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My love letter to me


My love letter to me
…from my mom,
…from my soul,
…from me.

[6 minute read]

My rational mind loves theology, and I can wrap many of my beliefs into tidy packages to delight my reason. But that’s horribly dangerous, just like this theology: “The wages of sin is death, and you need a savior.”

“Do you NOW see and feel, Neil? Despite the crown of thorns, humiliation, false charges, excruciating death, do I threaten my wrath? ‘Forgive them, Abba…’ He was not begging on your behalf because you are unworthy of Our love. He was vocalizing what flows inseparably FROM Our love. Our sadness that you ‘know not what you do…’ To your Selves.

“Do you NOW see and feel, Neil? When I, your passionate and personal God, say that I love you unconditionally, that means no necessity of forgiveness. Our acts of love are not to show you how sinful you are. They are deeds to show you the purity of Our love for you. There’s no need at all for forgiveness when all is love….

“Love does not originate FROM or BY forgiveness. Love is no hostage, contingent on redemption by contrition and absolution. There is NO requirement that forgiveness PRECEDE My love. Neither offense nor guilt affect pure love. Nothing binds love. Forgiveness is a coincidence of true love, NOT a prelude…

“Look at me, my son Neil. LOOK at me. Don’t be afraid. Look at my Son’s crucified, bloody face. Does He look angry?

“The sadness on his face is for you. His face is My face. I am not angry and demanding justice because you have hurt Me. I am the Lord your God, Who fears nothing. I do not fear being hurt. But I can and do feel hurt. I can and do feel sadness. They are part of love, and I AM love. So I am also Hurt. I am also Sadness. But hurt and sadness out of love, not out of fear. Fear is not part of love. Do not fear that you have hurt me, and need my forgiveness. For I love you already. Fearlessly, and fiercely.

“You only fear Me because you cannot feel and trust the fullness of pure love — yet. My Son’s passion is a show of love’s purity, not a message that you need to fear Us, nor that you needed His sacrifice…

“My Son’s passion is Our love story for you, Neil. Don’t corrupt it into a tragedy about sin and penalty and any sense of justice and consequences and conditions and laws and rules…

“His love is pure. My love is pure. Conditions and rules for gaining it are impurities.

“I am sad, because you hurt your self, child. I, the Lord Almighty, BEG and PLEAD with you, Neil… I do not COMMAND you by any other power or authority except love… Fearsomeness is false power, and I am not false. Love holds no space for fear. And I am love…

“Your very Creator is begging and pleading for you to feel Our love in the story of my Son’s life. We do not wish for you to see some sacrifice to atone for your shame and restore your worthiness. Our love is NOT affected by your sin. It doesn’t stop just because you sin. Don’t be so conceited to think you can diminish Our love! Let this love story fly past your ego and annihilate barriers of shame, to touch your tender soul, sweet boy…

“The story of Yeshua is about Our goodness and YOUR goodness… Our and your OUTRAGEOUS capacity for love. Be outraged about that! Stop – STOP – making it about your badness and failure to love. You are hurting and saddening Us and your eternal Self by your ego-centeredness. Center the story on your WHOLE Self, as I made you. Be Self-centered about THAT story.

“Look at me, my son Neil. LOOK at me. Don’t be afraid.

“Let this story through your ego-self to your soul-Self. Begging… Pleading… In love… THAT is who We are.

“Know your shame, son. We do. Let it waft into your ego’s consciousness, and your whole Self can be compassionate with it, as We are. Your repression is keeping Our love from your soul. Even your ego, Neil, can love Us, and can love all of you, if your soul can embrace your whole Self tenderly, as We created it to do. You are made to love. Your soul can do its work, son.

“Imagine my Son’s face at the wedding in Cana, with a joyous smile crinkling his eyes. Imagine the fiery warmth of those eyes locked on the eyes of the woman to be stoned, ‘Nor do I condemn you…’ That is not a warmth that flows FROM forgiving; it is the fire of passionate love, from which forgiveness – like all things truly and purely good – cannot be separated.

“We hurt when those whom We love feel hurt. Just as you do. ‘I have become one of you.’ I have joined humanity because humanity is worthy. You are worthy of Our unconditional love because that love is Ours to give, NOT yours to earn. NO conditions. I am all-powerful. And I am in you. Our power is not rooted in meting out justice. Do not be afraid. Our power is love. I dwell in you: YOUR power is love.

“The moment I and your mother brought you to life, she held you in her arms, and adored you with unconditional love. You had done nothing to earn or deserve it. It was hers to give, not yours to earn. Your soul is no different from your mother’s. Your soul is no different from Me.

“You too have unbounded power to give love without conditions. Please, Neil, pour it out, unshackled by shame, with NO conditions. And, please, begin with pouring it onto my own infinitely lovable son, whom your mother named Neil…

Neil D. 2020-03-06

Related: My love letter to you, My love letter to you PS

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Advent Prequel to Footprints


(Read the preface to this poem here.)


“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened…” (Mt 11:28)


Adeste fideles. (Come, faithful).


Advent Prequel To Footprints

(Neil Durso)

Energy, misbalanced.
Self-centered lifetime.
Other-centered lifetime.
Tiresome battles lost.

Shameful failure.
Wasted toils?
No. Delivery to the now.

A curled, sobbing heap,
Writhing on sands of self-desertion.
A finger trembling, raised to an eye…
Tap its pool of tears, running them thin,
Glimpse through the blur:

A shadow over tears on dead sand
Shades the relentless brightness of scorching shame,
Revealing a garment’s hem resting on sandaled toes.

Stretch out of despair a hand.
Touch a finger to the coarse fabric.

From that cloak, a hand extends,
Re-flavoring tears that flow still.
From a spring deep within, never fully felt.
Feel it now. Don’t wrestle floodgates inside.

Epic struggle.
Ordained end.
Rivulets of tears baptize anew.
Every ounce of unrequited effort poured out has prepared the way

Enormous fruitlessness was the way.
En route to the quenching fruit of energy exhausted.

The garment takes you up, in its arms
So gentle, their power feels misplaced.
You tremble at tenderness so unfamiliar.

From this bottom, from this birthplace,
In His wake are one set of footprints.

At cool evening’s arrival,
You’re lowered lovingly
To your own feet.
Refreshed.
At His side.
He at yours.
Two sets of feet imprint the sands.

Onward in silence.
For a time.
Then,
The silence drips into distant song
On fleeting breezes.

Whispering beneath the rising chorus,
“Whither, Yeshua?”
“The City of David.”

A bright star draws your gaze.
And He is gone.

Shepherds appear.
On pilgrimage.
To Light.

Above the sonorous din of lambs’ bleating,
Lyrics grow clearer…

Carried by the parade, your heart then
Your tongue join the hosts’ song.
Reborn of unshackled brokenness,
The beckoned joins the calling:

“O… O… come, all ye faithful…”
(song)


(Read the preface to this poem here.)


-Neil D. 2019-12-16
(revised from 2018-12-24)

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Green Shirt

The gently soft-spoken 20-something didn’t seem to ever stop talking except when he asked of me simple questions and waited for replies with earnestness that made me feel like my answer would be divine and resonate with profoundly undeniable truth and universal wisdom. He sat on a park bench with his beautiful, unthreatening, expectant, wide eyes open naturally enough to look up at me as I stood beside the bench on which he sat lower. His eyes weren’t bloodshot or distant, squinted or spookily wide. His pupils locked on my gaze, without blinking, without discomfort or shame. Without abiding by any conventions of time or rhythm familiar. Just natural, as anyone’s might be awaiting an answer, unconsciously exhaling the puff of smoke from a satisfying drag off the cigarette he just bummed off me…

He did that several times, awaiting several answers to several questions. Of me. Me. Me? Me!

Not hard answers to give. But not easy questions to ask. So, wait–maybe hard questions to answer, but not hard words to summon in answer: “Yeah.” “That’s true.” I know.” “I feel you.” “Right.” “Damn.” “I know.”

Know? Do I really *know* anything?

Now I know I do.

Green Shirt talked and asked about his joy and loss of waking next to her, whose name he didn’t remember. Of being anxious about how he would get eggs and bacon like yesterday. Would the nurses let him have the medicine he needed again?

He’s glad it’s warm today.

Hopes it will be tonight, wherever he winds up.

Wants to work on my car. She knows how to service bearings. He knows he has to clean up dog poop in the park before her company lets him collect cans. She’s not afraid to work hard. Why do they think their reality’s rules make more sense?

Yeah, I suppose Yeshua from Nazareth wore some shade of white fabric in the middle eastern form of that time. But I think, yesterday morning, He wore a green t-shirt.

If you see Green Shirt today, tell her I miss him. Tell him I said hello. Tell her I remember him. Say Hello to her for me. Thank him for talking to me about her own world. Tell her I love hymn… because he trusted me just to affirm her truth. And … loved ME too.

Neil D. 2019-07-25

Dark Night of the Soul (1.7) – Thomas Moore (Ego vs Soul?)


[2.5 minute read]
For everyone
[see more in Dark Night of the Soul (0) – Resources & Recommendations]

Excerpts from Thomas Moore’s Foreword to Starr‘s translation

[DEPRESSION?]
… how do we distinguish between depression and…the dark night John describes (not all painful transitions qualify as a dark night of the soul)? …What we call depression is a kind of initiation rather than just an emotional problem… the soul’s need and longing for transcendence, …not merely psychological development… an all-important shift from curing the personality to caring for the soul.”

***

“… how do we distinguish between depression and…the dark night John describes? The key is to distinguish between the ego and the soul. The ego [is]the concern of modern psychology and self-help books… The soul is vast in comparison [to the ego] and full of mysteries.”

“At the end of struggles people sometimes claim that they have gone through an ordeal and have come out happy on the other side… I’m not convinced that these victories signal the kind of darkness John describes so carefully. Many spiritual guides warn that we can play tricks on ourselves, bolstering a fragile ego with the thought that we have triumphed… not all painful transitions qualify as a dark night of the soul.”

John of the Cross is speaking of mysterious developments in the vast realm of the soul… We tend to see difficult feelings as a form of illness, which we hope to conquer, cure, and expel. He has a far greater imagination of human life: his goal is not health but union with the divine.

John’s analysis applies to the human condition, not to a class of believers… a book about transcendence, not merely psychological development… John might help us see that what we call depression is a kind of initiation rather than just an emotional problem… Depression has its physical, emotional, and psychological dimensions… But it is also spiritual and potentially valuable in making a meaningful life.

Mysticism doesn’t have to be a life profession. …depression, anxiety, and addiction has to do with what John writes about: the soul’s need and longing for transcendence. This need is instinctual and unavoidable.

…everything to do with how we feel and how well we deal with life. Spirit and soul are distinct but inseparable… reintroduce the spiritual into our everyday lives. Without it we lack the vision to deal with our personal and social problems effectively and make sense out of a mysterious and challenging existence.

…the book speaks about our daily, if hidden, attempts at transcendence… an all-important shift from curing the personality to caring for the soul.
.

Neil D. 2020-07-07
.

See more in Dark Night of the Soul (0) – Resources & Recommendations


Dark Night of the Soul (6.2) – Loving in the moment


Whom shall I love? “Whichever one needs it most in the moment.” For she or he is the Christface set before me.


[3.5 minute read]

[a re-contextualization of Dark Night of the Soul (6) – Dad & His Family. Ours]

I believe “The Way” of Yeshua is way, way simpler than institutionalized Christianity complicates it. This prior article (6.1) explains why, and introduces the words below.
***

I don’t mean to exalt my own father to a status of sainthood. Or, perhaps, that IS what I mean to do. Is it really that hard to believe that God wishes all of us to be exalted to that status?

Is it hard to believe that God wishes us to see the saint in every one of God’s children?

That God wishes for us to see the saint in our own selves?

Were these not the clear, simple, and unambiguous words of God’s Son to us? The kingdom is within us. We are His Father’s sons and daughters? Is that supposed to be some kind of veiled language or psycho-trick? Secret meanings that only the elite can decode? The elite, like lepers and tax collectors?

In any case, I’m just telling the story from one perspective, about one man, and how I see it that he embodied the one simple rule of Christ meant for all of us, stripped of any complicated systems.

My dad once mused about which of his 6 kids he loved most:

“Whichever one needs it most in the moment.”

I wonder how he got so smart. Do you think he thought it through? I do, but not in his brain. Through his heart.

Not by thinking; by living, acting.

Responding to whichever grace was put in his face.

According to his common, and his unique, nature as created by God.

He was a large man in the second half of his life. He loved his food like he loved his children—whatever was in front of him at the moment:-) That seemed to suit him naturally. He lived hard, deep, wide.

Do we want to indict him for indulging his voracious appetite for food? Some sort of coping mechanism for his fallen nature? Go ahead, if that is all you have “eyes to see.” But I tell you, it suited him so very naturally.

There was something uncomfortably delightful about being with him as he cherished his snack, meal, or a bowl of cornflakes with bananas in it.

I think it was the comfort of watching a man live according to his nature.

He had a big ego, but it too suited him—not so large that it wasn’t easily carried by the expanse of his soul, perpetually opened to humility by force and by choice. I think his soul received and nourished that buoyancy by living hard, deep, and wide…

…sometimes by shame exposed, and…

…sometimes by the inexorable tow of his loved ones splashing into his face the forgiveness he wrestled to bestow on his own fallenness.

Do you wish to indict him for his inflated ego? Go ahead, if that is all you have “eyes to see.” No one loved by him would have his love any other way.

When he bragged about himself or his loved ones, and we rolled our eyes, it was uncomfortably comfortable. At other times, we watched him beat himself up as his own worst critic. We experienced him living widely, from pole to pole across the spectrum from pride to humility.

To watch him love and hate himself at the same time was to see a man occupying the fullness of his nature, which gave us license to feel the same.

Those who felt his love never doubted its authenticity, because there was nothing to doubt in everything else about him. His ego and his appetite couldn’t be doubted. They were on full display perpetually. As was his humility when he was humbled.

He lived large, wide, deep… No masks. No motives hidden for very long.

He lived in every moment.

He loved in every moment.

Sometimes he struggled to return to the moment. And it was at those times we saw him suffering. Apart from his nature. And immersed in his nature. Both, at the same time.

He loved and lived in suffering, and lived and loved in joy.

I think that even when we didn’t want to be around him, we wanted to be around his saintliness. His mixture of purity and imperfection was a strange comfort. If he judged us, it wasn’t from his real heart.

I, and many, saw him loving the beggar and the possessed. Loving our nature. Struggling to love himself. Struggling to walk The Way. And, yes, almost enjoying the struggle. United with his Beloved who dwelt in his heart.

I think he was the face of Yeshua to many. In a lifetime of moments.

Saint Dad, to me.

Would that we all, in this moment, love what lies before us.

.
Neil D. (the III!) 2020-05-13

These reflections are a sequel to Dark Night of the Soul (6.1) – A “System” to live by? No.
and were inspired by Dark Night of the Soul (6) – Dad & His Family. Ours


Dark Night of the Soul (6.1) – A “System” to live by? No.


[3.5 minute read]

[a re-contextualization of Dark Night of the Soul (6) – Dad & His Family. Ours]

Kolodiejchuk wrote about the first of the two metaphorical nights (the “night of senses”):

“…there is a notable longing for God, and an increase of love, humility, patience, and other virtues.”

How do these increases happen? What role are we to play in our own increases?

The greatest authors who write about the dark night of the soul all advise in their own way that we do not resist it or attempt evasion, but embrace it in some mysterious form of surrender. For those of us more comfortable with practicable advice, how can we do this? After all, saints are rare. Surrender seems strange to most of us, as does mystery. They seem inconsistent with our nature, so seem difficult.

Is “The Way” of Yeshua only for the exceptional elite?

Is God’s love only for the select elect?

For a moment, set aside your indoctrination by institutionalized Christianity. Those notions seem outrageously ridiculous, don’t they? Were most of us created to spend eternity in hell? No way. No Way.

***
There’s no shortage of support programs that offer a rule, or set of rules, for navigating through difficult challenges in our lives. Even many aspects of institutionalized religions are aimed at this sort of navigation and “keeping the faith.” Pray a lot. Practice mindfulness. Have accountability partners and support groups.

I do not at all mean to belittle any of these avenues of help. You may favor one of these complicated systems over another. And another person may favor a different one.

Is there not one for all?

I think there is.

I favor the example of Yeshua. Not the institutionalized religions that use Christ’s name. But the example of Christ Christ’s-self.

I do not think Yeshua meant to complicate navigating through life’s challenges.

I think it’s clear Yeshua didn’t favor any complicated laws or belief systems. Yet many of the “programs” that offer to guide us today are complicated systems. Something about each of these systems conflicts with who we are, as if “no pain, no gain,” and only inexorable challenge is the way to contentment.

Is our present nature so corrupt that it needs a complex repair system?

That is not my take on the example of Christ at all.

When we “boil down” the message and example of Yeshua, is it a program or system?

Is it meant only for exceptional saints, or disciples dedicated to practicing a program, or religious rites?

Is this what Yeshua expected of the simple fishermen, laborers, housemaids, and social outcasts whom he called, and to whom he appealed?

We all should eat some humble pie and consider this question with some naked honesty.

I do not think there’s anything reasonable about asking us to act according to our nature by constantly trying to self-evaluate our nature’s corruption.

I don’t think Yeshua made his wish for us so complicated that only a small class of smart people would ever grasp it.

Somehow, His intention for us must have the same appeal to a lowly peasant as to the saints and the pope himself.

So I think it is deeply enlightening for us to consider how a beggar meandering the streets of a Third World country might be capable of following a simple rule or guide for how to live the example of Yeshua in every moment, searching desperately for the day’s food or wages. And, to me, the key lies in “moment.”
***
Next, Dark Night of the Soul (6.2) – Loving in the moment
.
Neil D. 2020-07-02


The Still River Hike

photo of river

The Delaware River near Lackawaxen PA, separating Pennsylvania from New York State

Its depth was between my shin and thigh at different places as I waded upriver towing my youngest son against a subtle current. The water was clear enough for me to see that its bed was not jagged rocks, but many rounded—large or small, loose or solidly embedded.

I had to check the stability of each foothold before stepping again. The water felt good flowing around my legs. I hadn’t a plan other than to go upstream and float back down with my boy. Wasn’t thinking about how far, just taking step after step, enjoying the moments.

I had marched a couple hundred yards upstream around a bend.

As we floated back down, we exchanged a few words, but not many in total. We mostly just floated and observed and lived in the string of moments.

Landmarks on the bank drifted by slowly, as did plants and rocks that peeked above the calm surface. In some moments, I experienced that delicious illusion that I was resting — stillness — and the fixed objects were moving upstream, past me.

In other moments, bugs skating on the surface confused what was moving and what was fixed.

Sometimes a subconscious sense emerged that the entire surface of the water was flowing along with us. “The” river.

Sometimes noticing the riverbed beneath the water imbued a sense of immutability. This riverbed is always here. As is the water that flows over it, but not exactly. “The river” is a thing, but always in motion. So never really the same. It couldn’t be “the river” without its unmoving bed.

I think this tapestry of experiences might be what mystics mean by nondualism. Stillness perceived only by motion that’s gentle, yet enormous.

Thank you Pat and Alicia, Corrine and Andy, Noah and ” the river”…
photo of river through trees

The Delaware River near Lackawaxen PA, separating Pennsylvania from New York State

Neil D. 2020-06-27


More on stillness against which less familiar movement happens: (KINGDOMS 1) Mystical Gardeners