Deafness, Patience & Prayer

The other night in the bookstore, the book The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill immediately caught my attention. I thumbed through the beginning pages and the quote below made me freeze. I fear that I may be deaf.

So many Christians are like deaf people at a concert. They study the programme carefully, believe every statement made in it, speak respectfully of the quality of the music, but only really hear a phrase now and again. So they have no notion at all of the mighty symphony which fills the universe, to which our lives are destined to make their tiny contribution, and which is the self-expression of the Eternal God.

At times, I so desperately want to see God, to be in complete and total communion with Him and all of creation, but I feel locked within myself, barely managing a mumble or two to my fellow travelers in this journey home, and uttering feeble sounds, grunts really, in prayer to God.

Doug at honest with god wrote:

A mystic [is] someone who aches for, continually searches for, direct contact with God; contact not mediated through the emotions or intellect, but a full melding of spirit and will, believing that this is not only possible but is the entire point of life in this world.

I want this. And that is part of the problem—want. I want it, just as if it was something else in this world to have, to hold, to possess. I have it all backwards. I cannot possess God. God is the one who possesses. I want to drop my pretentiousness, drop my masks and tear down my walls to expose my heart completely to God. With the help of the Holy Spirit, some of this has been, but much remains in place. How do I let go of it all?

Evelyn Underhill writes again:

We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual—even on the religious—plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be: and that Being, not wanting, having, and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.

How do I just be? How do I nullify the roar of the world that screams, “Want! Have! Do!”?

Doug answers with:

…it takes a life of prayer, as opposed to prayer as an activity.

Prayer as being, not an activity, not doing, not having, not wanting—just be. Hmmm. Less talking, more listening. But isn’t listening doing? Maybe it’s actively passive? Wait! Listening! I might be deaf?

Three weeks ago, this quote by Henri Nouwen dropped into my email:

Waiting is not a very popular attitude. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, “Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don’t just sit there and wait!” For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.

In our particular historical situation, waiting is even more difficult because we are so fearful. One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear. People are afraid—afraid of inner feelings, afraid of other people, and also afraid of the future. And fearful people have a hard time waiting.

Waiting requires patience. Patience requires trust. Trust requires a lack of fear. Ah! Fear—it always seems to come back to fear with me. Damn it! I should have known.

Once I notice that the ugly head of fear is poking around, then I seem to be able to handle it better.

Overcome fear, behold wonder. — Aeschylus

I know that if I truly place my heart, my trust in God, then what is there really to fear. Apparently that is something I need to keep reminding myself from time to time.

Love is an orientation and not a state of the soul.
Anyone who does not know this will fall into despair
    at the first onset of affliction. — Simone Weil

I can wait. I know God is present. I shall orient myself to Him. I just have to be open to His grace to transform me, to cure my deafness (and blindness).

You have been told, O man, what is good,
    and what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do the right and to love goodness,
    and to walk humbly with your God.
— Micah 6:8

And there is prayer. Prayer always works to transform us into what God wants us to be; not what we want to be.

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