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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

An Ah Ha Moment

Light bulbs are made to turn on and shed light. I think our minds are meant to turn on to God, to The More, and shed spiritual light. In preparing my handout for my talk at church on November 11th, I had one of those precious light moments.

I was re-reading ideas about Alpha and Beta ways to follow Jesus, to walk The Way. I re-read Mark. Light flooded in, or maybe through.

Jesus gave us "to do lists," later people gave us "to believe lists." Think about it. What do we know or think we know?

  • Do this in remembrance of me...
  • Do help others... 
  • Do unto others...
  • Do talk with God intimately, even as a beloved daddy...
  • Do as the parables teach, about doing good and noble things like forgiveness...
  • Do live the Beatitudes.
  • Do live the Great Commandment- do love...
  • Do love even outcasts and enemies...
  • Do participate in bringing the Kingdom here, on earth as it is in heaven...
  • More examples- Mark 3. Matthew 25, John 14, the book of James (brother of Jesus), etc.
It was other people, mostly men, who didn't know Jesus, hadn't seen or heard him, that made up believe rules. Believe in creeds, believe in metaphors as literal, believe in a kingdom after death not here, even while saying "The Lord's Prayer" regularly, believe in whatever the hierarchy of men tell you, take what Jesus said and modeled with a grain of salt so you can buy whatever the "holy men" say. Be satisfied with a 2nd hand religion while waiting for your rewards later in the next life, and on and on. 

Since all the Beta ideas are men's ideas, they find it reasonable to violently fight for them, such as the Crusades, the racks of the Middle Ages, the Inquisition, the witch hunts, and so forth. They ignore the Alpha teaching of Jesus because they "have to" fight for their creeds and destroy all who understand otherwise.

It has occurred, strongly occurred, to me that by taking the Alpha teaching of Jesus seriously, we find the biggest turning point in our lives, and all is made new. At the same time, we participate in the biggest turning point on earth where the Kingdom of God has breathing room to exist, but hatred suffocates and limps away. 

So we have a choice who and what to believe. Where does your choice lead? Is that where you want to go? I want to live the Alpha teachings of Jesus as best I can for as long as I am blessed to walk this earth. I may fail, but I will pick myself up and start again and again and again, doing always the very best I can in every moment I live and breathe.

 God, give me strength and courage to walk The Way.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Hatred Sickness

This morning I weep. The news. Oh no. A shooter in a synagogue in Pittsburg. The shooter apparently shouted hate against Jews as he killed and wounded worshippers and police. How can I not weep?

People throw around the word "hate" on frivolous things such as broccoli or opposing sports teams. But this morning full fledged hate is on display.

It began in antiquity, the hating of people or groups that are outsiders, the other, not us, not the in group. It began in Christianity as it morphed from the original teachings into something else in response to the march of history. What began as a Jewish thing, separated and then turned on its parent religion.

So much happened. The Romans got angry and demolished the Temple in Jerusalem and most of the city and most of the people. About 88 CE the followers of The Way and the synagogues parted ways. It has been said by scholars that the loss of the Temple, the center point of Judaism, the House of God, sent the rabbis into protecting their written scriptures and into strong orthodoxy.

We can see the march of antisemitism from Mark, the first Gospel and with no such sentiment, to John, the last Gospel written near the end of the first century and packed with antisemitism. He blamed the Jews for the crucifixion.

The Jews did NOT crucify Jesus. Only the Romans crucified and only for sedition. The emperor was king, not Jesus, and the idea of this upstart competing with Caesar was too much. Jesus may have upset the balance within Judaism, but only Rome could crucify. Pilot was a violent man. The people were never consulted on who to crucify or on Pilot's decisions. It was Passover time, and the people were agitated remembering the Exodus from captivity and again being captives, this time to Rome. Pilot could not tolerate any demonstrations or upheavals, such as the Palm Sunday celebration and the Temple courtyard overturning of tables and booths. He might start a major revolution. He had to die according to Roman thought.

As The Way moved out into non-Jewish  circles, to the gentiles of the Roman Mediterranean, it was not safe to blame the all-powerful Rome. John and others shifted the blame away from Rome to Jesus' own people.

Strangely, Paul made his theology mostly about the crucifixion and resurrection, practically ignoring the way to live a spiritual life taught by Jesus. Just reread Mark, for example,  and notice the guidance Jesus gave.

Over the centuries the teachings hardened into  theology often opposite of the first teachings. And we see pogroms, gas chambers, and moments like today, opposite of love, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, etc.

This is an extremely simplified history, of course. I encourage you to delve into it for more detail. There are many fine and readable scholarly books, websites and YouTube videos. In other words, don't just take my word for it.

Sacred Presence, touch our core with  Your Light and Wisdom. Lead us to peer at life through Spiritual eyes. Lead us to walk The Way with gentleness and kindness. Teach us to love as You Love.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Part of my quest for many decades has been/is to discover all I can about the 1st century and what happened or didn't happen. I truly wish to know the TRUTH.

The book I mentioned in the previous entry has many interesting things to say about the 1st century. For example, it includes a letter written by Pliny in 109 CE that is the earliest known description of what went on in an early Christian service.

It also discusses the development of Christianity in stages: Alpha (Jesus and his teaching), Beta (Paul and his followers and their change of the teaching), Crisis (the excommunication of Jesus followers from the synagogues and Judaism), and Gamma (the various understandings that included direct knowledge).

The Alpha understanding, and Arius its main proponent in 325 CE at the Council of Nicaea, "lost" to Athanasius' view. In fact the main reason for calling the Council was Constantine wanted unity and no debate about what the Church taught.

Mark, being the earliest Gospel written. tells us a lot about Alpha Christianity, although, Brooks and others, say there are insertions that can be detected by discontinuity (obvious brief changes of topic) and other research tools such as use of language, style. etc.

It is interesting to read Mark and just notice what he does not say. You can go to Bible Gateway and read it in various translations:

 I like the Message Translation, as it is in current language. You can choose whatever translation or translations you prefer. I also suggest you read the book of James, the brother of Jesus. I hope you will try this experiment.

I think it is important to distinguish what Jesus was about and not so much about what others, later thought, although later thought is interesting as it shows what people thought at that time and what Jesus came to mean to them.

Basically, Alpha thought is about being a good person, doing good deeds, making spiritual choices,  helping to bring the Kingdom of God into actuality here on earth, honoring God with our lives as told in Mark and James. Beta thought is you just have to believe in the crucifixion and resurrection because Jesus was a blood sacrifice to save us from our bad choices, it's about the next life being the Kingdom and not this one. It was a huge shift from Alpha to Beta- a vastly different God and a vastly different Jesus.

I definitely lean to the Alpha view with a touch of Gamma.Where do you stand?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Some Thoughts on Reading

This week one of the books I'm reading is "Jesus and After, the First Eighty Years" by E. Bruce Brooks. Let's look at some quotes near the beginning of the book.
What makes Paul so important? Why has he been called the second founder of Christianity? Why do his letters make up so large a portion of the New Testament? He says of himself in I Corinthians 9:22, "I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some." By his own testimony, then, everything Paul says is said for purposes of convincement; none of it merely documentary... His commission as an Apostle came straight from God. And more than that, God has identified him as an Apostle even before he was born. That is, he outranks them in the hierarchy of the Apostles. Or so he says. Not the least of our problems in getting Paul straight is that Luke (in Acts) also tells us a lot about Paul, little of which matches what Paul himself says.
It seems like Paul was so convincing and congruent that he sold his point of view and people bought it.  No wonder the actual followers of Jesus were upset at Paul. There are some problems to be resolved for us today too.

There is so very much to consider when trying to decipher ancient texts. They were written by premodern people who wrote in languages whose words have either morphed into different meanings over the centuries, or even ceased to be used. There are many translations of the writings that in themselves testify to the challenge of translating meaning, not just words.The basic assumptions of the ancients are light years from ours. Plus we have no copies of original documents for the vast majority, or we only know about what they wrote by critics calling them heretics.

So I am astounded in my 21st century mind that Paul could make such claims. God called him to be an Apostle, the top one, of a man he never met, and this qualified him to redefine the whole shebang. He didn't have to be accurate, just  convincing.

Then the author of Acts wrote a ton about Paul, many years later, much of which disagreed with Paul's writings about himself. We, these many centuries later, can hardly know assuredly what actually was done or said.

To me, the larger issue is how do we here in their future come to have our own experience of God or God as revealed by Jesus? Instead of second hand religion, or 2,000th hand religion, can we get a direct connection? I propose Jesus taught we could.

The immediacy of God to him is offered to us to share. We are part of the same vine. We are brothers and sisters and God is our Father too. We are asked to do even greater things than Jesus did. The kingdom of God is within. etc, etc, etc.

It seems to me our spiritual lives are more important than most anything. Let's pray to move into first hand, alpha relationship with God.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Two Ways to Look at It

Although I am a person who believes in Oneness, the Divine More in and through and around us, sometimes to further discussion, dividing in hypothetical categories can be helpful to understanding. I came across two categories this week that I want to explore a bit.

They are two functions of a religion and are named translation and transformation.  I might call them skating the surface vs delving into the depths, or second hand vs experiencial.

In the first category we use Christian, or Buddhist or Islamic or _____ ideas to translate the experiences of our lives. We do our best to live ethically; we pray, usually actually to ask for some thing; we attend church, at least in special days; even though we are asked not to judge, we do judge who is Christian and who is not, who is in the in group and who is out. We translate life through the lens of beliefs so that life makes sense somehow. Our religious decoding ring seems to help us to get by in this thing called life. Some people, maybe most, settle for this.

It seems to me a stage of life, like adolescence, one through which we are supposed to move. But I also see a planet full of adolescent religious people, seeking solace in less than meaningful activities. It is  definitely tiny amount of earthlings that continue on to transformation.

But, transformation is the point.

From a newborn trying to understand what is going on, to an adolescent who thinks they know everything, we must move into the mysterious More where no words suffice. The second birth, the knowing experiences of the Love and Light of the One is the transformation that lives as yearning in our core.

Our egos must go. We must break out of the old wineskins. We must take the uncomfortable journey that shatters our smugness and spiritual adolescence. We must walk through the dark night of the soul, setting aside pat answers and surface thinking. We must have the courage to walk out of the birth canal of our valley into what God has in mind in creating us, in to the fullness of life outside of the box.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Word "God"

An interesting question is, what do think when you hear the word God?

There are many answers to this question. I think how we answer it has major consequences for our lives.

There are two major answers in Christianity, depending on what group is your group.

  • A being beyond the universe, in addition to the universe, supreme, almighty, related to the universe rather like an artist is to his/her creation, separate as creator and created, somewhere else, often thought to be a person that is male who is authoritarian and who intervenes at times suspending his own laws, a person who gets violently angry and judgemental but is somehow said to be love. Or...
  • A sacred presence permeating, participating, not somewhere else, right here and at the same time more than here, mystical, encompassing, as Paul said, in whom we live and move and have our being, as Psalm 139 says, where can I go from your presence for your presence is everywhere, wondrous, glorious, inviting us into sacred relationship.
You probably have guessed that my understanding of God is the second one. What a different life it is, depending on which way you see and come to know  or think you know God.

The first is a fearful mindset. Afraid God is not pleased; afraid God does not hear your prayers; afraid of the afterlife, for heaven/ hell and violent retribution are part of the theology; there is an in group and an out group, and you desperately want to be in the in group.

In the second understanding  there is a personal, intimate, safe, constant relationship with God. Spirit offers  guidance and counsel. Creation is an ongoing event, re-creation going on every moment. The laws of nature are not malleable to our whims, but we are guided through the maze of this life.

I could go on with these differences for many pages, but I will stop with this small set of lists.

What I hope is that you focus your life on knowing the Divine Presence that is as  near as the breath of your life, so that the yearning can cease and exuberant life is yours. 

Oh Divine Presence, Infinite Spirit, God, open my eyes and my ears and my heart fully to you. Lead me out of the path of fear into The Way that leads to You. Lift the cloud and lead me to Your Light. I come to this day ready.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Neil Armstrong, Mile High Swings, and Bits and Pieces of a Life

Yesterday we saw "First Man," about the moon landing, the people involved, the sacrifices, the journey and so much more. My mind kept going to my son and his excitement. In his 8+ years, this was the biggest thing ever. I was there in mind and heart with him again, or was it still with him and that time?

I texted him about that, and he texted back that he had vivid memories of those days of the historic journey, landing and return from the moon.

Last night I dreamt and awoke with snatches of memories of moments of my life. I mused before getting up, memories rolling off my mind as if I were there still. There was the tall, tall, tall swing my daddy made me of pipe and chain and wooden seat that took me on wide arches up to the blue and back, surely a mile high to the little girl I was. Yet she is still in me, still swinging to the heavens and back. There was the tetherball pole my daddy erected at which I played many hours.

There were memories of my children, of places and tbings, as in Alice, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. Memories of glorious  momments, of hideous moments, of joys and terrors. They came to me neutrally with me simply observing

I began to see that one way to look at my life (our lives) could be that all of it is going on, simultaneously, all of it. Mixed together in some unknown way it creates Marlene 2018.10.14.

Yet there is More. I am not just a bag of earthly memories. There is the more of me that is part of The More. There is the knowing that assures me of realities not tethered to, not limited to this physical life. For I have known The Light, I have seen through the veil, I have touched and been guided and instructed and led by The Presence. I am more and more of the time aware of and living in this holy place. It calls me, for my true home is there.

I pray that increasing numbers of my fellow earthly brothers and sisters awaken out of the fog of this life into the Light of God's Infinite Presence, into The Love and Light of the More. I pray this for you.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Concern for Today's Seeds

Words, ideas, actions, etc. are seeds that bear fruit. Think of Jesus ' "test" - by the fruits you shall know them. Do we really want the fruits of the seeds we are currently planting?

I see so many hysterical seeds being scattered right now, people operating with pure emotion in charge. In that stage higher cortex functions are inoperable.

Some of the emotional, out of control people consider themselves to be people of faith. what does that mean? Lets think about faith for a minute.

The word faith in its ancient context was fidelitas and fiduciary in Latin and Greek. In relationships with people in business and personally and with God this meant commitment, loyalty, allegiance, attentiveness, and trust.

To a Christian, this means commitment, loyalty, allegiance, attentiveness and trust in and to the God Jesus revealed. It means fidelity, not infidelity.

What we know includes forgiveness, mercy, loving enemies, caring for others as precious stand ins for God (what you do to the least of these, you do to me), unconditional love for God and for all people including oneself, etc.

Let us apply these to our words and actions. Are we living in alignment to the qualities of God revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus? Our goal, if we want to be faithful, is keep honing ourselves into what we know of the life and teachings of Jesus. If/when we do, we will be planting seeds that will bring great fruit. Otherwise we plant seeds of questionable or even evil fruit.

I challenge us to take Jesus seriously by our choices that are aligned with his life and teaching.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The More

William James and others have called The Divine "The More." I find this extremely meaningful. I resonate with this way of speaking/ writing about God. Touching that Presence has taught me that there are limits to language, as I cannot express what I have come to know in such a way as to tell you what it is and how I felt, for It is More.

For untold centuries in many cultures it has been recognized that words do not suffice when trying to speak of the Creator, the Source, the Divine Presence. It is More than can even be conceived.

There are various practices that have been developed to help people have an experience of this More. Sometimes they are effective. Yet some of my moments in the Presence of More have come in unexpected moments such as contemplating a tree, sitting on a cliff overlooking the ocean, meeting my baby for the first time and other quiet and lovely times of my life.

I think it has to do with being present in the moment, being still, being receptive. Spiritual practices such as meditation lay the groundwork, but the experience feels like a surprise gift, I guess you could call it grace.

My hope for the world 🌎 is for more and more of us to experience The More. This is the path I see that leads to peace on earth, the kingdom Jesus taught -thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

May you receive the gift of More this day.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Christian Words

I am reading Marcus Borg's "Speaking Christian." Wow! I wish everyone would read it. Part of his point is that the meaning of key religious words has drastically changed since the Enlightenment as well as understanding in general.

After the Enlightenment words were either factual/true or lies with little space for truth in myth, little space for truth in things not literally true but true in meaning. Hence the fundamentalist idea grew that everything in The Bible was literally true and contained no error. A new duality was set up - fact or fiction. Out the window flew mystical understanding, with it nuances, stories that have deeper, maybe even hidden meanings etc. New meanings for theological words developed.

 The part I've come to this morning is about salvation. The Old and New Testaments speak about it in relation to this life, as salvation from the Pharaoh. Marcus Borg says the Bible teaches 2 salvations, personal and political, inner awakening to God and corporate salvation in the form of justice. Both are about this world and our present life. Christianity shifted to be about going to heaven, to being in the in-group. All the words about creating God's Kingdom are about doing it here, heaven is already all right.

A quote from this chapter that sent me into contemplative mode, and I invite you to contemplate it with me:
Most of us as we grew up acquired a Pharaoh within who holds us in bondage, tells us to work harder, and gives us meager rations... Many live for decades, some for all of their lives, with a strong demanding critical voice within. Salvation is liberation from the Pharaoh within as well as the  Pharaoh without. So also return from exile has a personal meaning. Some people are literally exiled to another country, where they live in conditions of disempowerment and impoverishment. But exile is also an archetypal image of the human condition. We often feel cut off, separated, exiled, alienated from life. Salvation as return from exile is return and reconnection to what matters, a center of meaning and purpose - to God. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Monday Musings

The new week begins with one of my granddaughter's birthday. Last week ended with the forgiveness retreat I led on Saturday and the ministry fair yesterday. The week was strung with promises of restoration of our assets without any actual restoration - again.

Last week moves into the cloud of what was, only to come to this moment if I drag it here. It is over, even though there are echoes of it in the soul. My hope is that some of the Saturday people carry forgiveness with them in new, powerful and healing ways. My part is over. I spoke from my depths, gave them a forgiveness journal that I wrote, showed my PowerPoint, led meditations and prayers, led discussions. My part is now over. Where the seeds go and how well they root is in other hands. My job is to scatter the seeds and those who find them in conjunction with God take them from there or let them go to rot alone.

This moment is the only moment I can live. The only moment I can draw a breathe is now.

I was thinking about the seeds I've scattered via this blog, beginning in 2009. My job is to write what Spirit urges me to write. What happens then is not up to me. From time to time I look at the stats and see the seeds I write have gone to unknown people all over the world, and curiously in the past few weeks have gone to "unknown regions," 25 of them, whatever they are.  Each carries a little piece of me with them. Where will my seeds go? What will they sprout? That is God's business, not mine.

Still, curiosity stalks me. Have my words helped? Have others been led to God by some idea or the other found herein? I seem to not be able to keep myself from nudging into God' business. So I see that I need I let this blog go, again, to go where Spirit scatters it to the people called to it. That is not the part I've been assigned to play.

My love pours out of this page to you who honor me by considering the words that come through me. May God bless you with joy and peace and love, with coming to know and awaken and walk The Way as a God-conscious, Christ-conscious beacon of Light.

Perhaps I'll see you somewhere on The Path.