Friday, August 28, 2009
I know that when my soul leaves my body, the only thing that I take with me is my consciousness. I saw my husband of long ago leave suddenly from an aneurysm. He left behind all of the things he worked so hard to earn. He also left behind the holes created by him missing important family events due to work & the pains inflicted by his anger. He took with him the scars of anger & rage in the large pockets of unhealed consciousness. It led me to conclude that the most important thing I can do is to live life spiritually & be prepared for my departure by working on myself, on my consciousness.
But how can I do this? As I look back over my life, to be honest, I see a mixed bag, so to speak. I have done many unselfish things. I have served others. I have given much. But, I also have made a huge number of mistakes. It seems to me that the bulk of the worst mistakes have come from the wounds of childhood & early adulthood. By not having a safe haven or safe people to help me work through them, I was thrown into the world to somehow function & work through them by myself. Not knowing what was "normal" behavior, I struggled to find my way.
The saving grace for me came when I was almost 30 & found a new (new to me) kind of church. It was Religious Science, the version of it that saved me, seems no longer to exist by the way. The denomination seemed to have left me & went in a different direction than the one I found in 1969. It is not Christian Science, it is not Scientology, it was not New Age at the time. It grew out of Ralph Waldo Emerson & the American Transcendentalists. It grew alongside the Higher Thought movement in England influenced by their Trine & Troward, touched by Emma Curtis Hopkins, awakened in the Filmores, the Brook Sisters, Emmet Fox, Joel Goldsmith & then Ernest & Fenwicke Holmes who founded Religious Science. Oh there were so many. I cannot possibly mention the thousands of teachers, thinkers & writers in the movement that in general became known as New Thought.
It was often called "Practical Christianity." It was about how to apply Christian principles into one's daily life. It was about discovering how God created things to work & then get in harmony with God's Principles. It was about studying the mystics. It was about embodying Christian principles in one's everyday walk. It was about Oneness. It was wonderful. It was healing me. I was not alone.
I eventually was ordained & served as a senior pastor for many years. However, things shifted. Powers that be decided it was not Christian but more universal. "Everything goes" seemed to be the new motto. It morphed into something other than what I had entered in 1969. In 1994 I left & became independent. I kept searching, wanting to walk more deeply in God.
One of things I have come to believe completely is that we are called to become Christed. The term "Christ" means the anointed one. It may seem like a long way off to be able to be anointed by God & be set free from the shadows of darkness. It is a journey we are all called to make.
Jesus called us brothers & sisters. He told us that the kingdom of God is within. He told us we are the Light of the world. He told us we would do greater things than he did! As we endeavor to lift ourselves out of darkness, confusion & separation feelings, we move ever closer to God's Light. We are all on some part of the path, either walking toward, walking away or sitting down & not moving in the direction of being anointed as God's very own. The Holy Spirit urges us forward, no matter how stubborn we may be (I often say that the Holy Spirit is a terrible nag).
Each day, I look forward to the next step on the path. I ask for God's will & guidance in my life to lead me to waking up spiritually, as fully as is humanly possible. I wish to follow Jesus by being what he called me to be, His sister in God.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
- What has been passing for Christianity during these nineteen centuries is merely a beginning, full of weaknesses and mistakes, not a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus. --- Albert Schweitzer
So many thoughts come to mind as I think about these words & the man who wrote them. I think of Paul speaking about when a child, I think as a child --- through the glass darkly & then face to face, etc.
My mind goes through the history of Christianity. I think of the early followers who knew Jesus and/or his disciples. I think of the fervor, the commitment, the courage & the faith in that 1st century. I think of the ordinary people who opened their hearts & lives & became made new.
But I also think of the shift into political/military take over of the movement. I think of the non-Christian, Constantine, who used Christianity to unite his empire & wasn't even baptised until his death bed. I think of the warrior popes & bishops & those who lived off the backs of the poor & called themselves Christian. I thought of the enslavement of people with the excuse that they would be rewarded in the next life. So much of "Christian" history has nothing to do with the life & teachings of Jesus Christ.
Of course, the fanatical shifts that took place from time to time are obviously painful to look at. We have the dreadful inquisitions, crusades, witch hunts & other terrible things that come from the extremely cruel, crazy & power hungry who hijacked our faith far too frequently. In this moment, we can see those very same kinds of people hijacking another faith to make it something violent & ugly & not at all Godlike.
But my concern is with Christianity. We might be able to save our future if somehow we could hear Schweitzer deep within ourselves & awaken to full-grown Christianity.
So how can we become a full-grown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus? How can we grow up?
Jesus told us that his central message was the 2 great commandments. In fact, he said that by following them, we fulfill ALL the law & the prophets. That is quite a statement! In order to do that, what we need to do is love each other fully & completely & love God fully & completely.
Far too seldom have these 2 commandments been the focus of our spiritual walk. Jesus hung out with sinners, with all sorts of people, & he loved them. His love healed many of them. Many Christians historically & today avoid some of the groups Jesus spent time with, even condemning them & excluding them. Some act as if they are too pious & too good to lower themselves to be with some group or the other.
Jesus didn't say love only those you agree with, only those who behave the way you want them to, only non-sinners. In fact, he said to even love our enemies.
There is an interesting balance between being a sincere follower who endeavors to be congruent while not slipping over into fanaticism.
One of the things that I like about the heritage Christianity grew out of, Judaism, is their historical, & more or less constant, inquiry into to their own scriptures. They dissect, discuss & even argue over meanings & applications of just about every line of what we call the Old Testament. They try to clarify their teaching & their faith.
I find it amazing that some Christian groups in this day & age refuse to discuss anything from the Bible. They have decided they know what it means & it is literally God's word dictated to men. They refuse to consider idiomatic sayings of the days, cultural & historical context, scientific understandings, surrounding myths, actual other words that could have been translated (such as dimensions or mansions from the Greek in in my fathers' house are many mansions/dimensions), etc. These groups, of course, do not & cannot follow all of the directions given, especially in the Old Testament. They do not eat Kosher, do not follow the cleanliness practices & other traditions, never mind the 10 Commandments.
It seems to me, that if Christians could follow the 2 Great Commandments, we could have meaningful discussions that would lead to real, actual spiritualization of our lives. The church has fractured into many groups, most of which claim to know THE Truth while other groups do not. So, at best they argue. We do not have a dialogue across most group lines that discusses our faith, explores our scriptures, allows for various understandings, encourages one another, etc.
I imagine Jesus is not happy with us. We cannot even follow the simple commandment to love. How can we bear witness to Him, if we are not endeavoring to be like Him? How can Christianity grow up if we don't?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
In meditation & contemplative prayer we are to let extraneous thoughts go by without attachment, such as let them float off on a log down the river. Do not dwell on them. Keep our mind on God, our sacred word, the scripture or whatever anchors that particular contemplation.
In life we could do the same thing with the ugly. Do not dwell there. Do not take it in. Be aware it is there, but do not allow it to enter so that we embody it. Just as when I take the bread & wine on Sunday, I take it into my being as Christ, becoming part of the body of Christ & the body of Christ becoming part of me. My body accepts the wine & bread, & it (Christ) then becomes indistinguishable from me.
I do not choose to take in rotten food, & let it become part of me. I can choose to not take in rotten thoughts & let them become part of me. I can notice rotten food is there. I can do something to remove it, but I don't have to take it in. I can notice rotten things in life & do things to remove them, but I don't have to take them in. I can dwell on the true & lovely rather than dwell on the opposite.
Where our mind & heart are, there will be our life experience.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
It has been painful to me to listen to some of the government health people now saying that human life doesn't really begin until after the child is 2, as that child is not human until at least partially socialized. Maybe I should say more accurately that this horrifies me.
This opens the door, it seems to me, to an argument in favor of not spending the $ on a preemie as it is expensive to keep him/her alive & really he/she is not yet human! This makes me sick even more than the partial birth abortion when a viable, almost full-term baby, either has its brains sucked out, is burned by salts or some other barbaric destruction technique.
Sure there are times when an abortion may save the life of the mother, but as far as I can determine this is never or extremely rarely so in the final weeks of pregnancy. How can we justify the torture of an almost born baby or the destruction of a child who is not yet 2?
What have we become? What are we in the process of becoming?
If we do not even honor the beginning of human life, no wonder so many seniors are concerned about end of life care. Great cultures have traditionally honored elders, their wisdom, their depth & who they have spent long years learning to be. Great cultures have celebrated the entrance of a new baby into their midst.
Are we a post-great culture?
Do we grow spiritually to become Christed? Do we think, speak & act in accordance with our highest understanding of God? When our souls leave here, can we stand before God with a clear conscience? How can some stand before God knowing they advocated death & destruction to human life? In what way does expediency get a pass? How does saving money equate in the eternal kingdom?
What are we doing to awaken spiritually? Is that something we might get around to if we get the chance? Do we tell ourselves that we just are too busy? Do we actually do our best to follow the example & teachings of Jesus? Do we welcome the presence of Christ to integrate into every fiber of our being so that we can glorify God here on earth?
Teilhard de Chardin said that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. What kind of spiritual/human experience are we having? What are really the most important things to who we really are? What are our actual priorities?
Then I began to consider how hard it is to keep my mind on the lovely in the normal course of a day. I thought of the news, the awful movie previews, the violent things that flashed by me in the passing of each day. I thought of the views of poverty, war, ignorance, intolerance & inhumanity that are presented to me regularly. I thought of the movie we recently walked out of --- so offensive!!! I thought of personal family challenges. I thought of the path of my life with all of its twists & turns.
What is "true?" How do I keep my mind on the true when it is not always clear what that is?
This "simple" admonition given to us by Paul turns out to not be so simple after all. Even in his day, with the Romans attack on the followers of Jesus, the poverty, violence, disease & filth, it was not so simple.
How can I/we follow this direction? Can I get the movie studios to only make lovely movies or TV execs to only make lovely programs? Can I get sponsors to only make lovely commercials? Can I get politicians to speak only the truth? Can I stop the ugliness of war, poverty, ignorance, or man's inhumanity to man/woman? I don't see how I can avoid seeing things that are not lovely, or how I can be sure I am seeing what is true. I don't see how I can change the world to make it be more lovely or truthful. I'm not even able to make myself lovely & true all of the time. On top of that, not all of the Bible is lovely - wars, murders, betrayals, crucifixions, etc.
What a dilemma.
I try to look beyond the appearance. Was this Jesus' clue on how to do it? Judge not by appearances, but judge righteous judgment. What is the righteous thing to see? I've long told myself that this is the spiritual essence behind the surface. A person might be acting in an ugly fashion, but behind that is their eternal soul trying to express the spiritual truth, but stopped by confusion or hidden by pain or some such thing. But I don't know right this minute. I see people supposedly committed to God, Jesus or Allah doing angry, mean, ugly things. They say they have given their lives to God, but they act viciously toward others. They act pious, but then they attack a loved one. They say "thy will be done," but endeavor to control everyone & everything. The words are spiritual, the actions are straight from ego.
Was another of Jesus' clues re: this his words on the cross? Forgive them for they know not what they do.
In my life I have made a gazillion mistakes. I endeavor to correct them. I try to be congruent. I want to be filled with the Light of God. I am not always able to be what I want & know I need to be. Sometimes I feel guidance re: something, but don't follow it. Most of my regrets fall into this category. I'm getting better, but I'm not there. Is that part of the message? It's a journey; God is Infinite; you can never arrive; you have to start with yourself; you can only keep on trekking; forgive yourself & others because you don't know what you're doing or you would do better.
So, I continue to ponder.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I think that God showed up in the form of Jesus to show us what He/She is like so that we don't have to infer from varied writings. What did the life of Jesus show us about God? Some of the things that Jesus shows me are the following.
God cares about us & is involved in our lives. God can heal us. God doesn't desert even the lowliest of us. No one is excluded from the possibility of being in relationship with God. Life is not limited to the earthly body - there is life after death. If we do what Jesus taught us to the best of our abilities, we are saved from ourselves, from darkness, from evil. We are to be part of the body of Christ & live Christed lives. He asked us to do greater things than he did by following his model. Each of us can be a face of God to others, however imperfectly, or we can be a face of evil. Each of us has freewill to make that choice, but it is not a one time choice. It is a choice that can be made at any time & for many of us, it has to be made more than once, maybe a huge number of times. A brief look at the 1st disciple's lives shows us how easy it is to fall away, yet how easily we are welcomed back in love.
As a child, I had a deeply intimate relationship with Jesus. I wore out several New Testaments with my reading & also underlining in colored pencils & pens. I still have one that I won in a Bible reading contest when in Junior High. It is colored with my underlinings, some of which have run due to my tears dropping upon the pages. It sits in olive wood carved hands that we bought in the Olive Wood Factory in Bethlehem a number of years ago.
I started to have a challenge in my relationship with Jesus when I was about 12. We had moved to the East Whittier United Presbyterian Church because my mother was upset with the new Methodist minister who did not believe in hell. (Interesting because by the time she was very old, she deemed herself an atheist! She passed at the age of 93.) The church started out as an old brown church uptown Whittier, but built a new church on 2nd Street in East Whittier. I recall vividly a terrifying sermon one Sunday about how we were all sinners & were going to hell. I sat one afternoon in the sanctuary, looking at the beautiful stained glass window of Jesus. I cried my heart out & asked repeatedly out loud, "Please tell me what I've done wrong. I'll change, really I will. I just don't know what I've done wrong!" No answer came. I was heartbroken & a little wedge was placed in my relationship.
I kept trying to be good. I led our youth group to adopt a Korean War orphan. I rolled bandages for the lepers. I got $5 a week allowance for cooking & cleaning & sent $10 a month to CARE because I heard $5 would feed a family of 4 for a month in Africa. I tried to do everything that Jesus told me to do to the best of my understanding. I was active in church & the youth group. One of my backhanded compliments from my mother many years later was, "You've always been so spiritual, it scares me."
Then I went to college. I read "Man and His Gods" by Homer Smith. I was shocked to read of the development of religions, including my own. I began to wonder if the Presbyterians were telling me the Truth. I was having a painful paradigm shift. I read as much as I could get my hands on.
A big turning point was one day back at the East Whittier United Presbyterian Church, a newly ordained woman said to me, "Marlene you are so spiritual, you should go to Africa to save the people there." It struck me strange, & I said, "You mean some goodhearted woman who is a good mother, good wife, good neighbor is going to hell because she's not a Presbyterian?" She answered, "Yes, isn't that sad?" Something in me rose up with great force, & I answered her, "No, that's crazy!" I walked into the church office & withdrew my membership. My father was aghast. He'd been the church treasurer for years & years. I think things were never quite the same between us after that.
I wandered around for quite a few years, disillusioned. How I traveled spiritually back is far too long to tell today. I'll save that for another day. How about sharing your story too?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
One of the ways I look at life is that for each of us it is a tapestry, woven thread by thread. Some threads are ugly individually, but woven into a tapestry they create subtlety & depth. Some threads are of our choosing, some seemingly come from out of nowhere. Each moment, each person, each event, all of it becomes part of who we are, or at least of what eyes we look through & interpret life. The good news is that this is an unfinished tapestry. As I awaken more to God, the threads I choose reflect that Light. The texture that is woven becomes finer. The dark, shadow threads get woven in more quickly to give definition & are rarely dwelt upon. Life is made new.
I can remember Light & Peace & a feeling of God's Presence when I was about 3. I vaguely recall what they called "The Cradle Roll" in the Methodist Church in Grove City, PA. I remember a flash of danger in the crib at home & being saved. I saw the Light then too. There are flashes in my aging memory from time to time from those early days before we moved to CA when I was 7. Most of the 1st 7 years are really vague, however. Perhaps in this writing, more will be triggered to be remembered. Maybe not.
I will tell you about the biggest moment with God I can remember in my early life. I think I was about 8. My mother's mother lived with us. Let me just say that she was not right mentally or emotionally. One morning she had me cornered in the laundry room with a knife on my throat. Then I was in the garage, locked in. She was pounding on the door, "Dolly let me in, let me in. Don't tell mommy & daddy." etc... I stood there stunned. There had been a Light. I had been swept into the safety of the garage & the door had been locked. I stayed there all day until my father came home from work. I knew there was a power greater than I, and that was God, and God cared for me & could save me. I have often pondered that day & the radiant thread that it wove into the tapestry of my life.
In retrospect, there may have also been a moment at my birth. One day in Moscow, a friend told me she was psychic & had to tell me something. She told me that when I was born & in the same hospital, there was another baby born who died & somehow it had to do with the need for me to live as I had a big spiritual work to do. I thought this was really strange. One day when I was visiting my parents, what she said came to me. I asked if another baby had died in the hospital when I was born. My father looked nervous & said "yes." My mother denied it vehemently. Finally they agreed that it was true, but they acted very strangely about it all. I had one of those odd, goosebumpy moments. They asked me, of course, how I had such information & were speechless, when I told them about the woman in Moscow. Then they shut off all conversation about it. They would talk of it no more. I have ever since wondered if I was a twin, or at least what was this odd thing all about. I once tried to get information from the hospital, but got no response. My parents & all relatives from that time have passed on now, so there appears to be no one else to ask. This is likely just to be one of those mystery threads. By the way, I'm not one who visits psychics usually. This was an "out of the blue" moment, seemingly out of nowhere.
Monday, August 10, 2009
There are a number of books I've written, mostly for my work in Russia. They are translated & printed in Russian. I've always thought someday I'd get them published in the good old American English. Then I thought what if I shared some of the ideas with others & got some feedback? I considered a website, but I don't know how to do that either. I envisioned some elaborate site where people could click on my books or old talks I've done & then interact with me. But, obviously that technology is beyond my current abilities.
Then I thought maybe I could engage in a larger spiritual conversation where we would all be blessed & grow. So here goes.
The main focus of my life has been spirituality. Now that doesn't mean I have definitive answers. It means I question, I discuss, I explore, I study, I hope & I continue to quest. Perhaps it is correct that life is a journey rather than a destination,.
So here I am, sorting out my spiritual life. I've been delving into things spiritual ever since I can remember. I've had spiritual experiences, dry spells, times of great inspiration, a sense of mission, confusion, hope, fear and the whole gamut.
Here I thought I'd go over some of my questions, conclusions & maybe some of my experiences too. I've had some amazing experiences of all kinds. We'll see where this takes us.