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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Myth Is What to Me?

I remember Joseph Campbell saying something like - A myth is something that never happened, but is always going on. Richard Rohr put it this way:

Remember, myth does not mean “not true,” which is the common misunderstanding; it actually refers to things that are always true!

Most of the great truths are taught in myth form. I think of the stories as parables, stories with layers of meaning. They speak to us with many meanings, if we have ears to hear.

For example, let us think of the prodigal son story that Jesus told. The main characters are the older son, the younger son and the father, with some supporting characters like the servants. In case you don't know the story, the bones of  it are the younger son asks for his inheritance, goes away and squanders it on wine, women and song, ends up in a pig pen and decides it would be better to be a servant at home than starving and comes home; the older brother stays home and tends to business; the father misses his young son, forgives him and restores his place when he comes home repentant; the older brother is angry about it all and is self-righteous. You can Google it and read the whole story.

These are not actual peop!e Jesus knew. They are a story about something that goes on in many levels - human family schism and problems;  spiritually in our relationship with God; in our inner relationship with ourselves, etc.

At different times of our lives we can identify with each of the characters in this story. Perhaps we have made foolish decisions and have come seeking forgiveness. Or we have been jealous and judgmental, even self-righteous, about someone else's behavior. Or we have been the worried person and rejoiced when our loved one came back and greeted him/her with forgiveness and relief. Or we have turned away from God and had to walk a long path to come back. Or....

I think that in all great stories we can find the story of humans, including ourselves, and we can learn and grow from contemplating them, especially when we put ourselves in the shoes of all of the characters. They are after all about us, all of us.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Died for Our Sins?

 Richard Rohr, in his book "Universal Christ" wrote: 
For most of Christian history, no single consensus prevailed on what it means when Christians say, “Jesus died for our sins,” but in recent centuries one theory did take over. It was often referred to as the “penal substitutionary atonement theory,” especially once it was developed after the Reformation. Substitutionary atonement is the theory that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of us sinners, thus satisfying the “demands of justice” so that God could forgive our sins. This theory of atonement ultimately relies on another commonly accepted notion—the “original sin” of Adam and Eve, which we were told taints all human beings. But much like original sin, which we considered earlier, most Christians have never been told how recent and regional this explanation is, and that it fully relies upon a retributive notion of justice. Nor are they told that it is just a theory, even though some groups take it as long-standing dogma. The early church never heard of this; at best they had some idea of “ransom” from the many biblical metaphors.

 I hope you read his whole book. It is awesome.

I have been saying much like the above for decades now. My thought always is that I absolutely know that God is Love, pure unconditional Love. This substitute for us, for our sins, makes God like some of the worst human fathers, violent, bloodthirsty, without a speck of compassion. Also, I am clear that the story of Adam and Eve is about original blessing, with God declaring all good. In fact, the original sin idea didn't enter until Augustine of Hippo was said to mistranslate  some of Paul's words.

Also this whole idea that all we are to do is just believe he died to pay for our sins, makes his death the only important thing. What about his teaching of how to live, about the kingdom of God within, about love and forgiveness and kindness, etc. I firmly believe, if I say I am a follower of Jesus, I am called to become as much like him as I can. Originally the Jesus movement was called "The Way." We are to walk it.

I think the theologies laid upon the Original, have obscured the actual. I think this is one of the reasons Christianity has been declining. Let's let go of idiot, manmade theologies that have been laid upon the pristine yet simple, profound, and amazing teachings that, if lived, can truly set us free.

Be courageous.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Finding Spiritual Gold

To stay on the surface of anything is invariably to miss its message—even the surface meaning of our sinfulness. - Richard Rohr

In preparing for teaching my meditation series in February, I had a flash of understanding of diving into the depths and finding spiritual gold. You have to go into mother earth to find precious metals, beautiful gems, useful things like coal and iron and oil, good soil for planting, etc. We have to go within to find spiritual gold, actually touching the edges of The Presence, knowing because personally we've been there with The One.

If we live on the shallow surface of our lives, we will not find the spiritual gold that beckons us. When we are even just a little still, there is a nagging feeling that there is more to life, that there is something calling. Just out of sight, just around the corner, there is something worth finding. 

Shall we find it? Are we ready to go inside? Are we willing to move beyond ego's posturing? Are we ready to say the most dangerous prayer? Thy will be done.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

There Is Another Way to Look at Getting Older

Yesterday I began re-reading Nona Brooks "Mysteries." She is one of my favorite spiritual women and the founder of Divine Science, along with her two sisters. I read her chapter on aging yesterday, and it has been dancing around in the corners of my mind ever since. Here is just one passage: 

Old age does not mean the burden of years; it means the fruition of a life. Years are not our enemies, but our friends, if we live in harmony with the years and think of them as opportunities for development. Each day of the year is in itself an opportunity to realize more of truth, but unwisely, we resist the passing of the years instead of cooperating in spirit with the seeming flight of time... People do not have to go downhill until their process ends, as we say, in death. To be here and not to live is the only death there is.

That last sentence particularly grabbed me. As I pondered this, it occurred to me that some live a predeath, having given up their zest, they shut down parts of themselves. It is almost like they think they are not supposed to face life with gusto anymore. It is unseemly for the elderly to dance and celebrate and create and be filled with unbounded joy. 

I say hogwash. We who are called elderly, and yet fully live our lives, have earned the right to be called wise ones, mentors, examples of the fruits of a life lived fully.  We have had many chapters in our lives. We have been many places, looked in many eyes, heard tall tales and myths and true stories. We have tasted a great deal of cultures from the food to the music. We know how life feels in its crowded corners and its expanses. We lived and are living it.

To you, my dear friends, scattered across this little blue planet, I give you Nona's words again, To be here and not to live is the only death there is.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Homo Spiritualis

This morning I am reading a book about Teilhard de Chardin. In it there is a quote from an unnamed anthropologist that tweaked my mind.

The cave paintings of France and Spain mark the division between Homo Sapiens (Wise Man) and a new evolutionary step we took to become Homo Spiritualis; a species that is aware of its place in God’s realm.

I don't know if that is completely accurate or not, but it certainly is a fascinating idea. Perhaps it is not just an ancient history thing. Perhaps it is also an every person thing.

I wrote a book to use as a text for teaching, Spiritual Psychology. In it I hypothesized that Maslow's pyramid did not stop at self actualization but continues on like a giant X, with self actualization being the midpoint where the lines cross. We continue on a spiritual journey that finally reaches Cosmic or Christ Consciousness, but the top is open, so that is only the highest we know of. Beyond there is more, maybe in the next dimension.

This morning I am thinking that the journey above the crossing of the lines could be our journey as  Homo Spiritualis. I'm going to ponder this idea and see what comes of it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Plans and Surprises

I have plans, you have plans, everyone has plans.

I'm planning our United Methodist Women's Sunday that we are having on February 27th. I've written a script for 7 of us to present 7 little known women in the Bible. I've spoken to the music director requesting hymns written by women. I have a list ready for sign-ups for women to participate where they want, from one of the 7 to ushering.

I have the agenda ready for tomorrow's UMW board meeting, and I have the general meeting next week planned.

I've gotten things needed into the church secretary for the newsletter, including my monthly article, Servant Volunteer of the Month. This month I interviewed myself 😍, as my name was drawn from the jar of names.

I've made several quilt tops and made some handouts for our Prayers and Squares meeting Friday.

I have the handout almost done for my meditation class in February. It's more of a booklet really, as it has 12 pages so far.

And, I could go on. However, as I've experienced, my plans may or may not actually turn out exactly as I planned. But I do believe they will turn out better than if I had not planned. If all goes well, they will be in the ballpark at least.

There are so many plans written about in the Bible that didn't exactly turn out as the people expected. From surprise pregnancies to detours of all kinds, the people had to adjust to what was. Some grumbled, and some praised God. I hope I can say truthfully that I'm mostly in the praise God group, but there are times I grumble first. I do eventually get there.

I like Paul's thought that all things work together for good for those who are called by God to His purposes. The challenge sometimes is to discern if it is God calling me to this or that, or is it my ego? I truly want to do all things in harmony with The Divine. I've tried most of my life to do so, but not always have I succeeded. But what I have discovered is that even when I go a bit rogue, God uses even that to teach me and lead me back.

I have concluded, up until this point anyway, that it will all work out because God is always with me and always loves me and always sees the best in me and calls that out, even out of my blunders. I am safe. I shall be safe when the time comes to go on to the next life, whatever it will be. God will be there too.

So I think we can relax, and just do our utmost best, and it will all work out. Just love one another as God loves us, flaws and bloopers and all.

Monday, January 10, 2022

All the Moments of My Life

I was sitting and musing. The thought wafted in that I am a container, maybe vessel, for all the moments of my life. I am the only one that knows them all. Even most of the people who knew a bit of them are gone. If you pay close attention, you might see a shadow of some of them imprinted upon me. But you can never know them all, nor can I know many of yours.

The most precious, the scariest, the most perplexing, the sweetest bubble up now and then. They are mine alone. Even if I tried to tell you, it wouldn't be the same. It's a sort of you have to be there kind of thing. Words cannot share the moment that was, not the feelings, the colors, the smells, the immersion of having lived it.

In so many ways, life is a solitary thing. If you were there with me in some moment of import to me, you still could get only a hint of how it was for me, of how I felt it, of how it brought up other memories, or of what it meant to me. And of course, the same goes for all of us.

We learn to treasure the moments of our lives. They are all threads of the tapestry of our lives. When we look closely at one another with an open heart, we can sense some of the threads and feel our oneness in this similar but different-for-each-of-us journey through life on earth. We each have threads of sorrows and joys, of hopes and hopes dashed, of gains and loss. We are remarkably on the same journey, yet a wildly different journey - in the details, in our interpretations, in our decisions, in our willingness to grow spiritually, etc.

So let us just relax and love one another. Life can be grueling, tiring, painful and at the same time exhilarating, uplifting, and joyous. We all go through it. Let's look upon one another with eyes of love and compassion. We're really not all that different. We can all use some love and caring. We know how it feels, all of it. So let's drop judgments and attacks and all things unloving. We understand one another at a deep level. Just remember what your soul knows.

I love you.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

 Prayer is talking to God 

 Meditation is listening to God 

 Free 4 week experiential class on meditation open to all 

 You will learn: 

 Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer 

 Divine reading and historic Christian Meditation 

Focusing Your Energy Bringing in the scattered and busy energy of modern life to focus 

Breathing Meditations 

 Time honored techniques to still the mind 

 Walking Meditations and Guided Meditations 

 Motion and focus  

Plus others 

 The power of meditation to improve mind and body, as well as spiritual depth, has been well documented. Here is your opportunity to brush up on meditation or to learn it. Find which techniques work best for you. 

 This opportunity is offered for the first time in Temecula

 by international teacher, author and blogger, Dr. Marlene Oaks.

 Saturdays from 10—noon February 5, 12, 19, & 26 

Temecula United Methodist Church

 42690 Margarita, Temecula. 92592 1.951.676.1800 

PLEASE, IF POSSIBLE, PRE-REGISTER—sign up at the church, send a note or email.

Crooked Thinking

We used to say, "Change your stinking thinking." We also used the metaphor that a high jumper had to throw his/her mind over the bar first before the body, and we needed to go ahead in our minds before we took physical steps toward goals. And we reminded ourselves that the word "sin" was an archery term signifying we missed the mark, the bullseye, thereby requiring us to aim again and give it another try. I'm very familiar with this, as I took archery in college for a physical education class, and I spent one semester with a purple arm. Although I eventually got an A in the class, I seemed to inevitably let go of the string in such a way as it frequently hit my srm, no matter where I placed the shield.

All of this told us that our minds are powerful and need to be focused on the highest and best. We need to think through what the result of this or that would likely be, and make adjustments in our thinking.

I see wild and nutty thinking constantly, more so now than any other time in my long life. If you follow these examples of choices to their logical conclusions, what do you find?

  • Let criminals out after arrest the same day or the next day, and don't prosecute them.
  • Defund the police.
  • Open the borders and let anyone in.
  • Let major cities be cartel hubs for human trafficking and drugs.
  • Make everything about race.
  • Stop free speech, decry honest debate, fire or shun those not in compliance.
  • Pay people not to work.
  • Make the press the puppets of the ruling class.
These are just a few crooked thinking items that I hear and see almost every day. If we stop and think, we can clearly understand that they point to a place we do not want to inhabit.

Each of us likely have private, personal crooked thoughts about ourselves and our lives. I suggest, when you find yourself saying something to yourself that is crooked and will lead you astray, stop and tell yourself the opposite. Examples: I am stupid/I am a brilliant person; I can't do this (wonderful) thing/I can do all good things with the Divine as my partner; I don't know what to do/I listen and am guided to know what is best to do.

Let's free ourselves from crooked thinking and the dreadful results such thinking produces. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Thank You

 I am so very thankful to my readers all over this wonderful planet. I hope and pray the ideas I've been inspired to write here challenge you, lift you, lead you to new thoughts, and take you further down the spiritual path.

For some reason all of the emails I receive from this blog simply say "regards" accompanied by the email of each person. I am not sure how to respond. I may be able to put together an email list and send a special email to all who have sent "regards." 

In the meantime, I want you to know how deeply grateful I am to you. It is heartening to know that people all over this globe are deep thinkers and care about spirituality, one another and our collective future.

I send you my blessings and love and joy and prayers.

Always, Marlene

Walking This New Path with New Feet and New Heart

 2022! What will we make of it?

We all enter this new year with our own heartbreaks, dreams, hopes, plans - with the experiences that we have lived. These give us a foundation of compassion, humor, sorrows, losses and wins. If we allow the past to define the future, however, we most likely will just repeat and repeat rather than create.

Let us say to our past, Thank you for teaching and testing me. Thank you for leading me to this new day, new year, new possibility. Let us now turn our face to the adventure of a year never lived before by anyone.

If you could do anything possible this year, what would it be? Would you choose to be more loving and forgiving? Would you travel and explore other ways humans live? Would you learn new skills? Would study new to you areas of human thought? Would you focus on your spiritual journey? Or maybe do all of these and more?

Put on your brand new 2022 shoes, and with an open heart, put your whole self on the path of creating and experiencing a brand new year in a brand new way. Live the adventure. Don't miss it. It will not come this way again.