Tag Archives: Merton

Finding God

Merton June 10

To be “lost” is to be left to the arbitrariness and pretenses of the contingent ego, the self- smoked that must inevitably vanish. To be “saved” is to return to one’s inviolate and eternal reality and to live in God.

What one of you can enter into himself and find the God who utters him?

“Finding God” means much more than just abandoning all things that are not God and emptying oneself of images and desires.

If you succeed in emptying your mind of every thought and every desire, you may indeed withdraw into the center of yourself in concentrate everything within you upon the imaginary point where your life Springs out of God: yet you will not really find God. No natural exercise can bring you into the vital contact with him.

~~~ Thomas Merton (New Seeds of Contemplation)

The church is obsessed with methods, reasons, ways, times, and places to be “saved.” Conversely, the church also seems to love to point out how easy it is to be “lost.” This dilemma has led to the formation of such things as Canon Law, Church Covenants, Catechisms, thousands of denominations, and sects to instruct us how to get saved. The problem is that these are human centered rules and promise what they cannot deliver.

Merton addresses this problem in his words above. He asks us to question why and how we are approaching God and suggests a course of action that might work. Most of us are very content to approach God with ways and methods that are comfortable to us.

Most commonly we use the “rule” method. Rules are easy to create but hard to follow. In military conflicts it is a common thing to deploy a “smoke screen” so that your enemy will fail to see you. Merton asserts that we all have a ‘self-smoke’ that we believe hides us from God and frees us from the responsibility of truly getting to know the ways of God. The question is posed, how can we find our creator by looking into ourselves, His creation? He formed us and we cannot find Him in our own egos.

rules June 10There are those who manage to follow the laws and rules sufficiently enough to give an appearance of succeeding. We can isolate and empty ourselves from the things of the world and really feel that we may be touching God, but we would be very delusional if we thought that God was found in emptiness. He is the God of fullness and abundance. We do not find God in the natural but the supernatural.

Jesus and his inner circle said unnatural things:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~~Matthew 11:29-30

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.~~ Galatians 2:20 (Paul the Apostle)

And Jesus said to him, “homelessFoxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” ~~~Matthew 8:20-22

These sayings of Jesus and others, a yoke that relieves burden, crucified, being homeless, abandoning family, giving up all that you have are not natural but supernatural(spiritual). Getting to know God requires that we give up on ourselves and turn to Him. The problem with most organized religion is that it continues to get more organized. I have been a Pastor for more than 40 years and I have learned one thing that I can say is undeniably true; we cannot find God with our own skill set. God is found outside of all the world has to offer. The best the church can offer is to give time and space for people to find God and then help them to get to know Him better. All of our rules and rituals are ways of communicating to the God that we have already found. Let me assure you, you can find God because he loves you and is always seeking you. He asks one thing-forget yourself and listen to him.


Lord, I need to put myself aside, because in all my worldly wisdom I will never truly find you. May I this day turn to the wisdom that only you possess. I am sure that you were just waiting for me to turn away from myself and turn toward you. Give me the courage to do this in a world that is so focused on what humankind can do that we fail to remember that we were created in the image of God. Help me this very day to turn to that image of God that is inside of me but hidden buy my own personality and wants. I ask you that you guide me by your wisdom and knowledge today. Let me find you today.


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It All Hangs Together

Someone will say: “You worry about birds. Why not worry about people?” I worry about both birds and people. We are in the world and part of it, and we are destroying everything because we are destroying ourselves spiritually, morally, and in every way. It is all part of the same sickness, it all hangs together.

——Thomas Merton from his Journals

I find Merton’s approach to creation care well worth considering. Far too often care of God’s creation is presented as an “either or choice,” but it is not so simple. We ALL share this planet that was created by God and entrusted, BY HIM, to our care. Many of us are frightened by the changes we see in our world around us. As a ”marsh dweller,” (I live in New Orleans and we are surrounded by marsh land), I find myself very disturbed by the constant loss of this land that protects from tides and hurricanes. There are various answers to the loss of wetlands, but one thread runs through them all, man messed this thing up. For us to properly worry about birds and people, we must take seriously our roles as stewards of the earth.

Stewards are never owners, but always caretakers. They are to exercise their roles for the true owner. In the case of the earth, God is the owner/creator. What is good for the land is always good for the people who dwell on that land.

environmental-cleanupHow different it would be if we saw creation care as vitally linked to our spirituality. Merton makes this link in short order when he tells us that as we go down the road of moral depravity, we destroy the land entrusted to us as well. This all seems to be a part of a “don’t care” attitude that descends upon us when we are in full rebellion against God. Merton seems to propose that as we turn toward God, we will become better stewards of His creation. Now that’s something to think about.

Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Prayer Thought — Lord make me aware of what I consume each day. Help me to see a link between my spiritual heath and care of your creation. Amen

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Seek and Desire

The seeds of contemplation and sanctity have been planted in those souls, (all people of good will)but they merely lie dormant. They do not grow. In other words: sanctifying grace occupies the substance of their souls but never flows out to inflame and irrigate and take possession of their faculties, their intellect and will. God will not manifest himself to these souls because they do not seek him.

——-Thomas Merton

The Seven Storey Mountain

Merton’s wisdom tells us that we can only achieve true unity with God when we seek it with our whole beings. God has implanted within each of us the seeds that will bring us to full fellowship with Him, but it is our mission to brings forth the fruit offered by these seeds. His grace is a gift that gives each one the capacity to fully possess the salvation of God.

Our desire to see ourselves fully sanctified with our creator is the lifelong mission of the Christian. Many a person has gone through life, many times a good life, without fully claiming the wonderful grace of God. Merton warns that Christian growth is a proactive venture, because God does not force Himself upon us. We are called to seek and desire Him.

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Closeness to God

Thomas Merton's hermitage at The Abbey of Our ...

Thomas Merton’s Hermitage

It would be a great mistake to think that mystical contemplation necessarily brings a whole litany of weird phenomena-ecstasies, raptures, stigmata and so on. These belong to quite a different order of things. They are “charismatic” gifts, and they are not directly ordered to the sanctification of the one who receives them.

—-Thomas Merton “What is Contemplation?”

The great cry of our time is,” Let me see it!” This cry pushes in on every aspect of our existence, even our spiritual journey. Somehow, we have begun to believe that every act of faith requires some sort of proof or outward manifestation for it to be real. Merton reminds us that not all things are for our own self-gratification. The “gifts” in particular, are for the edification of the church, and when we practice contemplation we should not expect some spectacular results that make us some guru of great faith. Contemplation and centering are acts of the individual and bring us to understand what it means to be close to a loving God. Through such closeness we can live a life that is spiritually fruitful and face the many trials that we encounter.

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Contemplation and Silence

Sketch by myself with effects applied.

Self Drawing

The fact remains that contemplation will not be given to those who willfully remain at a distance from God, who confine their interior life to a few exercises of piety and a few external acts of worship and service performed as a matter of duty. Such people are careful to avoid sin. They respect God as master. But their heart does not belong to Him.

——-Thomas Merton “What is Contemplation?”


Those words written by Merton over sixty years ago still resonate for Christians in our diverse and increasingly secularized world. Surprisingly, Merton’s little book was written to lead young men as they sought to be formed as Trappist monks. The twenty first century is bringing a great cry for a deepening spirituality from all areas of society. The New Monastic movement, and interest in all forms of spirituality are on the rise. A real sense of lostness, uncertainty, and fear is gripping our world. Merton cuts to the heart of the problem. Mere personal piety, no matter how sincere, will not bring us to a heart union with God.

Let me suggest a simple spirituality that is based on contemplative prayer that allows God to enter into our lives in times of quiet stillness. This is an offering of ourselves to God without expectation or certainty. It is a call to embrace the mystery of God as a journey to the unknown. Such a journey cannot be measured by acts of piety, times of worship, but in the giving of ourselves to a God we cannot fully understand. Such acts of trust allow God to be the transforming factor of our lives.

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Filed under Contemplation, Faith, New Monasticism, Prayer, Thomas Merton