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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Concern for our now

I have long been proud & protective of our way of life, of our freedoms, values & standards. Our freedoms may now be something that can be used against us. I see a paradox & don't know how to address it.

Yesterday I heard a speaker on Islam, Mano Bakh. He wrote the book, "Escaping Islam." What a dramatic speech. I've read the literature, I've read the Koran, I've been in Mosques in other countries, I've known many Muslims, mostly in other parts of the world. The teachings of today threaten our freedoms as they are aimed at making the whole world agree or die. The teachings are something from centuries past with violent laws, degradation of women, strict controls & premises very foreign to our open society & Judeo-Christian heritage, values & points of view.

Because of our open-hearted freedom of religion in the West, the religion that wants to destroy our way of life has relatively free reign. Because of our tolerance, people refrain from voicing concerns about religions opposed to their own. But also this is because the Christians are meek & seemingly okay about being criticised, while Muslims react in the extreme to any even minor criticism.

Then too, our Christian faith has become mild & in the background of most people's lives. Church attendance is down, while violent movie attendance is up. Morals are very different than the ones that guided my youth. Christian life has taken a backseat to all of the fascinating & exciting things in modern life. Progress has become divorced in many lives from the very foundations that made progress even possible. The values that founded our nation are being challenged, with even the President saying our Constitution is flawed & surrounding himself with extremely radical, even Marxist, advisers.

In my considered opinion, we in the West are in danger of falling backward into darkness. We are in danger of losing the goodness that was our underpinning. We are in danger of watching the world go into another dark ages.

There must be a way out of the dilemma. There is always a way, but people do not always take the way.

God, I know you are always with us, available to us when we turn to You. Dear God, help us wake up. Tap the hearts of Your people in a deep & profound way. Help us hear Your guidance. Help us take steps to save our world from the darkness. Lead us into Your Light. Grant us the courage to take the steps You show us so that we actually walk in Your Way. Open our hearts for the presence of Christ to fill us. Make new the Christians all over the world. In this critical time on earth, open our eyes, our hearts & our depths. Let the scales fall from our eyes & hearts. Invigorate us for Your work. Thank You for hearing our prayer. Thy will be done. This prayer is sealed with the ancient seal of faith, Amen, Amen & Amen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pray First

Prayer is a vital part of life. I've often thought that it must be terrifying for people who cannot connect with God & feel alone, even possibly adrift here on earth with little hope.

I think that God gave us intelligence & creativity to apply to our life experiences, & we should use them to the fullest. That does not mean we don't need prayer. I think that in any serious attempt to live a spiritual life, prayer is an essential component. The main functions of prayer, it seems to me, are:
  • To open ourselves to God's presence, to commune with God.
  • To open ourselves to God's guidance to know how to apply our intelligence & creativity.
  • To ask for help when we have done all that seems humanly possible.
  • To keep current & open the lines of communication between us.
  • In times of trouble, to be comforted & encouraged.
  • In times of joy, to give thanks & praise.
  • And, always to move us into closer relationship to God. We cannot inform the Infinite. We cannot make a deal. We do not move God, we move ourselves.

There are many ways to pray.

  1. Some people simply read prayers written by others. To me, this is only partially satisfying. I think it can be instructive as to how to pray, can be inspiring & can be comforting, but reading someone's prayer can only take me so far.
  2. There are quick prayers for sudden moments such as, help, show me the way, lead me. These prayers can quickly move us out of the mire & turn our direction to a more positive place where we can then say a more complete prayer.
  3. There are deeply felt & spoken &/or written personal prayers of various lengths.
  4. There is contemplative/centering prayer where we become still so that we can be with God, hearing the wee small voice. This is a sort of meditation practice, in the Christian tradition.
  5. There are others, I know, but for today I'd like to say these are the most common.

I'd like to write about #3 for a moment. Probably the biggest prayer step I made was to learn Affirmative Prayer & then adapt it in various ways to be a part of my personal practices. So, let me share a bit of this process, based basically on the Lord's Prayer.

  1. Recognize God - "Our Father who art in heaven." Just as we recognize friends when we see them, we start by recognizing God. We say things we know regarding God, either about or to God.
  2. Unify with God - We remember that because God is our "Father," we are God's child, precious & at one. We say things that help us remember "My Father & I are one."
  3. Realize the spiritual Truth - Jesus told us to not judge by appearances, but judge righteous judgment. Looking beyond that which is facing us, what is the spiritual Truth?
  4. Silence - Be still & know. Listen. Stop the clattering mind. Allow yourself to be with God.
  5. Give thanks - Allow the thanksgiving within to well up & express how joyous you are to know Oneness & know your prayer is heard.
  6. Let go & let God - Take a breath, let go so that God can work in our lives. Thy will be done.

This prayer can be said in at least 2 kinds of ways:

  1. Impersonal: I know there is a God, present everywhere there is to be, including right here, right now. I open myself right now to God's guidance in this situation in my life. (silence....) I am thankful to know that this prayer has been heard & is in the process of being answered. I release this prayer, knowing something amazing is unfolding. May God's will prevail. I seal this with the ancient seal of faith as I say, Amen, Amen & Amen.
  2. Personal: God, I know You are here, & I know that You are always present everywhere. I cannot go beyond Your care. I need Your guidance today in my life. I do not seem to know what to do, but I know You do. Dear God, I listen (silence.....) Thank You, God, for hearing my prayer & lifting me with Your guidance. I am at peace as I let go & welcome Your perfect work in my life. Your will be done. I seal this prayer with the ancient seal of faith as I say, Amen, Amen & Amen.

Try saying/writing your own prayer. They can be any length, short as the examples above, or pages long. They need to be as long as necessary to shift your awareness & lift you to Truth. We can change our lives by enriching our prayer lives. I know this to be absolutely the Truth.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fight or Flight

Still I wrestle with my falling back of last week. During the night I began to think of the fight or flight response of our lower limbic brain. I realized that somehow or other I had experienced both last week.

Trying to unravel my distorted week is painful, fascinating, instructive, embarrassing, humbling, & hopefully eventually helpful. Maybe my downward journey & recovery will be of help also to someone reading this little blog.

Surveying the week, I see my first moment of going toward the darkness rather than the Light. I have known for a long time about how to protect myself from the darkness, but I forgot to do it. I took into myself the fight responses of several someone elses so that they became mine. From then on until sanity began to be restored, righteous indignation took over. For all of my experience, writing, seminars & talk of nonjudgementalness & forgiveness, I was not there for a few days in my life experience. You cannot even imagine how hard it is for me to see this in myself & to admit it. But if I am truly sincere about the spiritual journey, I have to face myself not only in exemplary times.

The first step out of the fight mindset, surprised me, for it was flight. As I dimly began to become aware of how I had gone off course, embarrassment overcame me & I had the most profound impulse to flee, go away, hide from it all. This really surprised me. I thought we had built into us a fight OR flight program that took over when the rational mind faltered. But I was finding myself having to use all of my energy to fight flight. I knew going away would not be a solution, but I found myself powerfully drawn to run.

As I began to rebalance, I remembered something I have known for decades, consciousness is contagious. This is fine when "catching" goodness & light, but ugly when "catching" the other side. I cannot live in a cave in order to stay on the path, although some have tried that. But even then, as Plato told us, shadows can frighten & control us.

So I have only partial solutions as of this moment. I have to fearlessly examine myself. I have to so to speak "eat humble pie," I have to pick myself up & brush myself off & go on. I have to not allow myself to "catch" what I do not want to incorporate into my very being.

My upset was born of several convergences that I allowed to overwhelm me. One came from concerns re: my children; one from the current events that swirled around me last week; & one from relationships.

I was already on the ledge mentally with deepest concerns re: revelations about a number of high level advisers in our government who have extreme views & apparently extreme goals. I value our freedoms & our way of life so dearly, even more dearly perhaps from knowing things from my travels. Even though we are far from perfect, we are basically good & free. Even though we can always get better, we should not destroy the goodness we have achieved. I was also feeling powerless over it all. Then my children had some rather major challenges. Again I felt powerless. Of course, I prayed, but somehow that didn't seem enough. Into this along came some extreme upset from someone else. I went over the edge.

Now all of this is not in the way of an excuse. It is rather an analysis of what happened in an attempt to not let it happen again. I realize I must be alert to not let myself go into overwhelm, as I am more vulnerable there. I realize I must keep God's Light in my awareness much more fully. I realize that reaching out before going over the edge might be able to stop the fall.

It worked the other way around for me. Instead of me reaching out before the meltdown, someone dear to me reached out to me yesterday, after the meltdown, & helped me take a stronger step back into being in balance. The gift of sharing with me what I did not know, was a great treasure to me & I shall be forever grateful.

God, reveal to me all of the lessons You have for me in this moment of my life's journey. Help me see clearly. Help me be the person you had in mind when You created me. Wash away the darkness & help me return to full communion with you. I come before You needing & asking for Your healing touch. I know You hear our prayers always, I give mine to You for Your perfect action.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Troubled Heart

I have taken a couple of steps backward in my spiritual growth. I do not like it. The falling down & backward times are painful, but instructive & helpful in the long run.

It is strange to me how anger can seemingly come out of nowhere & mobilize emotions, bypassing the critical faculties. It has been years since I have experienced the overwhelming anger that I felt this week. In some ways, I could defend the anger as it was at least partly justified. But spiritually I cannot defend it.

My model of how I should be as a spiritual being having a human experience does not include anger & rampant emotions. It may be that my goals are too lofty, not taking into account my humanness. Even Jesus cursed the fig tree & threw over tables of moneychangers. Nevertheless, it seems to me that when I am more spiritually aware, I am able to see things calmly & within a bigger context. I am able to not be judgmental & so can be helpful. I am able to be a positive influence on situations that arise in life. But, when I forget & get deeply troubled & then angry, I am no help at all, plus I take spiritually backward steps, fall down & have to regroup & go forward again. Additionally, I make the situation worse by the blinding effects of anger.

God forgive me & lead me forward to You. Guide me, heal me & the situation & others involved. Help me to learn & grow & be a more effective part of Your people. I am sorry I let you down God. I am extremely disappointed at so many levels. Please touch me with your Grace & give me the courage & strength to move forward once again. Thank you, God. I know You are always with me, even when I forget. I need to know Your Presence so much today. I surrender to You. Let it be so.