Interesting Scribbles

Pure Fire 2014

September 23, 2017

Notes from Pure Fire Retreat, on October 3, 2014.

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Me. Then I need to keep working — people should see my Son when they look at you.

God — it’s just that I let You down so many times. No — you don’t hold Me up — I hold you up. And I don’t make junk.

Look at history with eyes that see the goodness of who I am.

A masterpiece gives us a window into the mind of its artist. “Starry Night” tells of van Gogh. Mankind tells of God.

How many times do you look in the mirror — and see your soul, a son/daughter of God, the King of Kings?

What does it mean to be in the image of God?

The universe is God’s creation; mankind is his masterpiece.

In the beginning, God created mankind. In His own image, He created them. Male and female, He created them. The property of male-ness and female-ness images God. It has from the beginning. Humanity images God. When we see each other, it should be the face of God we look at, at least in part. Our lives are meant to be lived in image of God — for others. Sin crumples that, making us ask what in the world might make us whole, instead of asking how we can give of ourselves to the world.

Carving away the parts of ourselves that accreted on top of God’s actual image can — and usually does — hurt. We’ve gotten attached to that junk. But it’s not part of us, it never was — it got picked up along the way. Trust God’s chisel to cut it away.

Be patient in the discomfort. You will be better (and better off) for it. It takes time and will. God won’t heal our wounds if we are still proud of them, or polish out our scars if we want to keep them. He lets us choose, even when we are slow to choose well.

Being God’s masterpiece doesn’t entail being perfect, or the need for it.

Three important questions — who am I, why am I here, and where am I going? Spend time with them — they’re the questions we’re here to answer.

There is a part of us that is never fully satisfied in this life — a dis-ease, an unquenchable fire. Spirituality is about what we do with that desire, with that unrest. (Fr. Rollhauser) No matter where we go in that dis-ease, no matter how big the questions, God is there with us and for us.

(CCC 281) Infinite desire for happiness that nothing can satisfy but God Himself.

Happiness is not just for ourselves, but to be shared. It makes those around us happy too.

(YouCat 286) God gave us the freedom to choose that which is good — or that which is not good. When we feel bound, longing for a feeling for freedom… God already gave it to us.

The greatest danger is not that we will aim too high and miss, but that we will aim too low and reach (only) that.
— Michelangelo

Where are you going? Can you take me with you?

God wants us to rest in Him, and He rests in our hearts.

How do I deal with it when the dis-ease is so strong it hurts?

The paradox of the Paschal mystery… how can I, going through hardship, still be a happy person? Knowing God is with me — moving to a place of acceptance — watching myself move to a new trajectory. The Paschal mystery is all about the death and resurrection of Christ.

Day to day, we have highs and lows and in-betweens. From the peaks life, is amazing — from the valleys, it sucks. Dryness gives us time and opportunity to lean on God.

Chronos — human time — goes up and down. Kairos — God’s time — spirals out. They intersect. Even in the valleys, God’s time is moving.

Die to live.

The Church is not a refuge for sad people, the Church is a house of joy.
— Pope Francis

Is there anything that isn’t broken? But things/people adapt to the brokenness. And don’t give up on a whole community, just because it isn’t perfect. The question is, how do we build up a broken world?

A basketball player who just wants to score has to play 5-on-1. He needs the whole team to have even odds.

Look at how Jesus picked his disciples — normal people, but it’s worth pointing out, dedicated and full of zeal. He chose broken people, but the team worked because they had the same vision: proclaiming the kingdom of God — get everyone to heaven.

We are much impacted by our environments. What environment are you spending time in? Who is your team? You can isolate yourself, trying to stay away from the brokenness; or you can go out and mend it, and be in it, and make the best of it.

Romance — initial attraction to a person or a group. Disillusionment — when that “honeymoon” period wears off. Not just letting things run their course, but putting in the work. Accepting the imperfections and making a decision to love anyways.

Virtual and authentic relationship.

How do we maintain a quality of relationship?

We become ourselves most clearly when we dwell with God and he dwells with us. This can be hard — God can be hard to see. But yet, He is not fully invisible — he sent His Son into the world.

Reflection Questions Over the past month, when did you feel the closest to God? What did it feel like? In what ways have you moved away from God? What might you have forgotten about Him? What do you need to do/change in order to dwell more intimately with Him?

Peter Kreefe — Love requires three things: a lover, a beloved, and a relationship between them. God is love, a trinity.

The quality of the relationship is what sets the quality of the love it is part of.

Jesus, let me find peace in your faithfulness.

Spirituality of communion tells us that others are part of us — their joy is our joy, and they sorrow is our sorrow. It asks us to make room for one another, and to bear each others’ burdens. To be of service, offering up a kind of service that suits the moment. To see others, not as competitors or statistics, but as brothers and sisters.

Where did you go? (I missed you.)
Where are you going? (I want to go with.)
Where will you go? (Master, you have the words of everlasting life.)

I was talking with my eyes closed; you listened silently and then walked away. I felt confused and disoriented. You felt guilty — you had to leave without telling me anything. (An odd exercise, but one that made people think.)

Alex’s note: The exercise, as I best as I remember several years later, was that we got into pairs. One person got a written prompt and answered it with their eyes shut, and the other listened with their eyes open, but without saying anything. Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly what the intended goal of the exercise was.

“I will often do as my wife suggests.”

I felt like a God who could let such suffering happen to me couldn’t be that great of a god — and it seemed ridiculous to owe allegiance to Him or give my life to him.

“Tattoos on the Heart” — a book by a priest who has been working in some of the worst gang areas in LA.

To look at him — that he has lost so much — but still stay in his faith. Image of God as a father who can’t take his eyes off His son — us. God is too big to fit in any pigeonhole, but it is possible for us to see only part of Him and make him small in our mind, losing sight of the whole of Him.


The reason that, although I wanted nothing more than to get married and become a father, when the good friend down the street who I went out dancing with told me her feelings for me, that I couldn’t accept it, was that I didn’t see myself as being lovable.

We squirm in the place or our sacredness, and we don’t let ourselves be embraced.

Even though at the time, I didn’t really understand love, I see that God was calling to me. That’s good — to know the depths of what feelings I can have.


God wants us to be as expansive in our love as He is — for our spirit to grow so much that our body can no longer contain it, and it touches the people around us. To pour ourselves out to the last drop.

In this world, where marriage has become a social contract, to witness to the sacramentality of marriage. That indissoluble love and total giving of self is a reality.

Which takes us back to the whole point of holding still in the vastness of God’s embrace. It’s so important to let ourselves be loved — to be embraced and tended.

Reflection Questions What is the thing you want most in life? Do you find it hard to believe that God loves you? What is the most significant relationship in your life, and what has it taught you about the love of God?

(Those who are the closest to us are the ones who can hurt us the most deeply. Consider the pain and sadness our sin can cause — to those around us and, perhaps, to God.)

At an intellectual level, we can grasp that God has limitless love for us. It’s hard to get it to our heart, to our actions.

If I really, fully, truly knew the way God loved me — would I act this way?

When I see you, Lord, I know that I love you. It’s when I’m away that I stumble and forget.

Come and visit me — and see me — more often. I’m always home, waiting for you.

The examen is a simple daily prayer, a recognition of God’s presence with us throughout the day.

God is good.
All the time.

All the time.
God is good.


Speak to My Heart — Ashley Plaisted

Nothing from God can be made into something sinful, although it can be used for a sinful purpose.

We live in times that really call on us to be fully ourselves in our actions.

Love God — love people — do something about it.

Authentic relationship is rooted in the identity of God.

Spirituality needs to be channeled and integrated into life, or it will cause disintegration in our life.

purpose diagram

To live, to love, and to serve — live by faith, hope, and charity.

Life needs passion. It’s not enough to have things you love and are good at. Be great at things you love.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
— Aristotle

Kinds of habits for well-being — physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social/relational, behavioral. One way to examine these and assess them is through a prayer practice like the examen.

Even when you don’t feel loved, love all the more. Love wins because God wins.

If you think of yourself as a pie… Don’t let yourself spoil. Don’t overindulge. Recognize that you were made with a plan and a purpose — that you are wonderfully made, that you are meant to be shared to bring sweetness to others.