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Monday, September 28, 2020

Stewardship and Restriction

 A passage in Amy Jill Levine's book, "Sermon on the Mount," grabbed me this morning.

Only the meek, those who would not use the inheritance to reinforce their own already privileged position, are worthy to care for the land. They understand stewardship, they understand restriction of activity (for what one can do is not necessarily what one should do), and they understand their responsibility in turn to pass the land to others.

What reached out and grabbed me particularly is the line about what we can do not being necessarily what one should do. We humans are capable of so many things, both for good and for evil. Perhaps me would do well to stop and think, I can  ..., but should I ...?  We would do well as an individual, as part of a community, as part of a nation, as part of earth, as a person on a spiritual path, to ask, should I, should we?

I think this grabbed me this morning partially because I am on the cusp of making some decisions that are potentially major. Whichever decisions I make lead to new paths that would have surprises, unintended consequences. Neither seems wrong from the vantage point of now. Not being able to see into the future, I must pick between several seemingly good choices. I can pick this one or that one, but should I?

And I see on my news feed and television a bunch of people doing things they can do, but surely shouldn't do. It occurs to me stewardship and restriction are not often taught. Total freedom and hedonism are played out. A person can do anything, but there are consequences, legally and karmically. Has someone forgotten to teach this?

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Confucius Says

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and Third by experience, which is bitterest.

The great moral thinker, philosopher, and contemporary of Lao Tse , Confucius, said many things that lead us into contemplation and insights. I was pondering the above quote this morning.

A quick survey of the state of humanity at this moment in time shows a dearth of wisdom. Maybe Confucius can shed some light on where we find ourselves.

My observation is that we are generally stuck in the bitterest, experience. But we have not learned from experience enough to shift to wisdom. Hyperbole, violence, manipulation, greed, envy, ego, etc seem to lead our leaders into an endless circle that doesn't seem to have an off ramp. Those not in power look on in dismay.

The second way to wisdom, he says, is by way of imitation. But who do we imitate? Christians tell us Jesus. I agree, but for most of the last two thousand years Christians have done the opposite with "holy" wars, pogroms, inquisitions, concentration camps, slavery and other horrors. I still have a bit of hope that it is possible to follow and imitate the Christ way and be led to actually walk it.

The highest way to wisdom is reflection, according to Confucius. The world, however, has gone into the busyness spin of frenzied activity, most of which is meaningless. The blessing and curse of technology leaves us little time to reflect. There are pockets, of course, retreat centers, etc. But most people go to a retreat for a time and then return to the frenzy. 

It seems to me,  we can carve out a regular, daily time for reflection. My daily practice is to start the day with a cup of tea, reading inspirational material, reflecting on it and prayer/meditation, sometimes journaling either here or on paper. 

We can also find our heroes to imitate. My heroes are the spiritual lights strewn across history. I look to Jesus, the great mystics of all faiths, Buddha, Lao Tse, Confucius and others.

And we can objectively look at our experiences and discover which lead to wisdom, and which lead astray. Learn from our mistakes and let them go.

With a three prong approach, we have a good chance of entering wisdom and leaving the frenzy in our rearview mirrors.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Lifter, Leaner or What?

Jesus told us the poor will always be with us. The Torah, in Deuteronomy 15, says, Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy in your land.' Mores, rules, customs, religious imperatives across time call those who are able to share, to lift those who are for whatever reason unable. Reincarnation teachings generally say we experience different kinds of lives for development of our souls.

There is no teaching or ruling or custom that tells us to be selfish.

From whatever vantage point we view life, we are called to be lifters of others. When we find ourselves down and almost out, we are asked to graciously accept help. However, there is no teaching to just let others take care of us forever, if we are able in any way to recover. There is no teaching that tells us to be perpetual leaners.

There is a breakdown in this understanding nowadays, it seems to me. And I think think it might be partially due to the flight away from spirituality, not only in Western Cultures, but generally across the planet. So many people seem to forget the nature of the journeys of life. It's a soul adventure. It's more than it appears on the surface.

We're not here to wear the latest styles. We're not here to give up and let others take care of us. We're here to learn and grow and be all we can be. We're here to release the imprisoned splendor, to give up excuses, to rise and overcome and shine our inner light. This is a spiritual journey, a spiritual school. If we reframe our lives in such a way, it's almost magical, well it's spiritual, but it's so far from the materialist's frame that it seems magical.

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Vision of Now

This morning I saw a vision of our politics as if a caricature of a Shakespearean play. There are basically two teams in this play who are acting out their parts in the extreme. There are fans who cheer their team on as if home town football teams in their tie breaking final game of the season. There is frenzy. There is hyperbole. There is the ridiculous. There seems to be no extreme too far.

The purpose of the play is to entertain, to call forth strong emotion, and keep people busy so they don't see behind the melodrama. Most of the power is in the background with the permanent class. Actors come and go, but directors, producers, writers, costumers, camera crew, make-up artists, special effects experts, etc stay on for many decades.

If they can rile us up enough, they can control us, our emotions, and our actions. The most controlled resort to violence, especially violence against their own interest, such as destroy small businesses that serve their community, destroy statues of cultural heroes like Fredrick Douglass and General Grant, and even maim and kill those on the other team.

Philosophers and theologians have long spoken about removing the concept of "other." We are all part of the human family. Compassion is often a description of a spiritually awakened person. 

However, the play performed for us demeans religion, reignites racial hatred, and takes us to opposite corners, ready to square off.

I suggest we look at this fiction for the last time and turn to reality, jumping off this wild ride. With calm minds we can discern what is most kind and helpful. We can remove outside controls and turn to what we already know is right and just and do that. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Ah, Yes, C. S. Lewis Again

 A quote from him grabbed me this morning.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly right harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And we can't go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. 

This analogy seems to me to be apt in a number of areas. 

  • Personally, we are called to heal our wounds, move beyond ego driven lives, explore new ideas and become all we can be. We are to own and use wisely the power of our minds and our very being.
  • Politically, we are to rise out of tribalism, extreme polarity, and move to embrace one another with compassion and kindness.
  • Spiritually, we are to move out of musty ideas of long gone thinkers and theologians, to a fresh way to know the Divine experiencially and then to live generously out of our knowing.
The old egg of ego and division and second hand religion simply won't fly. Let's crack the shells of our lives and learn to fly.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

No One Is An Island, Yet We All Are Islands

In my half-awake moments this morning I saw a parade of the Presidents during my lifetime. My life began with FDR, before we joined WWII. At my count, 12 men were in this parade. There are many written words about what happened and didn't happen during these 80 years. We have some shared history that we can point to. But then, most of what transpired did so in the privacy of our own minds.

Our private thoughts constitute a one of a kind world. No one knows all of our experiences, how we interpreted them, how they changed us, our musings, our deepest hopes and fears, our doubts, our certainties, our secrets. We are each an island, a unique island, with the waters of our shared history washing our shores. Each island takes in these waters in different ways though, with different understanding.

It is a strange feeling to realize no one really knows us fully. No one else has access to the bizillion thoughts and experiences of a lifetime. In fact, neither do we, for we have forgotten most if it. We couldn't function if every second of our lives were front and foremost.

We have memory clusters that can get triggered - groups of decisions, of painful times, of useful and practical information, of failures, of successes, etc. Some are neutral, just information such as, don't touch that hot oven. Some are highly charged. It is these highly charged clusters that need healing.

Say you shout X at me. All X type memories pull us back to that spot in our subconscious where X memories and reactions are stored. We react automatically, as if all these X's were happening all at once. Our reaction is over the top. There is a rubber band effect, pulling us backward. 

Once we realize this, we have choices. We can defend our reaction, thereby reinforcing the automatic reaction and making the rubber band stronger. Or we can notice we are reacting out of proportion from some deep place in our island. Then we can begin to heal. We can do affirmations, we can meditate and journal, we can talk about it to a confidant, etc. The thing is, we can make our island healthier and kinder. We can move towards freedom from automatic clusters. This means psychological healing and movement toward spiritual awakening. As long as we have rubber bands pulling us into robot like automatic responses, we have work to do.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Forgiveness and Onward

Our Pastor talked about forgiveness this morning on our live streaming church service. Those who know me know I even wrote a book on the topic, often quipping that I had become an expert on forgiveness because I had to do so much of it.

I found myself, long ago, as a young women with deep conflicts and pain that I dared not say out loud. I was told I was exceptionally bright and talented, but I knew I had irredeemable faults that I didn't know how they were born or how to overcome them.

Let me share the basics, hoping the power of forgiveness can illustrate how even one such as me can be restored by its power.

I knew something major was wrong with me. I knew because my mother and grandmother told me, and my dad didn't contradict. He was mild and kind and helped me with my school projects, made me things like desks, and helped me with algebra homework, but there was a problem. Mother told me repeatedly she almost died when she had me, and daddy was sorry he made her pregnant. That's how the story of my life began, as a potential mother killer and a regret in my father's heart. Her beatings of me with yard sticks that broke with the strength of her blows and her red hand print upon my face verified over and over how I was essentially a hated problem and at best a nuisance. There were also the many dramas when she locked herself in the bathroom, my dad coming to me, "your mother is locked in the bathroom, crying, saying you hurt her feelings. Come apologize." I always said and believed I didn't know what I'd done, but there was something terribly wrong with me, that had been established. So, there I was, again, apologizing to the bathroom door for some unnamed awful thing.

Her mother, my grandmother underscored it all in so many ways. She once cornered me in the laundry room, held a knife to my throat and threatened me. The 8 year old me managed to trip her and lock myself in the garage till someone came home. But she remained for sometime in my bedroom until my father built her a room and bath on the back of the house. She told me awful bedtime stories like the man in Pittsburgh who chopped a bad little girl up into inch cubes and was coming for me. She sometimes would rock in the wicker rocker, digging in her fingernails, face turning purple as she screamed she was dying and I was killing her, and I would burn forever in hell. I cried at her feet. I didn't know what awful thing I'd done and certainly didn't want to burn in hell, even though the adults in my life seemed to think it was a given.

I think you got the picture. I was extremely insecure, filled with heart ache. I tried to figure it out and get out from the heavy burden of being me. I read and read and read my little New Testament, underlining with colored pencils until it looked something like a rainbow. I still have that little treasure of a book, some of the colors dripping from tears long past. 

I began the long journey of forgiveness. It took some years before I was able to make significant progress. I had no one to talk to about it. It was too horrible. But I soon was able to function so that I did well in school and was able to have friends over (after my grandmother moved out when I was in high school, she could no longer shout out the window at my playmates that we were plotting against her).

I did a deep dive into psychology, philosophy, history, metaphysics, new physics, etc. I absorbed mountains of information. Step by step I found freedom and self acceptance. So, I wrote a book to leave a trail of hope and action so that others were not alone on their journey of forgiveness. If you are on that journey, I hope you'll go to Amazon and consider my ebook, "The Key, Forgiveness and Beyond." 

Always remember God loves you, and so do I.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Story

Once upon a time there was a woman, a woman who questioned and quested.  Pat answers did not satisfy her. In fact, they urged her more profoundly to search, thinking those pat answers were only screens to stop the quest. They were non-answers to keep her from continuing on.

There were many along her path that tried to divert her. Some temporarily succeeded. There were quite a few scary teachers, a few comforters, and a lot of onlookers.

She persisted. She read just about everything, and met oh so many people in oh so many lands. She found some answers. The answers led to more questions in what seemed like a never ending series of partial answers leading to ever more vast questions.

Urged on from a deep spot within, her interiority expanded. Some more full answers peeked around the corner of her path, as if to tease her. And then, plunk, a few fell into her life.

She saw life as a school for soul development, an opportunity to expand so much that more and more of her True Self was set free. She saw the freedom from the shackles of ego, the bondage of false ideas, and the haze blown upon the path of life, a purposeful haze so that a person could stay in the haze for as long as they chose and then choose the time of beginning the awakening. She saw the job is to walk out of all of that and be the True person, the offspring of another dimension, the spiritual dimension, and to shine the Light from there to be a beacon for those still wandering in the haze.

She remembered the call of her brother that echoes through the tunnel of time, "let your light so shine..." That call is for us all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

C. S. Lewis and Jesus and Love

 C. S. Lewis wrote many wonderful thoughts including:

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.

The words Jesus was reported to have said include many around the word and action of love:

Love one another as I have loved you... Love God with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself...

This morning I was melding those words and thoughts together. C. S. Lewis was a great Christian thinker, radio personality and author. Jesus was the foundation of Christianity. They were, you might say, on the same wave link.

My mind said to me:

Love one another with a steady wish for the highest good for all people. If you can love as Jesus loved, you tenderly hold all people in your heart, not just your inner circle, but all people. 

The key, the summation, Jesus gave of his insight into Judaism and its application, was what we often call The Great Commandment. With steadiness, with all of your being, live from the position that loving God is the required action of people on the spiritual path. To love God is to be walking, talking love, shining light from the hilltop, true to the highest love, even in hidden places. Realizing God is Creator, know that all are created from One Source, all are rays of the same Divine One. All of us are siblings, brothers and sisters. We are to wish the highest and the best to everyone, no exclusions, no excuses.

Let us pray for such an awakening to breathe across this planet, caressing every heart, igniting such love. Just imagine it with me for a moment. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Mystery of Parables

If we believe Mark, the disciples were a bit thick-headed. Jesus complains they don't understand. Jesus, at times, seems exasperated with them. They try to take his parables literally and get confused by their own confusion. At one point, Jesus says he teaches in parables but teaches the deeper explanations to the disciples in private. But we don't really have any of these private teachings. Probably the disciples didn't understand them either, so it's just as well.

The nature of parables, myths, poetry etc is surplus meaning. When Robert Frost wrote, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..., for example, he was not talking about a specific yellow wood. When he declared he took the one less travelled, he wasn't talking about a hike in the woods and a Y in a specific path. When the Psalmist wrote the beautiful songs, they were poetry with surplus meaning, way beyond literal.

The purpose of surplus meaning is to make us think, to think about what this parable/poem means in our life, to consider it from all sides. It is not possible for it to have only one meaning. It has a universalness to it that can speak to a first century peasant, a medieval monk, the titan of industry, man and woman from all ages and all strata of society.

Make an experiment for yourself. Pick a parable to live with for one week. Read it every morning and every evening. Roll it around in your mind and heart. Take notes. At the end of the week, read over your notes and see a part of the parable's mystery that has unfolded for you. There is more for the Divine Mystery is infinite. The journey into The Mystery is thrilling each step of the way.

God walks with you.