*Brian Wilcox 'Yellow Kalanchoe Blossifeldiana'
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All love has its own power, and love in the heart of the lover cannot be idle; it necessarily urges on. Do you wish to know the quality of love? See where it leads.
*Augustine of Hippo, "Psalm 121: The Ecstasy of Love, in Mary T. Clark, Trans. Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings; The Classics of Western Spirituality.
What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great Journey of Love?
First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears
And a hundred sweet promises
And those heroic vows
No one can ever keep.
But still God is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.
What happens when your soul
Begins to awake in this world
To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?
O the Beloved
Will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions ~
*Hafiz. I Heard God Laughing. Daniel Ladinsky, Trans..
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Throughout childhood and youth, my family worshiped three times weekly in a little, rural Baptist church. We attended worship Sunday mornings and nights and Wednesday evenings. Concluding worship meetings Sundays, we had an invitational time. During this time, we would sing an invitational hymn. Persons could walk to the front - we called this walking down the aisle - to speak with and receive prayer from the pastor or kneel alone in prayer at the altar - also called a pulpit -, or platform, on which stood the lectern and seats for worship leaders. One would not be surprised to see someone with knees on the floor, elbows on the altar, face downward, hands folded, eyes closed in prayer, and tears streaming down the face. In some churches, non-Baptist, persons would go and hover around one at the altar and pray for him or her. We respected the need for the person to be alone with her or his God, uninterrupted by anyone.
On the pulpit and behind the lectern, the pastor stood when speaking sermons. In the invitational time, he - always 'he' - stood on the level with us and before a table carved with THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME, for the elements of the Lord's Supper were placed on this table - we shared in the Lord's Supper once every three months. Further, on the center of the table was a Holy Bible, to the exact middle of the Old and New Testaments - somewhere in the Psalms. An offering plate was on each side of the Scripture - they were for collecting the tithes and offerings, or gifts of money.
Of all the reasons a person would walk down that center aisle, there were two principal ones. First, to give oneself to God the first time, which was "being saved" or "accepting Jesus into your heart." A second main reason to walk the aisle was for "rededication of one's life"; this was a renewed commitment of oneself to God after a lapse. This act of repentance derived from an inner conviction that one had wandered away from the original promise of life to Christ. Some other sects had persons getting resaved, only to lose it again, and, later, to get resaved again. We believed in recommitment of life, but that one was sealed, when saying "Yes" to Jesus, by the Holy Spirit for forever. Likewise, no one was to walk the aisle to receive Jesus or rededicate life, unless led by inner guidance to do so. This was referred to as being under the conviction of the Holy Spirit or being led by the Spirit.
At age 9, I walked the aisle to welcome Jesus into my heart, and, at age 15, I walked the aisle to accept a divine calling to be a preacher. This time of invitation taught me nothing can replace this gift of giving the self to Grace. While my ideas of faith have changed much since those beginnings, that belief remains. And I find to offer the self is not a one-time offering, it is a daily offering. In the contemplative path, the heart becomes the altar for this daily self-offering.
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Therefore, if a man cannot give his anxiety to God that he may at last get to his own center which is his tryst with Him, he may be able to give to God the total operation including himself. This is the testimony of many. Is it yours?
*Howard Thurman. Meditations of the Heart.
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In the Christian contemplative way, this daily self-giving is called conversion of life. Conversion of life means an ongoing turning of self to Life - conversion, meaning "a turning back." Today, the word "transformation" is a popular word for the same process - so, spiritual transformation.
An early Christian scripture points to this ongoing, deepening relationship with Life, in Philippians 2.12:
Hence, dear friends, ... continue working out (or, keep bringing to fruition) your salvation (i.e., original conversion).
And I Corinthians 1.18 reads on this ongoing conversion:
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.
So, Love paths, among which are Sikh, Christianity, Hinduism - Bhakti Yoga, or Union with God through Love -, Pure Land Buddhism, and Sufism include this act of ongoing conversion. For one of the Love-Union path, the Union is not an ending; the Union deepens, for the Depths are bottomless, the Beloved is boundless.
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A distressed visitor, a Christian, told the Sage she was worried almost all the time. She said, "I've been taught to give all my concerns to God and leave them with Him. I offer them to God in prayer and do my best to trust Him. I get relief for a time, but soon I'm troubled again. I seem unable to let go of my cares and leave them with my Lord. Possibly, I don't have enough faith; I don't know. What am I to do?" "Stop trying to give your troubles to God," said the Sage, "instead, give yourself to God. When you give yourself to God, peace will come."
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For the friend of the Beloved, peace does not result from giving anything or any number of things. For such a lover of the Beloved, peace arises from giving oneself. In giving yourself to God, you disown all into the Hands of the Beloved. In this self-oblation, you give your heart into the Heart of the Friend, your love you place on the altar of Love, so to be and become Love. Giving yourself, not motivated by obedience by love, is the ultimate act of self-giving, to love Love in the gift of self itself, to place oneself in the Fire of the Heart.
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Augustine of Hippo, in his Confessions, witnesses to the profound beauty of Love. He shows this Love draws us into the "Yes" and urges us on to keep bringing to fruition this self-giving by Love to Love:
Too late I loved You, O You, Beauty of ancient days, yet always new! Too late I loved You! And, look, You were within, and I abroad, and outside I searched for You. Deformed was I, plunging amid those fair forms You have made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Things kept me from You, which, unless they had been in You, would not be at all. You called and shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, shined, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors, and I breathed them in and panted for You. I tasted, hungered, and thirsted. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.
*The Confessions of St. Augustine. Trans. E.B. Pusey. Adapted for modern readers.
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(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020