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Losing Self


I hope you enjoy this comment by Ruth Burrows

Parallels between John of Cross and Ignatius of Loyola
“Ascent to Love:
The spiritual Teaching of St. John of the Cross”
by Ruth Burrows

“John of the Cross says if you want God, if you want
 to begin the ascent of the mountain, then you have to 
make a decision against self-importance. You have to remove yourself from the center-stage, see yourself as a member of a family, a community which you must serve.
This is what Jesus taught, and Paul after him.”

”Such a Willingness to forget the ego,
to lose sight of it, calls for firm faith in God’s love.”

”John of the Cross considers that there are very few 
spiritual persons who arrive at perfect courage and
 resolution in their conduct, free of all human respect. Some try to be detached and think they are
but they never entirely forget themselves on certain points regarding self-esteem and what the world thinks of them. They never wholly despise appearances. They can never say with the true bride: ‘Being deeply in love, I lost sight of myself; and yet was found…
They who truly love make shipwreck of themselves.'” 

”In his writings John of the Cross often speaks of
refreshment of spirit, how freedom from the ego brings peace. Indulging our selfishness only wearies us. 
The ego is like a child, fractious, restless, wanting
 now this, now that, never content with what is given. 
Afflictions and pain flow from the ego, Refreshment from the Spirit of God. The two cannot dwell together.

We all know what it is to be tormented and afflicted, laboring under a burden of anxiety and desire. ‘Cast it aside by coming to me,’ says Jesus. 
’I will refresh you.’
As fog darkens the sky and obscures the sun, or as a dirty mirror distorts an image, so the unbridled ego blocks light. Our natural power of reasoning is affected; we cannot see things as they are, cannot evaluate objectively while dominated by emotion and selfish desires. Still more,we are prevented from receiving the infused divine light. The finest intellect in the world cannot perceive truth while the heart is under the sway of selfishness.”

”The first effect of the divine encounter is a sharp
attack on this self-seeking. The stronger-than-we
comes to claim his own — and a hard time he has of
it! In all sorts of ways, in the events of our daily
life, in the lack of savor for spiritual things, he
seeks to reveal our helplessness, our inability to manage by ourselves.
Our very resistance increases our pain. We cannot trust. Inevitably we are basing everything on ourselves, our efforts, our success, our prayer and when these fail we panic.
‘How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.’ Hard, not because we cannot rise to heroic deeds,
not because some extraordinary feet is required, but simply because we cannot trust what we cannot see, understand, and control.

The kingdom of God, God’s own world is around us; there is simply nothing to stop us entering into it save that we are lumbered up, so bulging with self-possession that we cannot squeeze through the 
narrow door accessible only to ‘little ones’.”

”Those emotionally insecure, with a low self-image,
 for instance, are going to find all this much harder to bear than the secure person with a proper sense of personal value.

While guarding against assessment of the reality and depth of a spiritual happening by intensity of feeling, we must at the same time be ready to acknowledge that there may well be a truly mystical experience underneath a lot of neurotic symptoms.

God comes to us as we are, through what we are. Everything can be taken up and used by him To free us from ourselves and surrender us to him. 
Ostensible handicaps can prove a blessing
if only we will trust that what is impossible to us is possible to God, for ‘everything is possible to God’.”

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Written by John Hannah

November 18, 2010 at 9:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

My Friend’s Pen Story


I love getting mail from my friends. Here’s a friend telling me her version of my pen story.

John,

I really look forward to reading your blogs! I think you mentioned the Rescue Mission recently, which made me realize that I hadn’t dropped in with donation in a while. Saturday my daughter and I dropped by the mission with a car load of her toys, bikes, scooters, and clothes. I was very thankful to see her helping the guys bring everything in, especially wanting to ride her bike to the door. I was afraid she might have a meltdown about giving up her things, so it was awesome to see her giving heart.

Well, last night I realized that my little shopping bag containing my designer cocktail dress (meant for the dry cleaners) was missing. I was afraid that I had accidently donated it to the Rescue Mission. I was so upset and mad at myself for being so careless about leaving that little bag sitting around for days before I could find a really good dry cleaner. This morning I dug through the entire garbage can, then drove to the Rescue Mission to dig through the bags in the Agape store. On the way, I made a deal with God that if I found that dress, I would volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner. Then, as I realized the dress wasn’t in that pile of bags. In my frustrating (and ticked off at myself) moment, I was reminded of your pen story. Then I thought about your story of the guy wanting the car and how the Lord gave you the means to help him. I realized that I shouldn’t have made those conditional terms to help the needy. I thought maybe this all happened to bring me to action for the Lord, putting my own vanity aside. I then met my friend’s mom, Becky McRoy, in the main office and asked about the holiday needs. I thought about the mothers with little kids that I saw in the hallways and spoke with, wondering about their personal story. It occurred to me that I needed to let go of my insignificant loss, because these were people that didn’t even have a home to call their own. In fact, I listened to an incoming call from someone asking if the mission could cover utilities. When the receptionist said “no”, she then told the person what the check in hours were for staying at the mission.

On Saturday, I noticed the goal sign of 800 turkeys, especially because they usually post how many meals they serve. Today I learned that they are short 200 turkeys. They plan to serve 1000 meals, but I am sure you already know that. Corey told me they have over 100 people scheduled to serve food, but the real need is for the 200 turkeys. I am forwarding you the message he sent me today in hopes that you can help me spread the word quickly. I have worked with the community relations directory at Earth Fare, so I have contacted her in hopes of a donation. I am going to try some other grocery stores and contact friends.

I know you are a very busy man and obviously do a lot of charity work. However, anything you can do to help me secure these turkeys for them would be most appreciated. I am happy to pick up turkeys or checks from anyone you think would be interested.

If you are able to read this email, I did want to let you know this story and what an impact your words are having on those of us that read your blogs. The way you put yourself out there in print is a real testimony to how we are all capable of rising to the calling of being a true witness for Christ in our daily lives.

Sending you and your family blessings of thanksgiving,

Paula Haider

Written by John Hannah

November 17, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Thinking About Liberation Theology


7:05 AM
I began to think that my Examen should be done more meditatively rather than at the keyboard. However, I think a lot better, more focused when I am writing. I don’t think God minds as long as I am searching out his voice.

After the pen episode yesterday, nothing much happened. Two things stood out, however. First, I had lunch with a new friend. I met him by accident, sort of. Another friend and I were having lunch a couple of weeks ago and talking about building the retreat. When, my new friend came up and introduced himself to us and told us a little about himself. This guy really loves God. Of course, I can understand why! It reminds me of the time when Jesus told the preacher, those who have been forgiven much, love much. The reason we met yesterday was that I wanted to get some ideas from his experiences on how the retreat could best be organized to serve. Not only did he give me some great ideas but he had made some music CDs that he gave me. Although I’m not a fan of Christian rock music (I’m more of a Taize kind of guy), the very idea that his first act toward me was giving really struck me.

Then, last night, I was studying for my History of Theology class. We’re studying Liberation Theology. Whew, heavy stuff! It reminds me of the sermons I used to hear as a kid in the rural churches – except with a punch. As I thought about the passages below, I began to think with a little different twist. Although I know that God may place the poor and marginalized in a priority position because they cry out the loudest, too many times we forget about the more affluent and those with authority.

I have never been in a position where I went to bed hungry and I always had a bed to sleep in but I was crying out to the Lord. The problem was, I didn’t realize it. Let me tell you, it’s tough to keep up with the Joneses! To make sure you’re accepted. You have to constantly fight for the buck. Sometimes you have to justify your actions when you do something that you know is morally wrong. To be able to accumulate wealth, you have to be willing to keep wages as low as possible, even ship jobs overseas, or even hire immigrants who, working for peanuts, still have a better lifestyle than what they had. But, After all, accumulation is necessary. If we can’t accumulate, we can’t impress the crowd. We want to hang with the in-crowd and to do that we have to send our kids to the right schools, drive the right car, wear the right clothes, have the beach house, and be able to join or at least go to the right places. It is tough to be upwardly mobile! I believe that most of us who relate to this scenario and are held captive by it are screaming inside knowing that there has to be a better way. The problem is that, if you’re like me, before we do anything about it, God has to give us the grace of cutting our legs out from under us. We have to experience suffering so that we cry out to God yelling, “Where are you, God?” That’s when we get his attention.

But the LORD said, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land. Exodus 3:7-8

The four verbs here are powerful! He sees, He hears, He knows, He comes down to rescue. What a present God! Elizabeth Johnson reminds us that the word know is the same Hebrew word that’s used when Adam knew Eve. It is a very, very intimate knowledge. God is there, he’s just waiting to hear our cries of woe.

Once we’ve suffered and been rescued by God we can then apply the teachings of Jeremiah:
Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man glory in his strength, nor the rich man glory in his riches; But rather, let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows me, Knows that I, the LORD, bring about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth; For with such am I pleased, says the LORD. Jeremiah: 9:22-23

I think God can bring about kindness, justice, and uprightness on earth without any help from me. But, I also think it is by his grace that he lets me share in the joy of being used for building his kingdom on earth. He lets me find true happiness.

Written by John Hannah

November 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

What a Lost Pen Taught Me


7:48 AM
I really had a tough night. I woke up about four from a dream that I rely didn’t enjoy. It was truly not of the Good Spirit. When I tried to go back to sleep, the dog decided that she wanted to move around and her snoring seemed to be the loudest yet. So I got up and got ready for work. Before going to bed, I had put my ring, watch, and my Mont Blanc roller-ball in my pants pocket. At least, I thought I had. Anyway, I couldn’t find the pen anywhere. Searched and searched, the more I searched, the angrier I got. Why do I say all this? Because when I got to the office to have my time with God this was the passage I contemplated on.

“Brothers, I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now, for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way?”

I started thinking about why I was so upset at loosing that stupid pen. Then it came to me. That pen was a status symbol for me. Sure it wrote really well and I enjoyed using it. But, I also enjoyed pulling it out, especially around others. It increased my stature and provided me wih a sense of self-esteem and self-worth. I realize now that rivalry was at the heart of my anger. Yes, I hated losing the money. Yes, I hated feeling like an idiot. But, to me, the pen represented me being as good as and better than. It was pure and simple rivalry. Score one for the flesh, the imposter face, the “Big I.”

Lord, help me to remember Psalm 73 (if you hadn’t heard me say it before Ps. 73 is my life’s story),

“Whom else have I in the heavens? Nothing beside you delights me on earth.”

Jesus, I offer you the prayer from Saint Ignatius:

“Lord Jesus, I ask for the grace of an ever deeper commitment to you. Bring me to the point where I neither desire or prefer riches rather than poverty, fame and respect rather than disgrace, a long rather than a short life. Let my single purpose, my one over-riding goal be to bring honor and glory to You and become the person you created me to be.”

Written by John Hannah

November 11, 2010 at 9:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Literally Humble


7:59 AM
Yesterday was one of surprises and blessings. My activities included: reading the Psalms on the back porch, coming to the office for a brief time and doing some work, having lunch with my son Seth, dropping the car off to get it fixed after running over some trash that fell of a truck in front of me, having a meeting with my pastor, and going to class. The between times, driving from place to place, were filled with contemplating the theologies of Rahner, which I find difficult to understand. Some of his ideas I agree with but there are other thoughts that I disagree with totally.

While driving around, a friend from the Downtown Rescue Mission called and needed money to buy a truck. He wrecked his and now doesn’t have a means of transportation to get to work and school. I wanted to say no, but I didn’t. I told him I would buy the truck for him as long as we didn’t go above $2,500. While at lunch, I got an email from George Veras, the marketing guy at the Hall of Fame. He apologized for the late notice but wanted me to do a 4 hour telephone call Friday and would pay me $10,0000. Coincidence? God is so good! I think, He has been waiting on me to trust and surrender so that He might show me his faithfulness.

I also have been noticing that there are times when I have felt led to either kneel or lie prostrate to God. Naturally, I didn’t. I simply sat there and would talk “to God” in a way that no one else would know what I was doing. This morning, I was led to kneel before leaving the house. This time, in the safety of the privacy of my own home, I knelt. What a blessing!

Why is it that I say I want to be pleasing to God and follow his will while at the same time, I fail to do it? Also, why do I fool myself into thinking I am following Christ but yet I always limit my surrender?

For me, I think it boils down to fear. The money issues are a fear that I will not have enough to live on or not keep up my lifestyle if I follow God’s leading in giving to those in need. At other times, it is that I am fearful of what others will think. What if someone walked into my office and saw me kneeling? What would they think? It’s not that I’m some holier than thou person who is wearing my faith on my sleeve or trying to cram the gospel down somebody’s throat. Besides, I don’t think that was Jesus’ way. He did, however, go off by himself to pray and in remembering him in the garden, he knelt. I also remember Daniel and company kneeling three times a day in their living quarters. Maybe these acts of worship and praise have a purpose.

Maybe these acts are used to allow God to reveal himself and his character to us. Maybe these acts are used to confirm our humility, our adoration, and our surrender to our King. Maybe in surrendering and in doing we get to experience God in reality and not just in the imaginings of our mind. He becomes real. At any rate, I am going to pray that God grants me the grace that In the future, I will listen to the impulses that he plants in my head and then be wiling to do them.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18-19

Written by John Hannah

November 10, 2010 at 10:12 am

Rahner on Freedom and Grace


Although I disagree with the extent to which Rahner takes God’s self-communication in his salvidic theology, there is much in his theology that I whole heartedly embrace and appreciate. His insights into freedom and grace have provided two enlightenment that have made a positive change in my understanding of my faith.
To understand freedom, one must first understand grace. Grace, simply stated, is God’s self-communicatiom. I believe that to mean the same as what others have called God’s self-revelation. It is God revealing himself to everyone, all the time. Although I hold to the doctrine of original sin, the faulty inheritance we have received from our original parents cannot and does not prevent God’s self-communication. In fact, I can imagine the possibility that the original sin was an act of grace that occurred so that man would have a deeper revelation of God’s love and mercy. I also agree with Rahner that even though grace is all the time and for everyone, it is not the grace that is a special grace a transcendental or transforming grace. To me this special grace is the true grace of salvation. This special grace is something that each of us has to experience individually and is a unique experience that transcends all other experiences of our life. So how is this grace revealed.
Freedom, using Rahner’s explanations, reveals several characteristics of freedom. First, both God and humans have freedom to conduct themselves as they choose. This free will does not bind or obligate human beings to God nor does it bind or obligate God to human beings. God and humans are totally free. The difference between the two beings lies in eternity. Man is limited, finite while God is infinite. Our freedom is a grace in that as we live, we are constantly dying. We experience death, death in our failures, death in our sorrows, and death in our losses. These losses allow us to see and become painfully aware of our inability to control any aspect of our life. In turn, this painful awareness of our being finite, lead us to the true freedom of being mastered by our God. “The freedom of his mastery of things come from his being mastered.”(P.7) It is this one decision of becoming mastered by God that frees us to become whom we were intended. As Rahner pointed out, “True freedom is not the power constantly to change one’s course of action, but rather the power to decide that which is to be final and definitive in one’s life, that which cannot be superseded or replaced, the power to bring into being from one’s own resources that which must be, and must not pass away, the summons to a decision that’s irrevocable.”(P82) If I might add, for clarification, the decision that controls all future decisions.
What about concupiscence? (Romans 7) In actuality, according to Rahmer, our selfish desires and acts should be viewed as resistance within us to our freedom in Christ. It is our wanting to take back responsibility for and control over our lives even though we have previously seen and determined that this attitude actually imprisons us and prevents the freedom of our being. It is my feeling that Rahmer sees concupiscence, the flesh, as our “determining something about ourselves.” I would imagine that Rahner would say that in determining who we are, we must remember our first and most important free choice, that of being mastered by the Master. It is choosing to have no will but in total submission to the creator that we enjoy freedom of who we truly are. I relate this to the Two standards meditation within the Spiritual Exercises which Rahner, being a Jesuit, must have surely been intimately familiar. The question of the meditation is, “Will I follow Christ or will I follow my own choices?”
So how does this apply to us? It is the heart of our being disciples of Christ, especially in ministry. We, as priests of Christ, shepherds, it is for us to make ourselves available to used by the “Good Shepherd.” (John 4:10) Knowing that God is at work in every life revealing himself, we need to become extremely aware of how he is revealing himself to each person, to us, and especially to those with whom he has entrusted his care. It is when we become aware of God’s self-communication in the other and are mastered by the Master ourselves that we can join with God in making himself known and bring each and every soul into the pleasant pasture of the special grace of resting in the freedom of God to work in our lives.

Written by John Hannah

November 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Breath as Prayer


Written by John Hannah

October 26, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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