Ever Burning, Never Extinguished [Epilogue]

Note: We’re at the end of our time together. For now. But the epilogue ties it off nicely, I think. Again, thank you for your participation. We will do this again, sometime soon. —David

It’s a lifetime practice, one that can always grow deeper. Any effort to know God is success, even though we feel it is a flop, because God appreciates even the smallest consideration or thought much more than we can imagine.

—Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Healing Our Violence Through the Journey of Centering Prayer

O Love, ever burning, never extinguished, O Charity, my God, set me on fire!

—Augustine, The Confessions

AUGUSTINE WAS NO STRANGER TO THE FIRE OF GOD. BY A heat much greater than his own passions, he was changed forever. John of the Cross referred to it as “the living flame of God.” He said it is the tenderness of God that wounds the soul with its burning. “So deeply and profoundly does it wound it and fill it with tenderness that it causes it to melt in love . . . for this is the effect that the speaking [the voice] of God causes in the soul.”

When the soul says that the flame wounds it in its deepest center, it means that it wounds it in the farthest point attained by its own substance and virtue and power. This it says to indicate the copiousness and abundance of its glory and delight, which is the greater and the more tender when the soul is the more fervently and substantially transformed and centered in God.

The warm optimism you feel here at the end is not an illusion, nor is it merely a “feeling,” an inflation of sense. There is much more to it than that. What you feel is the result of a quickening of the interior. An ignition, an “enkindling,” as John of the Cross called it, an arousal of sorts. Jeremiah said, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jer. 20:9). In another place he says, “From on high he sent fire, sent it down into my bones” (Lam. 1:13).

But even the best fire needs maintenance. To Jeremiah, the surest course was to emancipate it, to let it burn, as only the Word of God does, strong and true. Paul told Timothy as much. “Preach the Word,” he said, “be instant in season, out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Keep it in circulation, he said. Give it movement and reach.

With Psalm 119 in mind, C. S. Lewis wrote, “The Order of the Divine mind, embodied in the Divine Law, is beautiful. What should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life?” In response to this question, there are three things you can do. A habit, after all, must be fed regularly. It must be exercised. The instructions are simple, practical, self-explanatory, and they work effectively with a minimal investment of time.

1. Read some portion of Scripture every day. Read as much or as little as you wish, but do it daily, privately, out loud, and with great love.

2. Accept what you read as a form of prayer. God is listening.

3. If you begin to drift out of center, even slightly, or if your distractions seem to be getting the better of you, go back to Psalm 119, and reengage this strategy as a recourse.

Though I seem to vacillate between faith and doubt more than I would like to admit, I cannot deny that I was led by a divine and gentle hand. Nor can I deny the heat within me that at times left me mute and incapable of activity. I can only pray that this strategy will work as effectively for you. Here are the conclusions I made:

God is a tactician, a sublime strategist willing to share his intelligence on my behalf. His Word is like a deep gulf with a powerful center of attraction that draws me inward. God receives my silence as prayer. He receives my elation as praise,

my confidence as a sign of trust, my acts of charity as worship, my tongueless gaze toward heaven as a call to arms, my slightest turn toward the interior as a desire to meet with him on his own turf, to warm myself by his familiar fires. He loves the sound of my voice.

He doesn’t want me staring at any wall. He would rather I make noise instead, to circumnavigate that wall until it falls to the ground.

God is closer than we first suspected. He said we should not limit heaven to some remote paradise, but to look again and notice that paradise is as close as the next selfless act, the next pure moment and expression of love. He said being and becoming are bound together. And for all our rulemaking and our endless lists, he said there is only one rule. Granted, it is a single rule with many working parts, but a single rule nonetheless: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself, that is, as I have loved you”. He said that divine citizenship is available for the seeking, for the asking, for the knocking at the door.

All that, to say, God loves me. Any other life would be unthinkable. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). He also said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33 KJV). If you follow the simple logic, or do the simple math, the truth is evident, as is the course you are to take. Turning toward the interior is not the mystery we make it out to be. Nor is it a path reserved only for the mystic or the desperate.

There is indeed a fire shut up in the bones. But if it torments, it also comforts; if it wounds, it also heals. It is a lamp that lights the way to the interior. It renovates. It reanimates. And it consumes all it touches. As a believer, I can’t think of a more delightful condition or a more bountiful hope than that.


11 Responses to “Ever Burning, Never Extinguished [Epilogue]”

  1. Kelly Reed June 5, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world’s been turning. We didn’t start the fire. No we didn’t light it but we tried to fight it.” by Billy Joel

    Pardon me, but this was the song that popped into my mind when I first began to read this morning. We did not start the fire that burns within us, so why try to fight it? It was ALWAYS burning since the world’s been turning.

    Oh I do love Epilogues. They are my favorite part of the book. It is where, for the most part, you get the little nagging questions answered and your mind can rest at ease knowing that life is good in the little world you are about to leave behind for the next journey. I love that, Happy Every After feeling, I generally experience when I am here. David you summed it up perfectly! He loves us! He really, really loves us!
    Hallelujah and Glory to God in the Highest!

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this. It was a new adventure for me and I hope to experience it again and again. The truth that people shared from their lives and hearts was wonderful and enlightening. We are not alone in our sojourn as we travel this alien world, though sometimes we believe the lie that we are. Bless each of you for your very real sincerity these last 23 days and David may Our Lord God Almighty continue to shine His mercies and grace upon you and Benita and your family! Bless you, bless you, bless you brother! Shalom

  2. davidteems June 5, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    I’d love to hear if anything significant took place during the last 22 days. It always does for me, in some way, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle. There is usually some barrier I am working through, some hurdle (usually some remnant of an illformed past). But change is inevitable. The current must remain active and alive, teeming and at an eager tide. Fluid, not fix.

    If your heart lacks its peace, find it again. Get it back. Protect it. Then love till it hurts. Be vulnerable. Be invisible, weightless. I’m getting carried away. Which is the entire point, really.

  3. Tina Hunt June 5, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Though I wasn’t very good, I played tennis when I was in college–many, many years ago. The coach constantly reminded me to return to center after I made a shot, so that I would be ready when the ball was returned. It was that couldn’t make the shot if I were off center, but to do so always took way more energy and my return just seemed less effective that way. Thanks for being a spiritual coach and reminding me to be sure my heart is centered.

  4. Linda Wasson June 5, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    This has been such a delight to me in every way.

    I had been dealing with such a deep, personal battle for about a year when I questioned God about why He put my daughter back into my life to have her self destruct and break my heart. After a couple months I finally heard Him say…”if I had not put her back into your life she would never have come to know me.” That was such a comfort, that made it all worth it and I knew I could not blame myself anymore, that it was all in God’s perfect plan for her to find me and for us to bond so deeply and love each other so much. She was 43 when she went to be with the Lord. I had time to know and love her well, she had serious addictions. Her liver was too damaged to heal I prayed for her healing but it never came on earth, she is whole now in every way.

    This study has drawn me back to a deeper intimacy with Christ that I so longed for but needed help getting there. I had cried out to Him to restore me and through this study I feel that prayer was answered.

    He doesn’t want me staring at any wall. He would rather I make noise instead, to circumnavigate that wall until it falls to the ground.
    I love this because I just read Joshua 6 a few days ago and it reminded me that with God I am a majority even though it may not seem that way and I have the victory over every battle through Him.

    I feel that fire in my bones ablaze with love and adoration for my lover and my King and I am comforted and healed by this fire… Praise God!!

  5. Marian Sue Daley June 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    I have been really busy this past few months trying to find work and trying to have energy to do this job after being retired for quite sometime. It started me to worry.. Can I do this? The study brought me back to the center of my heart who really is so much in love with me ( my Adonai) that He will even go to a job with you if you ask Him to stay close..He is always there but we must be aware that He takes so much an active part in our lives. It is the relationship He wants.. I just started to talk with Him in my inner man as I worked at my job as I do at home. All of King David’s cries I really can relate to.. He was so honest and so humbele about his faults. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness. He isn’t so far removed when we are His children.. He is our Abba.. Again thank you for adding in God’s heavenly Hebrew language made up of the aleph/bet that all creation was framed in. Ephesians 5:24 Grace be to all who love our Lord Yeshua the Messiah with undying love..

  6. Barbara Page June 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    All I can say at the moment is a deep, heart-felt thank you David!

  7. Kelly Reed June 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    You asked if anything significant took place during these last 22 days and I guess the thing that I noticed most of all about what He is doing in my life is that, like in Day 5, He is as close to me as my next breath. He will NEVER leave nor forsake me and that is something I have talked to others about for years but, I do not think I really believed it for myself, yet it is truth.

    Day 15 was a tough one for me…a day of much reflection about my actual relationship with Him…You know I said I have not trembled because of Him, but I know on many occasions in my life I have trembled in fear of man, mostly because I did something wrong and got caught (like with my parents, or teachers in grade school) but I am re-reading day 15 because I want to tremble in awe of Him and who He is to me. I desire to be so in tune with Him that as I inhale and exhale I am panting His name. Deeper intimacy is what is quickening in me.

  8. davidteems June 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    One thing about change, sometimes it is not conspicuous. It is more subtle or in a more remote part of us, some deep cleansing God wants to accomplish. I trust the Word in that. It interprets me. Give me a few days. I want to begin more regular posts. I love your company, all of you!!!!

  9. MIchael Brown June 6, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    “Though I seem to vacillate between faith and doubt more than I would like to admit”… Hard to imagine what Lies in doubt in someone like you. Makes you fun to understand.

    “Nor can I deny the heat within me that at times left me mute and incapable of activity”.

    I’ve been incabable of working like I use to. Measures of emptyness burning me to the ground. The flame needing a ‘place to burn’ . Broken into pieces and running for shelter in God to manage ‘tempests’ of bewilderments within me. Finding the shelter to till His ‘turf’ within me. ‘Circumnavigating’ whats fallen to the ground. In all these things like you. God providing a place to live with the ‘wounds that heal’…. Trusting that being who we are, and becoming who we can, are ‘bound’. Ever moving us along with ‘tides’ that pull at our beliefs and understandings as the ledge of Life goes under again and again. Especially in those resolved, to surrerendered to the sea of Love that engulfs us.~

  10. Kelly Reed June 6, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    Some deep cleansing God wants to accomplish, I like the wants part! Scary yet exciting. Looking forward to more. :o )

  11. John B Walters June 6, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    While I was finishing up the blog I received a call from a friend back in the Airborne days. That was a long time ago, but it is good to know that we are still following the Lord and still growing in Him. This has been a good and fruitful journey with you. God bless!!!

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