots to deepen and absorb as much moisture as possible for budding in spring. Wet weather slows down our activities so that we can spend more time to meditate and deepen our relationship with God. I will run out of my battery if I don’t charge my phone at night. We do not have any significant contribution like love, to offer this world, if we do not have “charging” time in Christ daily.

The most basic premise for giving love is knowing the person one loves. Before there can be any real love, one must find out what the other person is like. One has to become aware, conscious of that person’s true being, in order to love that very person and not some image of one’s own that one projects upon the other. It is altogether too easy to believe that I really love someone when all I am doing is enjoying my own ideal of what I would like that person to be. And probably the surest way of finding out the difference is by listening to the other person, allowing oneself to be open and sensitive to that person s real reactions.

Listening to others is an art that can be learned. Leaning to listen to God helps, but it also works both ways. We listen better to God and the beings of the spiritual world when we allow ourselves to be open to human beings and their deeper reactions. At the depth of every human being is a shy, timid spirit like a beautiful bird. As long as one judges or throws out personal opinions, that depth, that spirit remains hidden and afraid. To discover what it is there, one must learn to be quiet and wait with openness, expecting a response. This is the first step in Christian living with one another. Christian fellowship and community do not begin until we have learned to listen to other people just as they are. Only then can most of us begin to discover this essence of our souls.

Takes real security within oneself to be open to the t totality of another human being. In this listening we give neither approval nor disapproval. We accept the other’s ground of being and the other’s system of values just as they are…Listening with this kind of openness means allowing one’s whole e being to become involved without worrying about whether it is accepted or not. One reason most people are unable to do this is that they are unable to love themselves. In listening to people, one finds that below the surface very few of them can really abide themselves. It is because of this that solitary confinement is so painful; when one is shut off from the outside world, one comes face to face with oneself. Yet how can we pass love on to others, as Jesus asked of us, unless we can accept that love and understanding for ourselves?

If one can realize that there is need for love close at home, growth can begin right there, with the healthiest kind of groundwork to build on. We do not have to worry too much about our own feelings at the time; what matters is doing something that makes the other person feel loved. The test is not just whether we feel loving; it is more whether or not the other person feels loved by us. Christian love is not complete until the other person feels loved through contact with us… Any of us can develop this means of expressing love if we will take the trouble to think about the needs of others and to commune deeply with the source of love. In all kinds of less intimate situations—at work, or at play, and particularly in the classroom—one can bring love to the people one encounters by giving them room or space in which to live and grow. Or at times we may find that love requires us to support another person when events are forcing growth or change on that person. Some individuals need stability in order to grow, and sometimes they simply need the confidence to stay put when change does not mean growth.

There is one difficulty we usually escape when it comes to loving our enemies. Generally we have no trouble noticing either the people who cannot stand us or the unpleasant ones we cannot stand, particularly if we have never tried to forgive them or relate to them. If we avoid those who seem to be enemies, however, and do not try to accept them into our lives, we become stunted both in personal growth and in finding reality in our devotional live. Love implies forgiveness. It is hard for us to realize, but actually the only requirement the loving Father places on us, once we come to know Him in meditation, is that we forgive as we have been forgiven. Our first task is not so much to make contact with these people, but simply to stop our unkind actions toward them. Most often this means simply to stop our chatter about them, laying aside our almost unconscious backbiting reaction to them…Then, when we are making a real effort not to hurt people no matter h much we dislike them, we can begin to pray honestly for them, and we can expect some surprising results, especially in ourselves…By looking for the creative or positive in another person, and seeking other elements in that individual to which I can reach out, new capacities to love and to respond are born in both of us.

The warmth that is provided by our capacity to love is as necessary for the soul’s growth as any other part of the meditational way. It radiates from our efforts to express love to those both at home and farther away…Steadily the warmth that is given by this kind of action draws the soul toward the reality of the loving God. Step by step the soul’s reach grows, so that it becomes easier to find the One who is love through meditation and to carry more of His love out actively to others. P65-69

I appreciate Kelsey’s sharing about this subject of love and meditation. I found it to be true in my own growth. The more we draw close to God the more we develop His love within us. It takes encourage and security to love others, especially your “enemies.” Only when you find the reality of love in God and learn about yourselves in the light of His love, we can reach out to others with love. Love is not an easy action that involves acceptance, forgiveness, sacrificial giving and making other people feel loved (not that you have expressed love). These activities begin from the intimate walk with God through meditation and prayer on a daily basis. We love because He first loves us. People cannot give love if they have never experienced the genuine love from above. It is easy to preach a sermon on love and run some religious activities in the name of the gospel – god’s forgiving love; it is hard to truly love God and others. We are low on this kind of love. We love in expecting to receive something in return. We love in order to make us feel great. There is nothing wrong to love with the above expectation. But love does not remain on that level. We love because when we draw close to the Lover of our soul, we just cannot stop expressing His love to others as our act of worship (Romans 12:1).

With love to you in Christ,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Devotional reading 160211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I hope you are safe and sound after the storm. Thank God for providing us shelter in a stormy weather. It is something we should not take for granted. It is out of God’s mercy and grace that we are in His loving embrace. Let’s see how this creative power of life will transform our being and actions in daily encountering with our world.

Often the elements we have been discussing are all present, and find no life, no vitality in meditation simply because we separate it from morality We see no connection between our prayer life and our actions. The two, however, cannot be separated for they are of the same fabric. What we do with our lives outwardly, how well we care for others, is as much a part of meditation as what we do in the quietness and turning inward. In fact, Christian meditation that does not make a difference in the quality of one’s outer life is short-circuited. It may flare for a while, but unless it results in finding richer and more loving relationships with other human beings or in changing conditions in the world that cause human suffering, the chances are that an individual’s prayer activity will fizzle out.

Loving actions provide yet another condition that is needed for die soul to develop through meaningful meditation. They provide the necessary warmth that the sprout of new life can break through the surface and continue to grow. One of the great contributions of the Hebrew prophets was their understanding of direct interplay between people’s everyday living and their approach to God through ritual and prayer. They believed that the only sure basis for relationship to the just God was to show justice in one’s own actions.

Meditation and the inner way are like a spiral staircase. The first steps bring us to a realization of the nature of the God to whom we are opening ourselves. Then if we are serious about going on and not just pretending or hypo- critical, this realization requires putting what we have learned into action, coming to a new level of caring for others or of action in the world. Once we are trying to act upon the meaning we have found, we are ready again for a new level of meditation; and again with new insights into the reality of the Risen Christ, we are given new understanding of what our actions ought to be and a new basis for directing them. At one level we may become open t to the joy of many different relationships, or at another to the sorrow and suffering that make for sympathy with untold numbers of people and their condition in life. As each again and again new levels of community with God. This seems to be an unlimited process. In this way real social action grows from an experience of God.

How does one go about shaping one’s life so that it will manifest this love, giving of oneself even when one’s own needs cry out to be met? First of all, such love is not created by one’s own effort. It happens when a person allows the love discovered inwardly, through meditation and ritual, to pour out through life in action. Since this is not our first and foremost human reaction, it does take effort to cooperate with this creative reality when one finds it. Allowing love to work through us takes some doing, but it is far more certain than relying on our own efforts. Unless we first find the reality of the Other who gives love, our attempts to imitate it are often self-seeking, shallow and egocentric.

There is really no way that we can help other people become open to relationship with their fellow humans and with God except through an expression of love. Otherwise they remain fortresses that may be conquered and brought to subjection, but not to open relationship. What we have to learn, to begin with, is how to open the first gate so that the reality of love can work in us and then flow toward others. As this love reaches another individual, then that individual is opened to the loving Father who waits patiently at the doorway of every soul. Indeed, where there is genuine love for another person, it is as if God communes with God through two human beings.

One of the main purposes of meditation is to expose us to the reality of the Father in such a way that we can become the kind of people who are able to love. His life radiating through us cleanses, heals and transforms us. Then we can truly love in the way that Jesus asked of us. He did not tell us that we are His followers when we are great at meditating and religious activities, but only when we love one another as He loved us. This is the ultimate criterion of our lives, which can be fully realized only as we turn inward and open ourselves to God.

Yes, our intimate encounter with God should transform our attitude and relationship with people. The purpose of drawing close to God through meditation and prayer is to realize our loving relationship with Abba Father. Our Father wants to convey His message to us that we are His very beloved. We don’t need to do anything to earn His love. His love is available to us just as a baby does not need to do anything to earn his or her mother’s love. The bonding between us and God pre-exists before we are even born. Paul said, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph 1:4-5). In other words, we are the targets of His love from day one. He created us to enjoy this love from above. We miss the best gift in the world if we become too busy to enjoy His love through meditation and prayer in our daily life. Remember. You are His beloved children no matter what the world may say or what others may think. And He wants His love to flow through you in order to open other people to realize this love of God which is also available for them.

Enjoy this creative power of love with you,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Devotional reading 150211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Praise God for a refreshing nature after the rain. Green leaves and grasses are budding everywhere outside my office window. This is a new day to celebrate the goodness and faithfulness of God. His unconditional love displays on earth as it is in heaven. Praise His Holy Name. Amen.

According to Jesus of Nazareth, God is a prodigal, spendthrift love. He spelled it out in His great story of the father and son, which should probably be called the parable of the prodigal father. Not only does the father receive his son back without a word of criticism—knowing that the son is judging himself too much already—but he brings out the best that he has. Instead of ordinary clothes he brings the best robes, instead of a meager meal they kill the fatted calf. And instead of recrimination he places rings on his fingers. Even toward the self- righteous elder brother, he is open and caring. Instead of chiding him for being interested only in justice, the father practices reconciliation and begs him to come to the party and join in their rejoicing. This, as Jesus Himself revealed, is the kind of God men find when they turn to Him for relationship, for a re-connection to the life that they need.

Although in rare instances we do dream of such a world and such relationships, usually we are afraid to believe that either we or God could be this way. We do not dare to reach out toward God courageously, risking the hope that He may be like that. Until we are willing to take that risk and venture on this path, we actually limit the fullness of relationship that God wishes to give. It is difficult for a human father to relate with affection and warmth when he is mistrusted, rejected or held at arm’s length. He cannot give all he longs to give. It is no different with the heavenly Father who is far more sensitive to our actual inner response to Him. If one sees God as a vicious tyrant or Oriental potentate one robs Him of the opportunity to give us love…. Few of us are able to contemplate acting in this way until another person has demonstrated such action toward us and reassures us that it is safe. Even then it takes a lot of meditating before one can break out of the human pattern of revenge and anger, retribution and destructiveness, and consider taking this risk oneself.

The main point of the doctrine of the Trinity is simply that God is essentially the same as Jesus of Nazareth. They are not only alike but the same in being. How many battles the theologians had on this issue. It is an important one…And if w really believe in the Trinity, we will let it show in our lives. This does not depend upon our ability to explain the intricacies of this mystery or how well we know the history of its being understood. Real belief in the Trinity is determined by how we act toward God, how we meditate, how we pray, and especially how we treat our fellow human beings. As I have said before, and probably will say again, our actions tell more about what we really believe than all our intellectual formulations of doctrine.

If one turns to God then, with some expectation of finding the reality expressed by the Trinity, what will one look for God to be like? Certainly if God does unite the qualities of Jesus of Nazareth and the prodigal father, He is better than any human father. First of all, He understands the human plight, the tensions and agonies of human life and how prone we are to being swept away either by selfishness or by evil. He knew what it was like to be a human being in Jesus of Nazareth, and He cares about us no matter what we have been or done…He also gives us freedom. There is nothing that can really prevent us from turning away from Him or mocking Him. He has confidence that in the end nothing else but relationship with Him will satisfy us, and so He waits. He knows that only love given in freedom and only relationships founded on freedom are real. His desire for us is not to pin us down but to see us grow and develop just as far as our potential and our opportunities will permit. In order to help us achieve our greatest potential, He offers us healing and transformation…Through meditation we can locate this precious vein buried deep within us and begin to open passageways of belief in this kind of God and the experiences He makes possible. Meditation is one way that brings us to this power and helps us stay open to it so that we can become what we are capable of being. Finding this kind of God enables us to grow into what we were meant to be. It is a wild gamble to look for a God like this, but what do we have to lose?

Meditate and prayer are concrete actions that we can do to wait upon the Lord or receive the actions of God. In other words, any spiritual exercises are our reaction toward the loving initiation of God to mankind. We don’t know how it works. We may think it is our initiation or decision to pray and meditate about God. But in reality, our human efforts are inadequate to reach a God bigger than our human imagination can handle. The more we trust our “approaches” the more we put God into our little boxes of theology or spiritual disciplines. Yes, it is because of God’s grace that our prayers are answered or heard. It is because of His love that He reveals to us through our meditation. But it is not our prayer and meditation that enable us to find God. Other religions put their faith in the “religious rituals and practices” to empower them in not only reaching God but manipulating Him to do what they want Him to do. Prayer and meditation are hard works because they are beyond our natural ability to handle. They are difficult work because they require us to rest, to yield and to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit from within. Thus God reminded the psalmist in Psalm 46:10: “Be still (rest) and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” God will be exalted in the earth when His people yield to Him in prayer and meditation daily…Would you?

With heart of thanksgiving in His love,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Devotional Reading 140211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for the blessings of rain and moistures. We may complain about the inconvenience. But without the seasonal rain we suffer a lot of consequences. Sometimes life is full of this kind of experiences. We complain about some “bad or inconvenient” encounters like rain on Valentine Day that seems to ruin the festivity. But rain is properly the loving gift that God has given to us who need it for our survival. “We need it but we don’t like it” is a common kind of contradiction in life that we learn to deal with from time to time. It also causes us to meditate on the kind of God we deal with not only just temporarily but eternally.

Christian meditation is based on a view of the world that finds each individual important, both in the material realm and in the nonmaterial or spiritual realm. In this practice of meditation one expects to meet someone, and the encounter is usually experienced as a relationship with a person. Even to talk about it one must generally resort to images. Sometimes the encounter itself is experienced in vivid inner images. Christian meditation is not a way of escaping from one’s condition. Rather it is something we undertake in order to bring the totality of our being into relationship with a person, an Other to whom we can relate. Before anything else this means stepping out in trust, experimenting to see if one does find such a reality of the loving Father or the Risen Christ.

Through meditating we explore in order to know more and more of God. But before He is discovered, a person only believes; through experiencing a relationship one comes to know. Believing is a stage on the way to knowing. Consequently one of the main conditions for effective meditation is to gain some idea of the reality we are seeking. This is found in the Christian story. It is the Good News of Christianity; it asserts that God is like Jesus, that at the heart and core of reality is the same loving, forgiving concern expressed in the life and teachings of Jesus and in His story of the prodigal…The reality of love revealed by Jesus demands real relationship and, as I have tried to suggest, this is difficult for us. Most of us are quite willing to be cared for, to be coddled and protected, but it takes great courage for men and women to relate, even to each other. Real relationship is not often found among human beings.

Whenever real love and relationship develop between human beings, they face the demanding task of coming to terms with the less pleasant elements of themselves. God offers us a far more accepting love than any human relationship, and we actually shy away from it because of the deepening honesty and growth it requires, both of which involve shedding one’s skin time after time. This is difficult and demanding.

Yet Jesus of Nazareth tells us to approach God by addressing Hin “Abba.” This is one of His unique contributions to religious thought and I practice. Christians are told to turn to the very force that moves the sun and other stars and speak like small children who need their father and call out “Daddy!” knowing that they will be answered. In other religions, and even among many “Christians,” there is a very different idea of God.

Most of the world pictures the ruler of the universe like an Oriental potentate who must be approached almost crawling on one’s belly. His justice is not questioned. He is feared, because He is infinitely distant, infinitely just, and He administers the justice with a heavy hand. Often He appears very much like an almighty steamroller whose majestic will and wrath and judgment must be accepted with resignation, without hope. There are even people to whom God appears to be an unreasonable tyrant who strikes out angrily one moment and comforts and heals the next. No wonder people have little desire to relate to such a God and prefer to leave prayer to the professionals. Those who hold such ideas of God deep within themselves cannot help but pray very differently from Christians who find the love of a father for a child at the heart of their most central experiences.

This is indeed our privilege to be introduced to God as our Abba Father by our Lord Jesus. We don’t need to worry about how the owner of this universe may punish us because of our sins. Yes, we deserve the ultimate punishment of eternal death, yet God accepts and forgives us just like the father of the prodigal son. The prodigal son rebelled against his father. He wasted all his gifts (money, time and talents) which were meant for him to invest in life for his selfish desires. Nevertheless, as he returned to his father with a repentant heart he was embraced with loving forgiveness. We questioned this kind of love and condemned it as “spoiling” and “unfair” just as the elder son in the story protested. This kind of unconditional love is truly beyond human being can comprehend. However, this is the kind of love that God wants us to learn from Him and apply to one another. Only God can provide love of this kind for building real relationship.

With full conviction or faith in such a loving God, we are taught to pray to Him…Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom comes. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…We believe He receives our prayer and our whole being wholeheartedly and lovingly. Praise the Lord!!!

With love from our Father,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Devotional reading 110211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Thank God for another beautiful day in the Bay Area. God is doing His amazing work within and among us each day. I found myself interacting with God more as I re-read Kelsey’s book on meditation. His sharing made me engage in a deeper level of self examination and soul searching in terms of my relationship with God. God wants us to enjoy our relationship with Him and experience healing within our soul.

Eastern religions try to make the same opening and then give the person specific way to follow without considering the fact that one cannot lay one’s own culture aside and discard it. You may accept the Eastern approach, but you are forced to leave a part of yourself behind. The religion of fear does much the same thing. It cracks the individual open and then submits one to inner and social pressure to go a certain route. If one deviates, one will either be ostracized or condemned to hell. The effects of this kind of training are so destructive that one wonders how a religion supposedly concerned with love could have turned to this method. It defeats love entirely by walling off parts of every personality so that one cannot even know the whole person, let alone love that person. Many people have been scarred for life by the use of this method. They are so damaged by this kind of religion that they never learn the meaning of love or its healing effect on the personality. While a certain amount of fear may be healthy for some individuals, it is almost always destructive to apply any such religious idea wholesale, without considering individual differences.

At one time the survival of Christianity depended upon a fellowship who knew what it was all about. As long as the early Church faced the threat of being wiped out by a hostile empire, every Christian was given three years basic training before being baptized and received into full fellowship. The inner husk of old attitudes and old images was broken down and penetrated by a new reality so that every Christian knew both the need for God and the need for community. All Christians had to have a faith that prepared them to meet death, if necessary. Today, however, the pressures seem to be of a different type.

A great many people, however, find that ordinary religious practice 1 has lost its meaning for them, and they are threatened by pressures from within. They look for meaning and try to find some source of power or of the energy to put their lives in order. In the Church these people often feel only more pressure to art or to be something different from what they are. There is good reason for them to try the inner way of meditation. They have less to fear from being opened up further to the darkness within as they are already seeking something beyond it.

Then there is a group who have little tolerance for any kind of religious way, inner or outer. “These people often project their darkness onto others. Arousing the hatred and anger that lead to war and other violence. They have no approach to reality except through the outer world, and they slip easily into the delusions of psychosis…In addition, there is one group who, without exception, require this experience of direct contact with spiritual reality, both destructive and creative. These are the religious professionals, who undertake to mediate the realities of religion to others, often to people who have lost faith in what the religious institution stands for. Unless there are leaders who know the experiences for themselves, it becomes like the blind leading the blind.

The pressures on people today seem to be directed more and more toward greater consciousness. If the constant drive toward growth and consciousness does express our greatest need and wholeness, then certainly not everyone should be exposed to this experience whether needful of it or not. Many people are getting along with their task of growth quite well as they are, and the place to start growth is by examining their own lives and what their desires and expectations are. After this is decided there comes the need to find a fertile soil, to seek direction, fellowship and encouragement from those who have already gone this way, and, above all, to be sure one is following a serious goal and has some map of the inner world that one is entering. The inner meditative journey is not a weekend excursion to a land of sun and happiness. It is a way of life for people who actually feel a need for it and who have become conscious of their need. In the final analysis this is a way for people who have been unable to find meaning by other methods. It is important to break open the ego to deeper reality but it is nearly impossible to legislate one way for all people and one can only do it on an individual basis and with the greatest care.

I agree that meditation or contemplative prayer is a lifestyle. If it is a lifestyle in terms of how we relate to our Creator God, then it is difficult to confined ourselves to a certain way. Love finds its way to express itself. God created each one of us in a unique manner. He empowers us with ability to interact with Him in according to our unique mindset. By saying this, it does not mean all religious practices eventually reach God. Man-made religions have their limitation. They try to reach out to God through different kind of meditation, but God is beyond their imagination. We need God’s initiative and revelation. The Bible becomes a road map in our spiritual journey to trace back toward the source of revelation. The attitude of submission becomes our fuel or energy in moving forward. We wait upon the Lord in total abandonment of ourselves, and let the Word of God to guide us in our meditation. Once we develop this kind of daily interaction with God through His Word, we become more conscious in how to conduct our lives in every situation that we encounter with attitude of submission to His guideline or principle for life. This kind of meditative lifestyle will truly make us become channel of His blessings to others. Amen.

Have a blessed weekend to come,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Devotional reading 100211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Once in a while, I have this luxury to spend a whole morning in reading and meditation without interruptions. We need time like this to deal with our inner cry for help. Work is good because God intended for us to work. Work becomes bad if we use it to cover up our inner need or craving for God. Satan wants us to be too busy to pray and interact with God.

The teachings of Jesus suggest that we should not wait until we know all about suffering to find our need. We need to be delivered from the source of our inhumanity, Jesus taught, and He told us first of all to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Then in various ways He showed that the task is to look within and to know what is causing the trouble and whether we are nursing anger or harmful desires in our hearts. Our job is not just to wait for evil to happen in the outer world and men try to do something about the pain and agony it causes. Instead, Christians are to recognize the source of evil within themselves so that they can seek help in order to stand outwardly against it.

It is often easy to identify this force within oneself. This force is like a death wish which attacks a person in depression and anxiety, fear and rage as many people find when they turn inward. No matter how much one struggles against it, this force is still there ready to tear the person apart and drag him/her down into icy isolation. None of us escapes its destructive drag entirely. Some people simply give way to outbursts easily, while others bottle up the lousy feeling it arouses and suffer the effects of tension. Either way the effect is uncreative and hostile to love and growth.

The idea that we have outgrown our need to turn to God for help in dealing with evil, or the idea, in fact, that there is no such thing as cosmic evil, would be funny if it did not show such a tragic lack of understanding. This force has to be faced and dealt with or it will keep on turning our homes and our world into a battlefield. We sometimes find it hard to understand why Jesus said that the poor in spirit, the meek and sorrowing are blessed, but per perhaps it was because they are the ones who know they can’t manage their lives by themselves. Once a person realizes that there is a spiritual or psychoid world as well as physical one, that person learns that there are forces of evil more destructive than the simply human ones, and that these spiritual forces of evil are those that the individual cannot deal with on one’s own. They are more powerful realities like the force of gravity or some other force of the universe, than many of the more recent ways of thinking about Satan or the evil one would suggest.

We can be so protected by life that we fail to see the depth and power of evil, and we wonder why all the to-do about something that should require only some real intelligence and reason. This failure to comprehend evil as an autonomous force with a power to affect human life is a kind of unconsciousness that can lead to disaster. As Berdyaev remarked, the powers of evil certainly appear to be at least as intelligent as the powers of light. He made these remarks as he was looking back over his life with the communist revolution and the two world wars, all of which he had survived.

When we do awaken and realize our own helplessness, then the second door is opened to the inward way. The realization of our spiritual poverty and our need for help from beyond ourselves is the moisture that breaks open the seed. This breaking of the husk fulfills the second condition for the practice of prayer and meditation. It takes great courage, however, to enter this door or to seek for this moisture unless life has already done it for us. Once the depth of your soul has been penetrated, you have little choice; either you follow the religious way like a search for rare treasure, or else you must turn back to the ordinary world with resolute detachment and probably despair. At times one wishes one could back up and start over, but consciousness was apparently designed without a reverse gear.

The reflection on the reality of evil is very insightful to me. It helps me realize two common reactions toward suffering or unpleasant experience in life: one is aggression and other is avoidance. My natural instinct toward any threat of suffering is to escape. I don’t want to face any helpless situation that involves unpleasant experience, whether it involves myself directly or with others. I would walk away and pretend not seeing it. Or I simply switch channel if it was on TV. Those human tragedy seemed to surface the dark side of my soul or fear that I don’t want to encounter. I would rather avoid to face it – I would prefer comedy or happy ending drama if I were to watch a movie. Any evil story even if it was only a fiction would cause some uneasy feelings or fear within me that was unpleasant. And on the other hand, as Kelsey shared, suffering could stir up evil aggression in return. “An eye for an eye” is human common reaction toward evil treatment just as our Lord Jesus admitted; but his reaction toward the evil one was love. He said, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:43-44). It is certainly not easy to face the reality of evil squarely, and seek God’s help to react in a godly manner with love. We will not be able to learn this kind of love unless we recognize the reality of evil within us. We hope that God will always apply this kind of love to sinners like us. This reality of evil within me surfaced in the form of random aggression in my imagination and dream that totally surprised myself. I hate to see that evil forces within me unleashed when I were to encounter a “prefect” evil environment. We truly need to seek help from God in delivering us from the evil one daily…Amen.

Love you with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12b),

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Devotional Reading 090211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I wished I had brought my camera with me. The San Francisco Bay is so beautiful as I look out from my office. The view of the city and Bay bridge is crystal clear along with a bright blue sky. It is indeed spectacular! Thank God for giving us life to enjoy this wonderful playground that He created for us – our Planet Earth. God uses this earthly experience to point us to something even greater and incredible in the life to come. What a blessing we are to be in the family of God today and forever. Amen.

Most of the time people are able to keen up a good front and appear and often feel confident and satisfied with life. Our society seems to demand and reward this kind of self-sufficiency. But behind the human mask are often pain and hurt which make it possible to experience real confidence and satisfaction in life only by KNOWING that a loving God is there. 1 have found some people who reach this reality through the Church and the rituals that express it in action, and others who have come to it through the practice of meditation. Neither of these ways, however, is easily available to many individuals today, who have lost the reality of the belief system. The experience of recovering it is not one I would wish for any of us, but in all my reading and personal experience I have found no alternative for those who come face to face with a meaningless universe. You can then keep your guard up and perhaps risk going to pieces, or else you must allow yourself to become like the seed and be opened up to new life.

Working with people at all levels of our society has brought home to me how often the greatest misery and pain occur along with great wealth. These people have no outer problems important enough to keep their attention diverted from the emptiness of their own being. With no outer problems, they are exposed to the reality of the inner or spiritual world. They feel as though they are naked and alone and are usually guided only by fear of what might be found if they looked within for meaning. This is the reason for making almost a fetish of bridge clubs and bingo parties. If one is busy enough it isn’t necessary to look within. Anyone who is stripped in this way and forced to look inward usually faces fear and agony. Like solitary confinement, this exposes us to the depth of our own blackness. We often find whatever meaning we have known disintegrating; there is fear of finding only a void, fear of death and dissolution (particularly in this time when so few people see any place for an after-life), and the threat of condemnation.

In working with college students, particularly over the past six years. Have found that their neurotic problems spring far more often from a refusal to deal with religious reality than from ordinary pathology. For them neurosis is often the “sacred illness that forces them to seek meaning. Few of them have suffered any other trauma than comfortableness. Their pain and suffering result from being cut off, for one reason or another, from their religious roots. Many of them are aware of their need for meaning, and they are usually perceptive enough to realize that they will not find it until they encounter a new level of inner reality. Some of them are willing to take the time and effort for the inner way, rather than merely shopping around for an easier behavioral answer to their problem.

Indeed, sickness in all forms is one of the most common ways unconscious need shows up in our society today. With all the improvements in medical treatment, a larger percentage of people require care for illness than ever before. Repressed fear and anxiety can interfere with our resistance to bacteria or to cancer cells and can literally destroy our bodies in dozens of ways. Medicine has come to recognize the deadly potential of this kind of stress.

There is no more effective way for Christians to realize their own needs and to help deal with the needs of others than by sharing in the work of healing. They can do this, first by knowing their own fears and anxieties and helping others to become aware that they have these emotions, and then by helping to reveal and share the base of real meaning which gives people the security and courage to deal with fear rather than letting it build up in unconscious tensions. In the process, some healing miracles do happen, and sometimes this process also gives an individual gradual healing. As people face and handle their problems, they often find complete health of body, mind and soul. By using prayer and meditation much as the early Church did to bring hope and healing to people, we open both ourselves and others to the healing reality of the loving God…In addition, the medical profession is suffering today from more than a century of separating physical healing from its spiritual and emotional base. As a profession, doctors themselves show more problems with drugs and alcohol, neurosis and divorce, as well as a higher suicide rate, than any other profession…The detached medical attitude does not work very well when a doctor must deal constantly with human misery and suffering and fear of death. The patient is not satisfied and the doctor develops unconscious guilt. On the other hand, the physicians who relate to patients with empathy and understanding need some belief in a pervading meaning to it all—some experience of the Other who gives meaning when nothing else does—if they are to deal with these things day after day and not go under themselves.

If our need for meaning is to open us up to the reality that can give this meaning, however, first of all it has to be recognized. Whether one is a doctor or a theologian, lawyer or politician, or simply a layperson who depends on these Other human beings for an approach to the realities of life, the first step is simply to acknowledge that one has tried to depend just on human resources and that this leaves a great deal to be desired.

I appreciate the transparency of this writer who shared about his own healing experience from depression, and how prayer and meditation pointed him back to the Greatest Healer of his body and soul. I cannot agree more with his observation. In my own pastoral ministry and personal growth as a Christian, I am fully convinced that body, soul and spirit are one interconnected being. If we separate them in dealing with our health problem, we will not experience a sustaining recovery. Our physical and psychological illness may remind us of a deep seated need for spiritual healing – this healing can only be experienced by first recognizing our needs for God’s help, and secondly by abandoning our souls and spirit to His surgery (His cut and mold in making us whole again). There is no quick fix “spiritual surgery.” It takes place daily and gradually in our soul as we return to Him with expectation in prayer and meditation. In another word, reading a short devotional like Daily Bread, is not good enough. It takes time to allow the Holy Spirit to do His surgery within us. The Bible said, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13). The Word of God is truly an invasive and intrusive procedure to bring healing to our whole being. And this healing God happens to be our Loving Heavenly Father, who operates in us with His tender loving kindness. Praise the Lord!!

Sharing from the same healing in Christ,

Monday, February 7, 2011

Devotional reading 070211

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. It is great to have a day off after preaching in a weekend retreat. Praise God for speaking through me to this gathering of believers. Pray that God will continue to do His mighty work in the lives of these brothers and sisters that they will shine for Jesus in wherever they are. Praise the Lord!

Meditation is the laboratory of the soul. Like the physicist studying the atom, or a biologist working with the cell, or the psychologist trying to understand a complex, the person who turns inward learns about the realities that are found there, their patterns and how to relate to them. While this comes by experience, still one does not start from scratch, any more than a scientist would blithely forget everything in textbooks and try to reconstruct it all every time an experiment is performed. The scientist and the explorer in the spiritual world both need the accumulated wisdom of the past, even when it has to be questioned and sometimes brought up to date.

But one great difficulty in learning about the spiritual world today is that we have forgotten how to use much of the wisdom that is available to us. It often seems that the only place to go for guidance is to the Eastern religions which, it is true, can tell us much about our inner world. But when it comes to the practical effect of meditation on the things that are important in Western life, Eastern thought leaves a real gap. We are then faced with an undesirable choice. We can accept the Eastern idea that the outer reality of life is transitory or illusory and of no great value, or we can turn back to the standard values of our own world and go on leaving spiritual realities out of our calculations about the world that matters to us right now. What we in the West generally fail to realize is that we have another choice, although a difficult one, and that our task is to learn what our own tradition says about this question and then go ahead and try it out.

There are a few things, however, that all of us probably need to realize at die outset. First of all, a strong ego, a strong consciousness is indispensable if a person is to find relation to the spiritual world through meditation. Having an ego is not bad. It refers to having a strong and stable center of one’s personality. To go upon this way one has to give up the ego or self, and one cannot very well give up something that one does not have. The person who has never become established in the outer world is in no position to turn resolutely to the Risen Christ and allow Him to take direction. Our first obligation is to sink roots and find our point of view so that we are able to st? on course and take this kind of direction.

Much nonsense has been written about the spiritual world by people who were trying to open themselves to this realm before they were ready for it, without realizing that they were courting disaster. The most extreme example of this is the psychotic who encounters the spiritual realm…The psychotic has just as great religious experiences as anyone else, just as valid ones, but the problem is that he/she is not able to do anything about them except talk, having no life of his/her own into which such experiences could be integrated.

In taking this inner way of meditation, however, even the person with the strongest ego needs to realize that there are dangers, that one faces a vast world of contrasting and often conflicting realities. One might say that the mountains are higher, the oceans deeper, die colors even more vivid than in the physical world. Certainly the forces of light and darkness stand out far more clearly than we are accustomed to. And in the spiritual world we find not only greater beauty and creativity than in the physical one, but also the reality of destructiveness and ugliness, of evil itself.

One of the saddest misconceptions of the modern world is the notion that something which is spiritual must necessarily be good. In reality something can be truly evil through and through only when it is spiritual. It is usually in the spiritual world that such evil takes shape, when a subordinate or partial good takes over, pretends to be the central or the essential good, and becomes unmitigated evil. And there such evil is encountered, naked and direct, as the author of Ephesians described clearly when he wrote about putting “on all the armor which God provides, so that you may be able to stand firm against the devices of the devil. For our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the super human forces of evil in the heavens” (New English Bible, Eph. 6:1).

The inner way, the way of meditation is dangerous. Any practice which brings us into contact with forces from the spiritual world in this way puts us into the middle of a mighty struggle. To enter this arena for curiosity or diversion can be disastrous. Indeed there is only one thing more dangerous than entering upon this way, and that is not entering it (assuming you have a developed ego), for you then allow the destructive forces free play. If you do not get into the battle yourself and try to stay in touch with the forces of light, you become a blind target. You allow the forces of destructiveness to enter and eat away at your own soul, or else you project them upon other colors or classes of persons. other races or other nations. Whomever the darkness seizes in this way becomes an instrument of destruction and cruelty, sometimes even sucking a whole nation into cruel and bloody acts.

I know of no way that this danger can be met and overcome except by the way of meditation, and this is not child’s play…the message of Christianity is that we will first try the inner way—dangerous as it is—and seek the kingdom God, we will find help on the road ahead. The way of Christianity, as we shall see, provides solutions, hope, and victory, and the Good News is for both outer world and the one we can find within…The spiritual world can be discovered and experienced by anyone who really wants to find it. One acquires this knowledge by making the same hypothesis that other have made, and then experimenting with life. Faith, on the other hand, is given; it is a gift of trust that one does not stand alone against the forces of darkness in that world, but will find them already in flight from the Powers of the Risen Christ. Faith is what gives one the confidence to go ahead and learn about the reality of that world, to use the practice of prayer and meditation to open oneself to it.

In Eastern mysticism or religious practices, we realize how the evil forces are at work in human souls. Without the power of the Risen Lord, genuine religious practitioners fell into the evil trap. The power of the evil forces are real and attractive to these practitioners. They appeal to the ego of human souls like Satan’s temptation to Eve in her first encounter of this spiritual reality, “once you eat this forbidden fruit, you will receive super-natural power like God.” Through prayer and meditation, we witness the reality of this kind of temptation battling within our inner world, but find assurance that the power of our Risen Lord has won the ultimate victory. We learn to submit to His Lordship and follow His guide, so that we can realize the beauty of our inner world in Christ that help shape our outer being. Praise God for His abiding presence that energizes our whole being each day.

With love in His victorious name,

Friday, February 4, 2011

Devotional Reading 040211

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It was a blessing to have a longer quiet time before the Lord in reading and meditation this morning. I look forward to join a retreat in Pacifica with brothers and sisters from a East Bay church. This is the second time I speak to this congregation. Pray that the Holy Spirit reveals His Word to all of us, and nurture us with His own very presence.

Most religions believe that humanity is in touch with a nonphysical or quasi-physical realm of reality. We are in touch with a physical world of rocks and trees and enemy tribes-people. We are also in touch with a spiritual world inhabited by the spirits of the dead, by demonic and angelic power. Religious ritual, prayer and meditation were once ways that people used to deal with this spiritual reality, and being able to deal with that realm made a lot of difference about how life went with them... If there is no such realm, meditation at best is only talking to oneself, and at worst it verges on stupidity and illusion or outright madness. It is very difficult to open materialistic Western people’s eyes to the reality of the spiritual world. There is no way to find this reality except by trying something which they have been taught leads nowhere. This is one of the reasons why it so often requires desperation to get secular persons to try opening themselves to this reality which is new to them.

There can be little question about the way Jesus of Nazareth believed. He expressed quite clearly His understanding that we are in contact with two different worlds. This is seen in one after another of the parables where He often used some description of the physical world to illustrate what He was revealing about another realm of reality. It is seen in His various references to the angelic realm and in His teachings about the evil one, as well as in His understanding and healing of the one possessed by the demon, and also in His own experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. While Jesus certainly showed a thorough appreciation of the outer material world in all that He said and did. He also wanted men to know their relation to the world of spirit. This is assumed in all His teachings about prayer, which make sense only within such a framework. It is strange how seriously we take Jesus’ moral ideas and then ignore His world- view. Yet, if Jesus really was the incarnation of God, He probably has something to tell us about philosophy as well as morals.

The most vivid experience of the early Church was that of the Risen Christ. For these earliest Christians the experience was so real that when it came to setting down the record about Jesus Himself, they sometimes confused the teachings received by the Church from the Risen Christ with those that Jesus had given to the original disciples. The reality was so close to them that they did not even realize they were creating a problem…The great Fathers and Doctors of the Church who gave us our Trinitarian Christianity continued to express their knowledge of humankind as a bridge linking two worlds. They saw humanity with one side joined to the physical world of matter, and the other immersed in the nonmaterial but even more real world-of-spirit, and the human soul or psyche as the instrument of communication between the two.

Meditation is the practice, the art of letting down the barrier that separates one’s rational consciousness from the depth of one’s soul. In Christian meditation one is trying to come into touch with the spiritual world in a way that will open one’s whole being to the reality of this creative and integrating center, or the Risen Christ. The purpose is to allow the Christ to bring the split-off, conflicting parts of one’s being into fruitful relationship, and at the same time deliver one from destructive evil which seeks to keep the person fragmented and operating unconsciously. In this way one is brought together and given the single eye – that new center of being which allows a person to operate at more nearly full potential, creatively and freed from giving in to destructive impulses.

In reality, Christian prayer and meditation make sense only within some such framework. Unless we find a power like this beyond ourselves, we would do better to stay as conscious and rational as possible and try not to fool ourselves. But if prayer and meditation are what I have suggested, then few things that we can do are more important for our lives. Only in this way are we able to reach out to the reality that can make us whole and bringing us to maturity. This is the way we grant full reality to our sonship through Christ.

The “one eye” that Kelsey talks about is based on the teaching of Christ in Matthew6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” God grant us the eye to the non-materialistic world, which is the ultimate reality of the world. The Western world believes human reality lies only on what we see. But Christians believe human reality lies on what is unseen to our human eyes. This “one eye” (human consciousness or spiritual perception) enables us to realize the reality of our whole being. Paul prayed for spiritual illumination for the Ephesians in similar way, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:18-23). We will not be able to see the glorious reality of Christ if we do not exercise our “spiritual eyes” through meditation and prayer. This is not imagination per se but conscious awareness of this hidden reality through imagination or meditation. Hope your spiritual eyes will be enlightened by your deliberate abandonment of your whole being to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Have a blessed weekend,