Winter Essays 2021

  • Some gifts come in decorated boxes. Very many ordinary items usually brought home from stores in bags have been ordered online these days, and have arrived in plain boxes. All boxes have specific dimensions, and no matter how large, have limited capacities for whatever contents will fit in them. No amount of pressing or squeezing can force a box to contain anything larger than its capacity.

    These common sense ideas have parallel applications to some of our concepts and beliefs, including the words we use to name them. For example, we might say that we felt guilty when we said or did something that was reported to us as having angered or hurt another person. The word “guilt” indicates conscious deliberate fault or wrongdoing. It is too small a container for the much larger range of feelings of discomfort that we might experience when informed of another’s negative response to an initiative of ours. If we start with the appropriate sized container for a broader concept, we could, through a very brief reflection, determine whether or not we intentionally caused someone else’s hurt. With clarity about our part in the incident, we could say that we felt badly at someone’s distress rather than guilty, if we were innocent of wrong-doing. The larger container-words “felt badly” were the correct size, allowing for both possibilities.

    Some of the most counter-productive applications of too-small concepts and beliefs that we might habitually but unknowingly hold, are in references to God. We might have good reason to laugh at ourselves if we can recall having believed, more than we would like to admit, that God would “get us” if we misbehaved. If that was a childhood belief, we found out that it was not God that punished us, but a movement inside our minds and hearts that left us dismayed when we said or did something contrary to our values. However, even adults can have such a small concept of God as to believe that some of our concerns are of no interest, or are not worthy, to bring to God. This kind of belief certainly impedes the unity with God for which we are intentionally created, either putting ourselves into a small container with little room for growth, or metaphorically putting God into a box with limitations on God’s love for us.

    Christmas Season is a good time to savor and give thanks for all kinds of gifts, for things we have received, for love in which we participate, for blessings of every kind. Few of the things we hold as most valuable can fit in boxes, even if the boxes were bigger than a car or a house. What containers are big enough for faithful love, for friendship, for creativity, for beauty, or for truth? Rather than letting ourselves set limits to what God can or cannot do, which is the equivalent of putting God into a box, we could consciously consider the unimaginable but real concept and basic belief that God is infinite in all aspects, and in particular with God’s knowledge of us and also love for us unique but limited persons.

  • Anything made from wood, like a book shelf, can be called wooden, as can a very large building. For even today, entire apartment complexes are built around frames made of wood. All the uses of wood, even in something as small as toothpicks, rely on its qualities of stiffness and unchangeableness. When applied to persons, wooden refers to the same qualities, but they are normally thought of as undesirable traits.

    Handmade wooden objects can be quite beautiful: pleasant to see and perhaps to hold or touch. But we normally want people around us to be much more than objects that we can admire, and not only touchable, but able to respond to us: “touchable” in terms of being able to be affected by what we say and do, concerned for who we are as fellow persons. We do not appreciate wooden responses or no responsiveness at all, from either friend or foe, familiar persons or strangers.

    We might become stiff and unbending ourselves when confronted by others with words and behavior that seem contrary to our well-being, for most of us become somewhat defensive in face of any perceived threat, however slight. However, we are not obligated to remain wooden, either in external appearance or in our responses, for we are not made of wood, but of embodied spirit. We can sense when our bodies tighten and our faces become inexpressive as a first reaction. We can then choose deliberately how we will respond. Once we decide, we can speak and act with our whole selves, whether with anger or understanding, with a question, statement, gesture or even a look, in which we manifest our intention flexibly, humanly, and in no way like a piece of wood.

    Sometimes fear can initiate a wooden manner from within that affects our bodies, perhaps momentarily or for a longer time. If we recognize a movement of fear, we can quickly turn to God who witnesses what is happening to us not from outside, but from deeper within us than the fear. And in such a moment, with the courage that comes from not being alone, we will often be able to choose a response that represents us fittingly, not woodenly. Even if our features remain physically stiffened from the effects of fear, we are not prevented from acting according to our truth. We all have experiences of being almost immobilized with fear and yet acting according to the powerful effects of our higher priority than physical safety: love.

    If we look with gratitude upon even a small number of occasions when we were touched by fear but acted consistently with our values, we will strengthen our resilience: our capacity to think, speak, and act well, even in circumstances that we would not choose. Not for us to be like the wooden soldiers that are often used as decorations for the Christmas holidays. As we move forward into 2021, we do so with the suppleness of spirit that comes from accepting how much God loves us as unique individuals.

    New Year’s Blessings to you. 

  • Rarely does a new song capture our imagination so much that we immediately want to learn it or hear it again and again. Most of us hear a song several times before we become aware that it stays with us, and has become a companion of sorts. Familiarity with some songs leads to their becoming favorites: a few notes or words of a phrase might recur to us in a positive manner at any time. Whether or not songs we grow to like are very well known by others does not really matter, once we have found that they are pleasing to us. Songs, like all music, usually appeal first to our emotions, and then to our understanding. They often hold or represent truths that resonate with one or more aspects of our present life experiences. For us, good songs reveal something of the beauty of human life in any of the various ways we are capable of perceiving it. 

    Most of us have some favored songs, although we might only hear them occasionally. Whether or not they are related to prayer or religious services, and whether or not the composers intended it, songs often bear spiritual connotations for us that are one part of the pleasure we take in them. Only after reflection are we likely to notice that a specific song, which could be sacred or secular, popular or classical, encourages and supports our deeper aspirations and desires. Whatever is music to our ears contains an implicit, perhaps not recognized invitation, to engage with Presence, with God who is in all, and through all, loving us.

    We can easily move from songs and music to consider other ways that we meet God not primarily through thoughts and words, but in our affections, and through images, desires, and especially interior sensations of peace and joy. We come to know truths that guide our lives in this way, before our thoughts catch up with our hearts, before we begin to seek understanding of these movements within us that we have come to trust as right and good. As in all our human relationships, we know that we are liked, appreciated, or loved before we ever conceptualize it, name it, and accept it fully.

    Some writers of fiction as well as some whose writings are considered spiritual, use language that is also found in the Psalms, which have all of creation singing songs. The idea conveys a reality matching our experience, that anything and everything that exists is capable of expressing the goodness with which it is created. Thought, and even conscious intention, are not required for inanimate creatures to convey their participation in the gracious source of their being. We, who have consciousness, sometimes find ourselves singing, not with our voices, but with spontaneous movements in our hearts that, similar to the rest of creation, do not come from our intending them. However, we have the capability of noticing them and appreciating them.

    If we ponder our experience with songs that are familiar to us, we might become more aware of the God-initiated wordless “songs” of praise, gratitude, and love that come from within us.

  • “Finite” rhymes with many words that indicate smallness, like termite, or that convey distinct scientific classifications, such as graphite. These words, and many others like them, define limitations and express differences of one thing from another.

    For us, it is quite easy to imagine and to work with materials and with concepts that are distinct. Children are taught in their earliest years how to identify and name different objects, learning that one thing is separate from another, leading to the more adult recognition of their unique personhood. We, and some scientists among us who give their lives to the task, try to comprehend as many aspects of the perceptible universe as we can. Yet, even the finite universe is in some ways beyond our capacities to know. The classic “Big Bang” theory is about the beginning of the universe, but does not try to explain how it is that matter and energy were present for the initiation of the event, nor why such a thing should happen.

    When it comes to considerations of the infinite, we cannot even find a starting place to begin. We cannot obtain an edge, a corner, or any place, time, or event for us to begin a scientific study of infinity. We have a word, and we have a concept for a reality that we can think about and talk about, but we cannot imagine, for we have nothing with which to compare it. All the categories of knowledge we can bring to our thoughts about infinity arrive at the same conclusion: that it is beyond our understanding. Size does not pertain, nor space, and certainly not time, so we are left with needing a different kind of knowing if we want to continue looking at infinity. 

    Rather than trying to say what infinity is, and straining to comprehend with finite minds and imaginations a reality that has no beginning and no end, we might find more satisfaction in exploring ideas about how we relate with infinity. We can, upon reflection, draw some gracious conclusions about our connections with infinity that affirm our value in the present and that look to a gracious future that has no end.

    If infinity were merely a philosophical concept, we could take it or leave it. But, as an attribute of God, infinity is personal, and far more like the invisible but essential air we breathe than something non-essential like a piece of furniture. When we consider the Someone of infinity, then we can look at the vastness of the universe as a gift, not just as a cosmic entity, and we can also think of even the smallest indication of love in our lives as belonging to, and a part of God’s infinite love.

    Rather than ponder infinity as an idea, we can think of infinity relative to God, and thereby personally engage with the mystery of love that has far more wondrous effects upon us than all the knowledge in the world about infinity or about God.

  • The word “useless” means that something or someone has no practical use in the specific circumstances. The word, as written, looks as though two words have been put together that when used separately, present the idea of merely using a lesser amount of something. If someone wished to communicate the opposite meaning to “use less,” they would advocate the need to use more. English language can seem capricious at times, just as we might be if we call anyone a useless person. Everyone is useful, though not in all situations.

    If we reflect on some of the many times we have heard, perhaps from our own mouths, the word “useless,” and consider the frequency of it being an exaggeration, we can easily see an example of how our feelings, especially negative sentiments, affect what we say. Words spoken in anger often are not in accord with the true situation, for they mainly express our emotions. Words are useful, but some of the ways we use them are such that we would all be better off if we took greater care in our selection of them.

    No one is really useless, though in a specific set of circumstances, any of us might have nothing practical to contribute. We know what it is like to feel useless, as when we are with someone who is suffering, and all we have to offer is our presence. However, as we know from personal experience, some of our own suffering is more endurable when a friend or family member empathizes with us, showing appreciation for us as we deal with whatever causes our suffering. We also know how we welcome quiet, understanding companionship at such times, much more than having someone do a lot of talking, which usually indicates the speaker’s discomfort with being unable to make the situation better. Sometimes, presence is the most useful gift we can offer to one another.

    Without going into definitions of words, we can distinguish between specific useless behavior and being useless in general. Saying things that do not help can be described as useless behavior, but even if the only thing we are capable of doing for others is to pray for them, we are certainly not useless. In addition, the opposite of “useless” is “useful,” which does not mean that a useful person can do anything and everything, but it exchanges the negative perspective to one that is positive.

    If we want an example of the power we possess in our use of words, think of the effects upon us when thinking or speaking of a person while we focus on their usefulness rather than where they have no skills or capabilities. With even a tiny bit of reflection we can sense the difference in our feelings when we choose to think or speak about another person as useful or when we treat them in our minds or by our words as useless. 

    For our sakes, as well as that of others, perhaps we can make good use of the apparent union of two common words in “useless,” and determine that we will use less of “useless” and more of “useful.”

  • If someone asks if you have any change, the request is for coins that one might use for payment as in a vending machine. If someone asks if you have change for a twenty-dollar bill, the request is really for an exchange of one form of cash for another. In both situations, change is associated directly with a physical material: money. Quite often, when we make a change of some kind in our lives, we actually exchange one kind of behavior or way of thinking for another.

    Exchanging forms of cash or giving some change to another person is quite easy for us. Any change we make in what we do or believe is often difficult, because we have to let go of what we previously held as worthwhile in order to take on whatever we choose as new. Reflecting on this aspect of exchanges can aid us in moving past difficulties of growing and maturing “in wisdom, age, and grace.”

    When we exchange one kind of money for another, we expect that both will be equal in value. When we exchange one habit for another, most of us do so with the intention of improvement, not equality. The movements within us that empower personal change arise from our often implicit intention of reaching for whatever is better, and is an important enough subject for us to consider consciously. We have probably not asked ourselves very often why we choose to accept as true something that had previously not appeared as such to us.

    No one can require us to expand further our ways of thinking and acting. When we freely exchange the old for the new, it must be that our hearts and minds are attracted by some form of greater good. We know from experience that we can be drawn to apparent or illusory “goods” that bring us disturbance, not peace or joy. However, it is a basic orientation of the human spirit that we identify holistically with truth, beauty and goodness, which do bring us both peace and joy. Acknowledging that we are “hard-wired” to be this way can be quite encouraging. We are not inventing ourselves in wanting, desiring, and reaching for whatever is better, but are, like the manner in which gravity affects all physical substances, attracted to whatever options of thought and behavior are more in keeping with who we really are.

    God is in all of creation, but for understanding our interest in making changes for the better, we do well to consider how God works from within us, inspiring, not forcing us, and who is personally interested in our fulfillment as loved creatures whose most God-like quality is our capacity to love. From God, who is good, comes our inbuilt attraction for whatever is good, and our growing willingness to exchange some of what was a perhaps an unreflectively habitual way of going through life for some other better pattern of thought, belief, or behavior. 

    Who of us would not want to exchange a twenty-dollar bill for a hundred? Every day, we have opportunities for making choices to exchange some aspect of our way of proceeding for one that is better.

  • Over the past many years, “cool” has been used as a descriptive word for many human actions and interests, not just for communicating a relative temperature between hot and cold. Much of what we do and how we do it is better considered as cool or warm rather than cold or hot. From a perspective of perfection in which an action is either completely cold or completely hot, anything less would be a failure. When it comes to religious or faith values we do much better by thinking in terms of cooler or warmer than aiming for some absolute characteristic. We are wise to reserve for God all thoughts about perfection, while for ourselves, we strive for higher quality rather than being satisfied with mediocrity.

    We likely have experiences in which imperfection is better than perfection. The distinction becomes evident in whether we focus entirely on our own powers or what we do in cooperation with God. We know what it is like to attempt doing something as apparently easy as composing a message of congratulations and then suddenly finding ourselves second-guessing how it might be misunderstood by the one who receives it. We are caught, sometimes, by the thought that there is only one right way of conveying our intentions. Contrast that experience with one in which we give a moment of openness to God when composing our statement, and then find that we are content with it, as it is. The peace that accompanies this manner of working is a normal consequence of relying on inspiration from within, which is God’s favored mode of participating with us in all that we do. Even if we revisit and revise our message later, we are looking for a better expression of our intention, not some mythical “perfect” arrangement of words.  

    Although cool and warm fit on a scale of temperatures between cold and hot, we know that even cold is a relative word, for an ice cube is cold, but liquid nitrogen is much colder. In our human condition, we may talk of “non-negotiables” but we really have no capability for establishing absolute conditions, as everything about us is limited. However, when we make contact with God within this created and therefore constrained universe, we do indeed encounter reality that completely transcends even the degree of cold which we call “absolute zero. 

    Our capacity to dialog with and reach out towards God, who is absolute in every quality we can think of or name, is truly awesome and worthy of our deepest appreciation. Rather than being a cause for fear or a reason to keep our distance, we can rely upon God to look upon us with absolute love. In an extraordinary consequence of who God is, being Love, we have the assurance that God’s justice and mercy are perfectly aligned. How very different this is from our human tendencies to absolutize “justice” in our relationships with others, to the detriment of love.

    There is nothing “cool” about God, unless we wish to play with the meaning and offer a bit of praise to God, who loves us absolutely.

  • Joy is a gracious word, sometimes even used as a person’s proper name. Because we want whatever is good for a newborn child, no one would ever choose “Sadness” for a name. Joy is an appropriate word for indicating a reality in our experiences that is so good, we can never fully describe its attributes. Just as we can only see the brilliant facets of crystal ware or diamonds on the side we are viewing, we can never apprehend all that goes by the name of joy. Mere physical substances, however valuable, can be weighed and measured, for they are finite objects. Not so with joy, which is such a beautiful and deep mystery of life that it is beyond definitions, and more than we can apprehend with our minds. However, when we reflect on our experiences of joy, and consider a limited number of its notable features, we will gain valuable understanding for our hearts.                              

    Joy is a good word, for its origins are entirely in goodness, whether physical, intellectual or spiritual. We might sometimes take pleasure in seeing justice rendered against some malefactor, but that sentiment is not of the same quality as that which arises within us when we see someone learn from a mistake and become a better person. We know too for ourselves, what guilt is like from doing something that we do not approve of, and we have learned what it is like to “own” our past behavior. Then, with newly acquired practical wisdom, we somehow make a change inside us determining not to do that again, and experience a moment of true joy. Even a small amount of growth for the better is a cause for joy.

    Though we probably do not give it a name while it is happening, joy quite often arises within us spontaneously when we are in the presence of beauty, as for example, in natural scenery. Such moments are like standing together with God while these words from the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis come to mind, “And God saw that it was good.” We are even more frequently prone to joy when we participate in loving interchanges, including those that are with God. Whenever we make positive comments to others, it brings smiles to their faces and joy to us. In a similar way, from the joy that arises in our hearts when we open ourselves with simple honesty to God, we can assume that this elicits a loving smile of acceptance from God.

    Joy is not of our creation, yet we can expect it as an interior consequence of almost any act of helpfulness or kind thoughts. We have the capacity to choose these thoughts and actions; the joy that follows is a sign that “This too, is very good.” For the Creator, who is Good, inspires us to be God-like in thinking, speaking, and behaving in ways that are good for others, revealing God’s presence to them and to us without anyone necessarily perceiving it as such.

    Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. (Teilhard de Chardin)

  • We can amuse ourselves by putting together words in English that, while sounding the same have very different meanings and yet also make sense when put together. In a somewhat related manner, thinking and feeling work well together within us, enabling us to understand and interpret whatever we perceive through our senses.

    To take the title as an example, we could be referring to someone’s recovery from a life-threatening illness, while at the same time enjoying the laconic use of only two words to convey our meaning. When we are aware of an idea or a thought and at the same time how we feel about whatever is in our minds, we are able to speak and act far more creatively and with much more confidence than when we focus primarily on either a thought alone or on whatever we happen to be feeling.

    We can know a fact, such as too much heat causes a burn, and we can know more deeply from experience what the pain from a burn is like. We might have a very mild feeling related to the fact, and a quite strong feeling in conjunction with a burn. This example is about physical realities. When we reflect on the more interior experiences in which our spirituality is always an aspect, the meaning of words such as knowing and feeling are similar to those which apply to the realm of the five senses, but there are also significant differences.

    Besides knowing facts, we know some things by faith. We cannot produce a physical proof for such knowledge, just as we cannot prove that we are right in trusting another person to act fairly in our regard. We might know from observation that someone who is bigger and stronger could lift a heavy beam out of our way, but knowing that it is right for us to trust that the same person will do this for our sake comes from within us when our thoughts and feelings coincide, thereby providing us with certainty about trusting. Our manner of putting together the elements for making an act of faith or trust is more familiar to us than we might have previously considered.

    Although we might assume that trust in God is much more reasonable than trusting a fellow human, the experience of trusting is actually the same for both, because we do not make decisions based on reason alone. Without also being aware of the assurance of a confirming sense of peace at the thought of making a specific act of faith or trust, we might act, but it will not be either faith or trust.

    As humans, we are essentially relational with one another and with God, no matter how isolated we might seem to be. All relationships depend upon trust of various levels and degrees. At every decision for faith or trust when we are able to recognize the interior experience of thought and the confirming feeling of authentic peace, we have overcome a tendency to act without reflection, and have won one.

  • Many more of us have likely read or heard of trees sighing in the wind than of trees singing. A very strong wind might cause a whistling sound in trees, or a great clattering sound in a bamboo forest, but few of us could say that we have heard trees doing anything similar to singing. Songs usually require words, although some musical pieces include vocal sounds that are not in themselves actual words. The notion of singing trees invites us to consider aspects of reality other than ordinarily observable phenomena.

    If we turn to fiction or fantasy, we can find stories of dogs and cats that talk, houses that fly and even trees that sing. We are also capable of a particular use of imagination that enables us to understand some experiences that we would otherwise not recognize or appreciate. To use our title as an example, we could let one of the Scriptural Psalms of praise delight us with the suggestion that not only humans, but animals, plants, and all creation sings of God’s goodness in creating them. A mere statement that rocks and clouds give praise to God by their very existence does not have the same power to communicate the truth as does the imaginative representation of trees singing in praise. The idea that other created beings besides us sing in joy and gratitude helps us to appreciate more deeply how good it is to praise God for our existence.

    We might not do much singing ourselves, but most of us like to hear sung music, whether popular, classical, or liturgical. Many songs contain metaphors that convey meaning to us more through our emotions than through our minds. Only by reflection do we realize what affections have been elicited by the songs, since our imaginations have likely been influenced more than have our conscious thought processes.

    Psalms and poetry are two common forms of communicating significant messages by intentionally evoking images extending beyond the normal range of linear logical thinking in order to present spiritual realities more completely and effectively than is ordinarily possible through exact statements of truths. We know well the difference between the plain words that “love is the most important thing in human life” and a well-composed love song that draws us unconsciously into sentiments of human affection, or a favorite Scripturally-base hymn, that enables us to identify with love of God and love of neighbor.  

    If our manner of praying is usually limited to clear and distinct thoughts and words, even if they are expressions of our own thoughts rather than those of pre-composed prayers, we have much to discover of God’s love for us by allowing our imaginations to open our hearts more fully. We were not created as simply bodies with minds, but are whole persons who are blessed with spiritual capacities extending well beyond thinking alone. To consider singing trees might be a start, for if we can imagine inanimate creatures giving praise for God’s goodness, we can look around at anything that exists and imagine how any of them, together with us, give thanks and praise to God for the gift of being loved into being.

  • Perhaps it is too soon to name the benefits we have received from adapting our lives to the effects of the pandemic. However, there is no time other than the present for acknowledging whatever of good we have experienced this day. There is no need to wait until the time when we can gather freely in groups and even visit other countries before we recognize causes for giving thanks, for there is much more need for gratitude in the midst of our present realities than there might be in an uncertain future.

    It is never too soon to thank people for whatever they might do that affects us in a positive way. We know that children, who have very short attention spans, need to be praised or thanked as soon as their good behavior is noticed such as acts of thoughtfulness or for doing what they are asked to do. We, who know how to manage well with delayed gratification, are nevertheless pleased with immediate positive feedback. We can be sure, for example, that a sincere “thank you” will be welcome when spoken to a store clerk for an ordinary service rendered. Often, the moments for conveying words or gestures of thankfulness in our ordinary interactions with one another pass quickly, so the next moment might well be too late.

    Recalling past gifts, graces, persons, and events that still cause us joy even now is not “living in the past,” but gives us, through those specific memories, continuing power for persisting through whatever circumstances challenge us in the present. Conversely, we do not benefit greatly from imagining how thankful we will be in a future of everything being as it once was. We can be grateful now for the gift of imagination itself, but gratitude for what we imagine might be true in the coming months does very little for inspiring us to work through the difficulties we face this very day. 

    Although God is infinitely more patient than we are, peace within ourselves occurs if we do not always wait until the end of the day before we consciously give thanks for such things as having people we can depend upon, or having fresh water always available. Many of us have found how refreshing it is when we take very short pauses and choose to notice some of the simple examples of beauty or usefulness around us which evoke a sense of thankfulness. Or, we might reflect very briefly between one activity and another and acknowledge wordlessly the kindness of God at work around us and within us as we enjoy a helpful thought or creative idea.

    While it is too soon to foresee how thankful we will be when the pandemic is more a memory than a present fact, now is a fine time to pray in thanks for all those whose care-giving, service, planning, and devotion to duty have enabled us to manage as well as we have through this entire year of significant losses.  It is rarely too soon to give thanks for anything that we perceive as good. Even better, it is never too soon to be thankful for any person we perceive as good, especially God.

  • When we say that the lights have been turned on, we are referring to something that was done, but we leave out information about who or what caused them to be turned on. When we want to make it clear how the lights were activated, we would then say who or what initiated the action. In our common experience, there are occasions when we use passive expressions about external or internal events, thereby leaving unsaid the ownership of whatever took place. For example, most of us can recall from childhood, saying something like, “it got broken,” rather than stating whose action caused the breakage. When we decide to tell someone what we have done, we will almost always use a personal pronoun, such as the simplest of declarations, “I did it.”

    In talking about inner realities, often those that are connected with our spirituality, there are consequences attached to whether we use passive or active expressions in how we describe them. If we were to say of our prayer or quiet times of reflection, that “nothing happened,” but leave out, whether consciously or unconsciously, what we did or did not do, or whatever feelings we had related to “nothing happening,” it as though we were talking about someone else’s experience. Once we take responsibility for how we did or did not attempt to dispose ourselves to engage with considerations about something of significance, or with a Scripture passage, or in relating directly with God, we will likely find that something worth noting has happened.

    In describing some of our thoughts and feelings even to ourselves, and certainly when we share our reflections with others, we will either find ourselves owning what took place or we will talk about them as if we had no responsibility for how we were present to them. If we imagined ourselves sitting together with Jesus, or hearing God saying “I love you,” and then were to describe the experience as something in which we actively participated, we will surely be consoled, even if somewhat embarrassed by such closeness with God. If instead, in imagining either of the same experiences, we were to describe them as having happened as if we had been watching a video that someone else had made, we will avoid any possibility of feeling awkward or unworthy, but we would know that our words did not match what took place.

    By including our own actions, thoughts, and feelings when we reflect on our interior experiences, we will more likely perceive the often subtle but real movements that take place. These gentle but perceptible interior consequences to whatever thoughts and images we had been holding in awareness enable us to decide which were helpful and which were not. Whenever our purpose, however inarticulate, is that of seeking direction towards what is better, discernable spiritual movements will take place within us. We will discover in them illumination for our vocational path in life. In sharing with others our experiences as having been active participants, we will receive even more light for our life’s journey forward.

    It is God who ultimately turns the lights on, but we can own the experiences in which we cooperate, by exercising our gifts of faith, hope, and love.