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Thursday, August 31, 2017

From literal to meaning

I just finished John Shelby Spong's book on liberating the Gospels by viewing them through Jewish eyes. He makes some spectacular points. He, like I, is concerned about the future of Christianity if the message does not get off the literal track, the track that says the Bible is literally the word of God and so has no errors. It's as if some celestial hand reached down to earth and wrote the words on something or other, even before there was anything was written in that part of the world. Which, of course, is nonsense. Thinking people are getting turned off to this way of understanding.

Besides that, a book cannot contain the Infinite. Words can point the direction. We must walk The Way and find God in our lives.

There are so many contradictions in the Bible that anyone reading it would immediately understand it could not be inerrant. Let's just take one item. When does the New Testament say that Jesus became the son of God? By one account at his baptism, by another writer it was at birth, another writer says from the beginning of time and another says after the resurrection he became the adopted son of God. Since we know that all of these cannot be accurate, we know the Bible is not literal and not inerrant. There are a huge number of these contradictions throughout.

If we realize that these people were story tellers, weavers of myths, non-linear people, we could start searching for the meaning encoded in the stories that actually can inform us spiritually and inspire us and lead us to a deeper walk with God.

The journey the Bible takes us on is the faith story of a people. It tries to show with stories the incredible spiritual experiences that cannot fit into usual words. It has deep meaning that is missed when the superficial lockdown of inerrancy and the weight of pretending God wrote it weighs upon it. Humans wrote it trying to explain how it was with them as they walked with God or turned away and took a detour.

I urge you to read modern scholarship of Spong, Borg, Crossan, Eiseman, and others and discover a vast frontier of deep spirituality. Let's set Christianity on a path for longevity by freeing it from the limited views forced upon it.

Monday, August 28, 2017


James tells us to persevere: 
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. --- James 1:4
That is a pretty astounding idea. The result of being a persevering person is maturity and completeness. We have to hone ourselves upon the challenges of life, not giving up, persevering, and this leads us to grow up spiritually and psychologically. This leads to completeness, to wholeness.

Those who avoid the challenges and wimp out are developing immaturity. Their spiritual and psychological muscles are flabby and next to useless.

I see some strong relevance to what I see on the news of this day. College students hysterical that someone disagrees with them, so demanding "safe spaces" and other wimpy things. Violent demonstrators trying to shut down others because they just can't handle other points of view. I see the lack of cogent debate and very little critical thinking. I see extremists blowing up others they disagree with, apparently unable to have a reasonable debate on issues. I see the snowflake generation expecting all to be handed to them, not seemingly aware the struggle makes you strong as you earn your way up.

Just as you cannot get a gold medal at the Olympics by just being there, but must work hard, over time to tone your physical and mental states. So with life in general. James' advice would do us all well to follow. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Facing Life

In preparing for my talk on James on September 10, I am once again struck by his practical guidance. He encourages us to persist and pray for God's guidance and eventually become mature - spiritually mature. We are not to shrink away from difficult times, but to robustly face them with God's guidance.

In working with people, I find so often people want to ignore what it is they have to deal with or to blame others or to some way stick their heads in the sands of life. I see this in people near the end of this life, people who do not make the spiritual preparations useful for such a time. They do not repair broken parts of their lives such as tensions or animosities with others. They do not go consciously into the experience of leaving earth and going elsewhere.

It is such a joy to work with people who are alert, attentive, ready to make amends as needed and to prepare spiritually for the next part of their spiritual journey. Life, eternally is in fact a spiritual journey in whatever dimension we find ourselves.

Let us all keep up to date in our amends, living joyously and lovingly. Let us practice the high guidance James gives us as he shows us the way to walk The Way.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My daddy

Yesterday was the much-anticipated eclipse of the sun and also the 110th anniversary of my father's birth,  plus our annual physical exam. Wide extremes.

Our physicals were great. All my tests, blood work, etc fantastic. Cholesterol at 80 something!

The eclipse didn't seem like much here with a supposed 70% coverage by the moon. It didn't get dark or cooler here.

My daddy's birthday brought some tears to my eyes. I thought of most of what he had done for me gone except in my memory. My thoughts ran to the wonderful tall swing he built me, and the tetherball pole he put in that same yard. I wonder if they are still there??? I thought of my wonderful drop down desk with cubbies on the wall in my teen years - later sold by mother and then later returned and put in their garage to turn to dry rot. I thought of the wonderful silk screen outfit he built me and how I thoughtlessly abandoned it during a huge time of crisis in my life. I thought of the beautiful needlepoint pillows he made for my rocking chair that are now somewhere in Colorado.

I thought of his lessons - going back uptown Whittier to return 50 cents too much change; still waters run deep; when things get unbearable, go for a walk; this is the 7th day and God is resting; a sense of humor is crucial and so much more. I thought of riding on his shoulders, of working on science projects together, of his incredible mind that still remembered algebra when I needed help and could still recite poems learned in his youth when he was very advanced in age. I thought of his last days and his humor - when finding out he had a massive stroke in both lobes of his lower brain he said, "Well you might as well unplug me." And a couple of days later when in congestive heart failure and sounding like he was drowning, telling the nurse, "Sure glad I got my pneumonia shot."

I loved my daddy. I think his actions showed he loved me too, even though he never said so. Between him and my little New Testament, I was able to go through terrible times in my childhood, youth and beyond. And I am here today no small part due to the dear man who I am blessed to call daddy.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Going Forward

Following Jesus has meant many things historically and to me. As a child, I sang and believed the songs -  "Jesus Loves Me," "In the Garden," "Just A Closer Walk With Thee," etc. I wanted so very much to live as he wanted me to live.

As I grew, I came to understand that Jesus exemplified the Cosmic Christ and spoke and modeled The Way to live in communion with God. My life goal then became to internalize The Way and walk it as best I could, living in the awareness that my life is played out in the Presence of God.

I see a glimmer of this understanding taking a bit of a root, but I am concerned about the future of Christianity.

I want the understanding of Oneness as children of God to flourish and expand. I want people to be seekers of Wisdom, lovers of God and of each other, quick to forgive and to give mercy, filled with compassion, eager to lend a helping hand and being doers of The Way taught by Jesus.

As a student of history (my minor in college), I know that the religion that is called Christianity has veered off course repeatedly. I also know, as I have shared here previously, that Christianity began to decline in followers at least since the Enlightenment.

I also know that the death of the teachings and practices of The Way would be disastrous for humankind. Our souls yearn to find a better path, a better way to live, a closer walk with God. I know that The Way can nourish those deeply held yearnings.

There are several things I see that could facilitate this turning back to the original intent of the teachings of The Way. I shall share a few:
  • Stop the ignorant teaching of the Bible that ignores who spoke it and later wrote it ---what was the context of each story, who lived it, what did it mean to them, and are what possible meanings to us today?
  • Stop teaching the magic as literal. Everyone knows the magician is fooling the eye and not actually doing magic.
  • Stop teaching the pre-scientific, tribal stories as literal. They have much more usefulness when read as parables and metaphors anyway. The earth and the sun do not and cannot stand still, etc.
  • Stop the superstitious nonsense. We don't have to do rituals or go through any rigmarole to gain God's favor, for example.
  • Realize the Bible is a Jewish story, all main characters being part of it, so embrace it and stop the ignorant anti-semitism. Jesus was a Jew you know.
  • Stop getting rich by misleading the people with false teachings.
  • Start teaching the actual context of these various scenarios. The Exodus story maybe was around 1200 BCE but not written till the 500's BCE while in Babylonian captivity, and why is that important, for example. What was actually going on in the 1st century and how did that influence the writers of the New Testament?
  • Understand the Jewish storytelling techniques and the practice of midrash.
  • Start teaching the inner transformation that comes with spiritual awakening and how to achieve it.
  • Start teaching Oneness, sacredness of life, the way to live such a life, healing, forgiveness, love for all including our enemies.
  • Get real about our stories and inspire one another.
  • Teach the silence, meditation, centering prayer, affirmative prayer.
  • Actually teach, model and encourage walking The Way.
  • Be willing to transform oneself and be made new.
I am deeply saddened by the current state of affairs on our planet. Before we destroy ourselves and this beautiful planet, let's clear our heads and set forth on an actual journey to live as love, as care, as compassion, as helpfulness, as kindness, as brothers and sisters, offspring of one God. Let's set our intention on spiritual awakening.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Where Are the Wise?

Here in the 21st century, we have a lot of knowledge. We know about quarks and galaxies; we know about amazing medicines and architectural rules and skyscrapers; we nonchalantly use electronic blips and walk around with the world in our hands with our cell phones. We are awash with knowledge.

But where is the wisdom? 

Watching news, movies,  television - it looks like the world has gone mad, won over by the dark side, on a frantic search for more of this and more of that and then even more.

Above all else, The Biblical Book of Proverbs tells us, seek wisdom. Definitions include:
noun [It's a noun - it's a thing] 
the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. 
synonyms:sagacityintelligencesensecommon sense, astuteness, 
smartness, judiciousness, judgmentprudencecircumspection
the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. 
"some questioned the wisdom of building the dam so close to an active volcano
 The thing/noun, wisdom, is something we apply to life that involves using all those things listed as synonyms. We apply our knowledge to a situation, generously slathering it with common sense, good judgment, etc.  Then we get wisdom, the wise choice.

I say that religion, government, and life in general, are today suffering from wisdom deficit disorder.

A major challenge for those of us awake and outside of the hypnotic daze of the sufferers of wisdom deficit disorder, we are being called to apply wisdom and Wisdom liberally in an effort to lift others out of this malaise.

I might add that it seems to me that this task is time sensitive. So, let us figure out how to proceed as swiftly as wisdom suggests.

Oh, Great Divine Light - fill us with Your Light and awaken in us Your Wisdom. Lead us to know what we can do to heal the wisdom deficit disorder that affects so many of us, indeed affects a wide swath of humanity,  from leaders to ordinary citizens of earth. Let wisdom be nourished and grow and expand, and let the craziness be healed and leave the face of this earth. We call forth Wisdom NOW. With joy, we give our gratitude. Amen

Monday, August 7, 2017

History or Meaning?

As we watch the churches drain of members, we older folks often look in wonder and confusion. Why for heaven's sake, do the people leave? I have a couple of thoughts to ponder.

I think the "church" is often looked at as full of myth mistaken as fact, full of hypocrites who do not live as preached, irrelevant as to finding one's way in life and taught from an often hysterical tone.

I lay this partially to the lack of genuine Bible scholarship shared with the general population, and therefore to the adherence of the old notion that the Bible is literally the Word of God dictated to various people over time. So it refuses to note the contradictions, the horrible violence tried to be sold as God's directive, the recent addition of the Bible to the human scene (writing starting less than 3,000 years and ending 2,000 years ago), not to mention ignoring much of the science of today, or even common sense.

For over 200 years, Bible scholarship has shown a different view of the Bible, a not literal historic library of books but rather a collection of writings about people over many generations trying to make sense of God and life. The writings were written centuries after the stories, in the case of the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures, and tens of decades in the case of the New Testament. The awareness has expanded and become more and more solid. In good seminaries, this scholarship is taught, but it is seldom passed on in the pulpit from the clergy who know better but simply pass on old ignorance, maybe to not rock the boat. Well, for whatever reason I really am not sure. I have personally heard clergy say, for example: "My congregation gets on me if I haven't given them hell and damnation for awhile. Even though I know there is no hell, I give it to them once in awhile."

To take words written by pre-science people as literal is absurd. For example they believed: the earth was the center of a 3 level universe; God lived above in the heavens so "he" could look down in order to watch the goings on; he kept a record book and would use it as evidence against you; there was no idea among these people of galaxies and what stars were or anything scientific; if anything bad happened to you or your tribe, it was retribution from a very angry God; illness and physical afflictions came from demons sent to punish people who deserved it; women were not quite human and had no rights to speak of; weather showed God's pleasure or wrath, etc. etc. etc.

On the other hand, to take the words as a glimmer of how people experienced God over those centuries can lead to deep meaning for us today. How people experienced God in Isaiah or Jesus, for example, tells us a lot. How we can experience God in this day can be informed by these writings.

As Marcus Borg shared, we can set aside whether or not this or that happened, and we can explore - what does it mean.

If you do want to go on a more scholarly search, I recommend books and Youtube sharings by John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossen, Marcus Borg, Matthew Fox, to name a few. My quest began when I was just out of high school and I came upon "Man and His Gods," by Homer Smith. It blew my mind apart and led me away from any church, and eventually into my spiritual journey that is the core of my being and back to church.

I am sure that the Way of Christ, the lessons of Jesus, can play a powerful role in healing the broken people and nations and usher in Peace both inner and outer. I am also sure this will not happen if we do not shift from ignorance to full meaning, letting go of our juvenile understanding and maturing in spiritual wisdom.

God be with us. Lead us on.