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Monday, September 24, 2018

An Old/New Dilema

A couple of days ago I read an idea that struck me with flashes of new- to- me thoughts.

Basically, the idea is that pagans did not have the concept of "sin." It was the Jews and Christians who brought the idea of sin into the mind of humanity. It was the high ethics that drew God-fearers of the Greek world to attend synagogue, even though most did not actually convert and take on all of the practises such as eating Kosher. It was the loving kindness of early Christians and their congruent lives that helped draw new members.

The idea emerged that God has certain expectations of us, and, when we don't meet them, we sin. We have to change, turn back to God and God's ways. God's ways lead to an upright life of love, integrity, generosity, kindness, honesty, etc. Our behavior then is far more important than a positive civic life, for our choices matter to God and therefore have eternal ramifications.

As I look upon our current world, the decline of churches, increasing violence, crazy political theater, porn stars defended, babies murdered in the millions, tensions based on nonsense and on and on, I think paganism. It looks like people no longer believe God cares what one does, so nothing is a sin.

I hear the words "post Christian world" even at church gatherings. Perhaps we are therefore in a "post sin world" where anything goes. Perhaps we are reverting to paganism, back to the bad old days.

I am afraid for us. I am afraid, however, only if we don't turn around, back to God, to knowing what we do matters at a cosmic level. Dear friends who read this, contemplate with me the turning to God away from paganism. Ask God to inspire you with ideas that can spread and lift and heal these agonizing and lost times.

It really does matter.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Inequality of Is

When we learn a new language, usually one of the first things is to conjugate the verb "to be" -- I am, you are, they are, I was, you were, they were, etc. Back in the day, I was taught that the two things on either side of "to be" are equal and interchangeable. This morning I had other thoughts about that.

So let's say --- The flower is red. Supposedly I could also say -- Red is the flower. But I see a possible different inference in these two examples. The first sentence implies that a specific flower has as one of its qualities the color red, perhaps even implying that is all the flower is or is of importance in the moment. The fragrance, the shape, etc. are not discussed - whether or not they are of importance. All we know is that the flower has red coloring.

In the second sentence there is an inference that the color red can at least partially be defined as flower. It could imply that is where red is seen. Maybe it can be seen elsewhere, but we don't know that from the sentence, Also the sentence doesn't address purple or pink or other colors of flower. Red and the flower are equated. But they cannot be equated. The flower is so much more than red, and red is so much than flower.

My thoughts then moved to theology. Jesus is God is a sentence often heard. Reversing it, God is Jesus. The two sentences have the same challenge as the flower example above.

We need to ask -- in what sense?

Jesus is God implies that this specific man has the quality of God without addressing the rest of his life and without defining in what sense is this accurate. Common modern scholarship says things like, Jesus was a person so aware of God that people felt God's Presence when they were with him. He was a place where the Divine shone through clearly and without distortion. He was a man who consciously walked with God. He knew The Way to God and taught us how to walk The Way too. It does not address others who also walked with God, Elijah for example. Jesus walked with God, yet is not the only one to have done so.

But the reverse is radically different. God is Jesus implies that Jesus is where God is in fullness, that the High Almighty God, the Creator is contained in Jesus, perhaps exclusively. This, of course, is impossible as God is infinite and cannot be contained. But without thinking this through we get some pretty shaky theology that does not withstand philosophical examination.

Jesus did not claim that he was God and for sure he did not claim he was The Father God. He prayed to God and told us to do so too. Jesus never told us to pray to him. He urged us to do greater things than he did. He told us the kingdom of God is within us. He told us stories about how spiritual life worked. He was magnificent. You can be magnificent too. We can, if we take Jesus seriously and deeply hear him tell us about God, God's Love and The Way to walk to be in communion with God,

I think that some churches, which are declining in attendance all over the planet, are telling a shallow understanding that just doesn't fly. I think people yearn for relationship with God and Jesus can lead us there, not with the mixed up theology of Nicea and other definitive groups and persons, not with patriarchal nonsense, not with ignorance of the context of his teaching, not with make believe. We need a more mature, examined, mystical path, which I believe can lead us to Know God and not just take second hand information about what others say.

This is the day and you are the person -- let us set our lives upon The Way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Contemplating Forgiveness

September 29 I will be leading a woman's retreat on forgiveness. So, many thoughts are dancing in my mind around the topic - some of them new to me, some thoughts I've had before, some new looks at previous thoughts. I want to share one today.

It seems that one of Jesus' stories has colonized my mind (see my entry Sept 15) and shows me new sides of the message. We all know, I assume, that Jesus taught forgiveness as one of his main tenets and things that must be done in order to walk The Way. Read the two translations below and consider/contemplate them before reading the rest of this entry - Please.

Matthew 5:23-24 New International Version (NIV) 
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24 The Message (MSG)
23-24 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. 
This scripture has been wafting in and out of my thoughts for a week or so. It is obvious that Jesus wants us to keep a clear heart and mind, not cluttered with judgments and upset. But, also I am "hearing" that we cannot even worship with unforgiveness in our hearts. It is so important that we are to drop our worship activity and do our forgiveness work first. 

The word salvation means getting right with God. Here he is saying we cannot get right with God unless we first clear up every misunderstanding. I think that is astounding. It is akin to the 12 Step injunction to make amends, but even more so - encompassing our entire lives and stopping our worship in its tracks.

To take Jesus seriously would include this teaching. Yet how often I hear people who consider themselves a follower of Jesus say unkind, condemning things about others, about those who don't totally agree with them on theology or politics or some such thing. They create hard feelings between themselves and others, and yet still say they are Christian. Some lie and verbally attack others (think politicians for example) and yet say they are Christian.

I say, that these people do not take Jesus seriously. They pick and choose in his teachings and stay on the surface of The Way.

Christianity is about transformation, becoming the new person in the image of Christ. It is about dying to the old. It is about a life of equality (there is no Jew or Christian, no slave or free, no male or female Paul wrote). To modernize this let me say that in a life aglow with the Christ Presence there is no Republican or Democrat, no Protestant or Catholic, no male or female, no skin color, no eye color, no age, no lines of separation - for we are all God's children, loved equally (the rain falls on the just and unjust), all figuring it out the best we can. 

Let us turn over our hearts to God and welcome the cleansing rush of the Presence that transforms us into who we were always meant to be. Let us clear out our resentments and judgments, calm down our egos, free ourselves and others and at long last take Jesus seriously.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Our Minds

I read a phrase this week that has fascinated me. It is about what we allow to "colonize" our minds.

My studies over the years have included a lot of variety regarding how our minds work at various levels and in many models. For example, the subconscious, the conscious and superconscious; the visual, auditory and kinesthetic, etc.

Our subconscious mind reasons deductively, working with what is placed in it without argument. The conscious mind is the door-keeper and can argue, reasoning inductively. So if I say "I'm stupid," our conscious mind can argue with that statement with contrary evidence. If we say it with emphasis and feeling, especially if we say it repeatedly, our subconscious mind receives it and creates thoughts and interpretations of experiences in alignment with "I'm stupid."

So at the basic level we have colonized our minds with negative self-talk. The value of affirmations is we can colonize our minds with positive, life affirming, uplifting thoughts. Affirmations are sort of antidotes.

One of the pitfalls of "modern" life is that we are bombarded by intense negativity via movies, television, music, games, internet, thereby our subconscious is colonized with terrible things. And once installed in our minds, our subconscious has difficulty in sorting fact from fiction because it works deductively and not inductively.

It's funny that as I write this, the spell checker keeps changing deductive and inductive to seductive :) I guess that concept does apply because the violence and ugliness of so much input does seduce us to more and more violent movies, games, etc.

As we allow the violent and ugly to colonize our minds, we errect a sort of barrier to the superconscious, the part of us attuned to all things spiritual. So I see a correlation that I've not seen before. I have a hypothesis -  movie attendance/violent game playing/hateful music, etc.
 grows and church attendance goes down partly because the negative calls for more negative and sees the spiritual as something not believable.

Therefore, the great spiritual moments cannot happen in those whose minds are heavily colonized by the opposite.

Let us begin to be more careful about what we allow to colonize our minds. Let's prepare for a life more attuned to Spirit. Let's recognize our yearning is for God and cannot be satisfied elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Passing IT On

I spend time, and have done so for years, inquiring within as to how I/we can pass on what I/we know spiritually. How can I/we convey our experiences, visions, knowing and time in The Presence? Not about it all, but in a way sort of like contagious, so that others can know deep within too.

I see and hear almost desperate yearning for direct and real spiritual moments, moments so profound that they inform every millisecond of livingness. I hear it and see it in most people. A yearning, a hunger. Not theology, not rules, not pat answers, not on the word of others, but a genuine personal spiritual relationship.

I've read books that spoke to places deep inside and pointed me in the "right" direction. I've known tremendous spiritual people that imparted some of themselves in me. I've prayed, meditated, written, spoken, walked out in faith on spiritual limbs and so much more. I've spoken and taught in many states and nations.

Yet I know there is something more I must do. I know because spirituality is in taters for so many people. They worship politics or sports or money and have an emptiness in their eyes. They argue over fine points of manmade theology rather than moving into knowing.

What can, shall we do? In gentleness, compassion and love perhaps we can and will light a spark.

Divine Presence, You are always with us. You have led us safely through so many twists and turns to show up today. You have saved us countless times. We have laughed and cried together. You are the very breath of life. You call us to share, to pass on what You have instilled in US in such a way that others who are ready can know too. Show us how. How can such a thing be done? In whatever way we can be useful, lead us to play whatever tiny part we can in the desperately needed spiritual awakening on earth.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Beginnings and Now

Christianity began as an apocryphal understanding that God was going to bring about His just kingdom any minute and people needed to be prepared so they could enter it. It was to be here on earth, an earthly kingdom where good would triumph finally over evil. Jesus talked about the end being in the lifetime of his hearers, as did Paul and others. The way to live to be prepared included living as one who actually walked The Way of Christ, such as:loving kindness, forgiveness, taking care of the less fortunate, integrity and the various virtues. Salvation was getting right with God.

But the revealing of this new utopia did not happen. People have looked for it ever since, and there have been numerous predictions of the actual date, all of which have come and gone without anything even near utopia emerging.

I think the point is that if we actually lived as Jesus suggested, the kingdom of heaven on earth would come because we would not put evil into it, rather we would fill it with all the good and lovely things listed above plus lots more.

The problem is that so many walking earth are so wounded that they act out of an angry ego. They don't know or can't imagine healing is possible for them. Then there is the problem of the dizzying array of interpretations of what it means to follow Christ. Then, too, there is the history of the development of Christianity that shows contention from the very beginning, sometimes along the way erupting into terrible violence. Rarely have the people and institutions taken the teachings of Jesus seriously and as recipes for living a life that is right with God and with all of God's creation.

How can we shift to walking The Way? How can this emerge for sufficient numbers of people?  How can we be encouraged to walk upon The Way? How can this holy walk then sweep across the lands with the Light and Love of God, thereby actually transforming what it means to live on this planet?

I think it is possible for such a spiritual awakening, but I do not think at this time it is likely. I pray for guidance.

Oh Presence dwelling everywhere, always, fill us with Inspiration. Breathe Your Spirit into us. Show us how to heal ourselves and life on this beautiful earth. Open our eyes. Open our ears. Open our hearts. Lead us to The Way.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Gift of Life

I was pondering this morning how strange and marvelous life is. We reside in our bodies, knowing that we are definitely more than our bodies, and knowing that our bodies are wearing down to the point that one day we will return them to earth out of which they are made. And we are more.

The more of life has been considered from the distant light of the humans in antiquity to this day. Pneuma, Soul, Divine Spark, child of God and other names have been given to the mysteriousness of that more. Our essence exists and doesn't seem quite definable.  We sense it, sometimes are aware of it, but we have a challenge to speak of it in any meaningful way.

How did we come to "possess" it? What is it and how did we get it?

Is it a gift? Is it a curse? Is it one of the phases through which a soul must pass?

If it is a gift of Divine Grace, for what are we expected to use it? Are we stewards of it in some way? Do we have an assignment, a mission, a purpose? Are we held accountable for this life? Are we then punished by our mistakes rather than later for them?

Considering the more of us can lead us to interesting and challenging thoughts. Perhaps how we answer the questions varies according to our own uniqueness, for we are one of a kind, crafted beautifully and although part of all that is, we are a single individual --- in many ways part and yet also a one of a kind. Perhaps all answers lead to paradoxes, so that the important part is to question and think and assess and wake up every so slightly daily until aha, we are AWAKE.