The River of Consciousness

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How and why the mind works the way it does came to mind these past few days. My mind has been like a river pouring over rapids and waterfalls, splitting into two or three paths around the islets that still rise from the riverbed, and then returning from two or three to one river with a single flow.

Niagara Falls

Integrating one’s plunges over the falls, side trips around the islets, and tumbling over rapids is what the mind does as it looks back upstream from down river. More often than not, one’s life is a blur. We move with the flow downstream. But once in while, what happened upstream invites or demands reflection.

No moment in the river’s journey is superfluous. Daily routines in periods of calm dull our awareness of the river itself and lay aside questions of its whence and whither until another event, or a memory, moves us to clear the blur. One event or memory leads to others we thought we had forgotten, pushed aside, or left behind.

The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.

Richard Rohr, Yes

Think a moment of all the events and encounters that have shaped you most deeply and lastingly. How many did you see coming? How many did you engineer, manufacture, chase down? How many were interruptions? . . . The span between life as we intend it and life as we receive it is vast. Our true purpose is worked out in that gap. It is fashioned in the crucible of interruptions.

Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath.
Aerial view: confluence of the Yukon River (lighter color) and the Koyukuk River (darker), Alaska

All moments are part of the river of whence that flows over rocks and waterfalls, splits, and returns to one on its way to a whither beyond our knowing.

Gordon C. Stewart, by the wetland, Minnesota, August 12, 2019.

I am the enemy who must be loved

Richer By Far

“It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. He is not even the enemy of His enemies.” Martin Niemöller

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ – all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved…

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Daily Riches: Your Enemy the Savage (Thomas Merton, Martin Niemöller and Richard Rohr)

Richer By Far

“It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. He is not even the enemy of His enemies.” Martin Niemöller

Today, if African American protests turn into riots, the offenders are often referred to as “animals.” In the early American West, native Americans were called “savages”, and wartime slurs dehumanized Jews, Germans, and Japanese. Richard Rohr reminds us that we all have a viewpoint, and that each viewpoint is “a view from a point.” Consequently, he says “…we need to critique our own perspective if we are to see and follow the full truth.” To love our enemies, as Jesus commands, and to escape our own unconscious biases, we will need such a critique.

“Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are…

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The Deeper Silence of Boston

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This sermon was preached at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN the Sunday following the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It draws on Red Sox player David Ortiz’s nationally televised statement “This is our (expletive) city!”; Richard Rohr’s “Finding God in the Depths of Silence” (Sojourners, March, 2013), and the Epistle of James’ insight that the “tongue” (i.e., speech) is “a restless evil” ready to curse others even while it blesses “the God and Father of us all.” “Brothers and sisters,” writes James, “this should not be so!”

The sermon calls for engagement in the inner silence that moves down into the undivided reality that words so easily and quickly divide and destroy. It ends with the Pie Jesu from Gabriel Faure’s Requiem and the invitation “Be still, and know that I am God.”