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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Foreign Time Travel

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." 

A quote that is attributed to a British novel, but I don't know which novel.

In my own personal life experience, I can certainly attest to that. As a small child, we had black window shades so that enemy bombers could not see lights and easily bomb our town. Food was rationed and there were air raid sirens. Before I was 12, there was no television of which I was aware. We "watched" the radio. The phone was a black thing that was attached to the wall and had a circular dial. I didn't know anyone who had flown on an airplane. The cars didn't have air conditioning, power steering, power brakes or anything power. Everyone I knew went to church every Sunday. We wore hats and gloves on special Sundays, such as Easter. Girls wore skirts and dresses to school as no jeans or slacks were allowed. Most women did not work outside of the home. There were very few out-of-wedlock babies, and when there were, it was considered a very bad thing. We were to be virgins when we wed. etc etc etc...

A young person of today can read that, but still not quite understand how life felt and was experienced in the United States in the 1940's and 1950's. 

Often, when people read history, it is seen through the distortion of how life is nowadays, or through the eyes of someone else who tells their version of the distortion. This is often extreme distortion when looking way back, say the 1st century c.e. For example, Jesus was not a blond, blue-eyed, tall caucasian. He was a Middle Easterner with dark or olive skin, black hair, and the typical height of a male peasant then was 5' tall. There were 2 classes: the peasants and the rulers. He was born into a social world order in which Rome was the conqueror and ruler so that he lived under a domination system. Just about anyone who had any power at all was a collaborator with Rome - including the high priests of Judaism. During his childhood, there had been a rebellion and thousands of people were crucified. Jesus was a peasant. He became a disciple of John the Baptizer for a time. John was an anti-Rome, pro-Judaism prophet who eventually was beheaded for his rabble rousing.

Marcus Borg said 
"The social world is what makes a time and place that time and that place... The social world in which we live pervasively shapes us. Growing up, socialization, means internalizing the understandings of life operative in our world. It means being sufficiently shaped by our social world so that we know how to live in it."
As a student of history, I endeavor to understand what life was like in whatever time I am studying. I do my best to take off my biases and pre-conceived notions in order to approximate what it was like for the people of the day. In that way I can more fully understand and appreciate the life lived at the time. So for Hildegard of Bingen. for example, her feats were all the more stunning because she lived in a time when women couldn't ___________, you fill in the blank.

As a lifelong student of all things spiritual, I have studied a great deal about the 1st century in order to understand Jesus and the others of his day. I seek what the original message was, what his life was like, how his message was shaped by the times, what he wanted us to know so many years down the road. I don't know if it is possible to know all the answers, yet I continue. I know a lot more than if I'd never tried, that is certain. I encourage all seekers of truth and understanding to join me on the quest.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Peace Possible or Not

So much of my life has been directed to the ideas of peace on earth.

To look around the world, it definitely seems that peace on earth is not even a flicker in the hearts and minds of most people. I weep for the constant tragedies that flash across the tv screens and incessant alerts on my phone. As my daddy used to say, "The world is going to hell in a handbasket."

From time to time I consider the idea that this world is 3rd grade for souls, and we cannot change its basic ways because the next batch of souls needs 3rd grade too.

Pick a time in history, any time, and see the same themes. The same themes for individuals span across all times and space on earth. People yearn for love, yet hate rises up. People yearn for safety but wars come regularly. People yearn for justice, but far too often injustice is what happens. The same themes bind together groups, tribes or nations in hopes and gross failures. This or that group has ideals and dreams, then some charismatic person rises up and tells them the only way is to destroy the "other," and then their dreams can come true. Then, once again everyone loses.

We seem satisfied with incongruity. We may say the words, "God is Love," but we then turn and act in unloving ways. We may admire those who try to bring us together to awaken spiritually, but we sit by and see them killed or silenced in some way. We may cry on certified times about how unfair it was to do this or that to a spiritually great person or group, but we keep on eliminating great and small anyway. Weeping for Jesus on Good Friday, for example, does not excuse us from "crucifying" someone today verbally or literally.

I'm not sure why all this keeps happening. Are we humans incapable from noting what causes reap what effects? Are we blind to history? Are we so ignorant and lacking in thinking skills that we follow any loud voice? What ails us?

I'm thinking maybe it's partially that no one told us that we need to practice spirituality just as surely as we practice the piano or the times table, or anything else we want to learn. I think we could each think of what touchstone idea/s is dear to us. Say, for example, compassion, which is generally accepted as being an essential part of any spiritually awake life. Then pay attention to ourselves to notice when we are or are not living as compassion - and then bring ourselves back into alignment with compassion. Practice living consistently the great ideas we say we hold dear until we actually are walking, talking examples of those very things.

I wonder how many people we could get into regular spiritual practice so that we all become the spiritual being God created in the first place and therefore produce a world that would exhibit all aspects of the Kingdom of God.

Lord, You show me so much, and my heart is troubled by what I see. Lead me to the ideas and actions that would open up the hearts and minds across this land to live as Your children. I know each person is Yours. Help me to cherish each person. each animal, each plant as Your amazing creation, imbued with a Spark of You.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Anselm and Beyond

Anselm lived a thousand years ago, but his ideas are woven into some parts of Christianity, and in those parts there is the belief that they know the only truth, the Bible is actually literal and inerrant (a gift of reaction to the Enlightenment),  the only way to be "saved". He attempted to "prove" God exists. He was considered an innovative thinker. For example, he thought up the idea of atonement and Jesus' substitution for us in his death. What I'm contemplating today is that he and others brought life to these ideas which had NOT been part of Christianity until then.

I've spent many, many hours over many, many years delving into the 1st century and what originally happened and what it meant to the people who lived it. My historical study moves forward to this day, through the mystics of the middle ages, through the martyrs of the last century (think Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King) to this time and today's great thinkers.

I have discovered that quite a lot of "theology" is not in the Bible, was not in the understanding of those who were there, and is sometimes 180' opposite of what was originally taught and understood.

Most modern Bible scholars see the Hebrews as people who wrote in metaphor, so that what is contained is more than what it might seem at first glance. The stories have deep meanings. The stories are people's understanding of God.

In the first centuries of Christianity, the teachings were several. An example of just one of these areas of argument revolves around the nature of  Jesus. Some believed Jesus was fully divine and therefore did not have a material body. Some believed he was fully human and was a great teacher/rabbi. Some believed he was both at the same time - which was the one that won the argument and was put into creed.

There were many arguments over a bunch of ideas. But there was not the argument that Jesus had to die gruesomely to appease an angry God, who was angry at humankind and demanded a blood sacrifice. When we look at this idea with all of our wits present, we can see that this idea is a bit crazy and definitely NOT what Jesus taught and his followers continued to teach. God is Love. God created everything and called it good. Love, forgive, repent, have compassion. The Kingdom of God is within, etc.

Jesus taught the way to live and that the Kingdom of God was already here. If/when we live in accordance with The Way, the ugliness of the world can/will vanish. One could say that Jesus was an idealist with utopian ideas. Yet the possibility of His truths has kept at least part of His teachings alive 2,000 years. I assume Jesus really believed it possible for humanity to awaken to the deep truths he lived and spoke. I assume He thought it worth his life to poke the powerful Rome and its representatives, so much so that he was given the death reserved only for those who were treasonous and dangerous to Rome.

I think that if we want Christianity to exist far into the future, it would do us well to study history in general and Christian history in context, to note what was added and what was subtracted and for what reasons. I see that much of what is taught as Christianity today is far off course, way different from the original and intended course, so that it seems to me more and more people are turned off by it and leave the churches. In Europe the church attendance is in the single digits. In the United States, 80% of the people say they consider themselves Christian, but half of those no longer are part of a church because of the superstitious and even ignorant things that are being taught.

The violence and hatred that arises today can be turned around. Let us find Jesus anew and turn ourselves around.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Convictions Especially About Easter

I'm excitingly reading Marcus Borg's book "Convictions."

I say excitedly because in so many ways his story parallels mine. We grew up in mainstream Protestant families and churches. We started questioning and journeyed into a quest for truth. We had mystical, luminous experiences that cannot be contained in words. We studied history, context, and meanngs. And for the most part we reached the same or similar conclusions.

One of the conclusions is the Bible is a sacred document that is mostly parable, metaphor and myth that carries way more profound meanings than the literalists can even imagine. In fact the literalists are a rather new group, and they turn off millons who have left and are leaving Christianity. Literalism defies logic, common sense, science and the teachings of spiritual lights of the ages. It offends​ our intellect.

I hope​ you will read this book. I'm going to share a bit about what Borg says about Easter and how it was understood in the beginning. It was not about a violent God requiring Jesus' death in some way as a substitute for us and our mistakes.
The earliest story of Easter, the empty tomb, means:
  • You won't find Jesus in the land of the dead. "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" 
  •  Imperial execution and burial in a rich man's tomb couldn't hold him.
  •  God has said "yes" to Jesus and "no" to the powers that killed him. 
  •  It's not over -- what he was about has not come to an end. 
  •  Jesus is still loose in the world, still recruiting for the kingdom of God... 
  •  The risen Christ journeys with us, is with us, whether we know it or not. 
  •  Sometimes there are moments when we do recognize this. 
  •  One of the ways the risen Christ comes to us is the blessing, breaking and sharing of bread.
On Good Friday let us consider the understanding in the beginning. Peel back layers and go to the first century and find The Way.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Inner to Outer

A thought from Meister Eckhart caught my attention:
People should think less about what they ought to do and more about what they ought to be. If only their being were good, their works would shine forth brightly. Do not imagine that you can ground your salvation upon actions; it must rest on what you are
 One of my teachers once told me you can't hide your consciousness for it shows up in all you do and say.

Or - as within, so without. Or, as a man thinketh in his heart...

Our project needs to be, it seems to me, to work steadfastly upon who we are inside, on our relationship with God - and then what we do cannot be anything but good, beneficial, lifting, light-filled and whole/holy.

How do we know we need interior work? Look at the results in our lives, if they are not all that good is, then that points to something inside that needs healing and brought into alignment with the Love and Light of God. If we create less than pure love, we still have work to do inside of ourselves. We need to stop trying to "fix" others and humbly look ourselves fearlessly in the eyes, in the soul. We need to ask where to start in our prayer time. The most common answer is forgiveness, then change of heart to stop creating resentments and strife, to stop being judgmental. We move in the direction of simply living as Love, without attachments or agendas, with no manipulation, coming to each moment with all we are as children of the Most High,

It is possible for us to move daily a bit in the direction of God as the Ground of our being, nudging ourselves along The Way into being more and more of who we are in the Mind of God - as God's beloved creation, made in the same pattern, made to be unconditional love.

I come this day to You, asking for Your Guidance for what I must do to be what I ought to be. I listen...

Thursday, April 6, 2017


In reading Meister Eckhart writings this morning, I came to a statement by him about St. Jerome.
St. Jerome says that a pure wax which is soft and pliable enough to twist into whatever shapes we desire already contains within itself all that can be made from it, even if no one is actually making anything from it at the time.
So many things danced in my mind upon considering this. I thought of the old song - Thou art the potter, I am the clay, mold me and make me after thine way. I thought of Michaelangelo saying that all he did in sculpture was to release the figure in the marble that was already there. I thought about each person's journey here with its unique challenges, pains, sorrows, joys, and hopes - perhaps tailor-made for each individual in order to awaken the depths of spiritual knowing.

I wonder how many who have walked this planet have willingly made themselves pliable so that God's highest will for each could be formed??? It seems to me that many have gone kicking and screaming into the path of awakening to Oneness and larger Truths than can be put into even the most eloquent writing. It seems to me that even more have turned their backs to The Path and have taken the hand of ego instead.

Let's imagine that we are a pure wax which is soft and pliable. We can take on many forms, be shaped and then shaped again. In fact we have at some levels. The girl I once was is only a hint of the adult I became and keep becoming. Yet there is more. That soft wax can be shaped in a more amazing way when we say, and mean what we say - Thy will be done. However, this prayer/statement is such a courageous one that I don't suppose very many have actually reached the point along The Way that it is said with fervor and total commitment.

More often, it appears, those words are not said or are said with no force of pure willingness for it to be so. Thy will be done is a surrender to God that leads us into the most incredible inner and outer journeys, to places within and without that we had not known even existed. That journey is exhilarating, sometimes terrifying, but always fascinating. That journey leads us through passages to ever more Light-filled understanding. It is the prodigal returning Home to the Divine Parent/Creator. We can choose to be soft and pliable to God, or we can stiffen up and walk with ego. I am not always successful, yet I keep on aiming and re-aiming to stay on that Path, The Way.

Beloved, today I say with deep sincerity - Yes, Yes, Yes! Thy Will be done. Help me open fully to You. Lead me on Your Path, knowing wherever You lead me, You are with me and all shall be well.

Monday, April 3, 2017


Meister Eckhart says God created us flawed for a purpose.

I was thinking it is because of our flaws, we get to participate in our own evolution and awakening. Here's where our freewill can turn to God and be led, or we can turn to our ego and delay our awakening.

My flaws provide an opening for God and I to work together on this project of me.  The foibles in my past turned out to be great teachers. As I flex my spiritual muscles, so to speak, I get stronger and clearer and in a deeper relationship with God.

So, it seems I need to thank God for my flaws. Never thought I'd ever say that!!!