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Saturday, July 30, 2022

Gospel of Thomas

 “Whoever has ears, let him hear. There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, he is darkness.” Jesus said, “I took My place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And My soul became afflicted for the sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. But for the moment they are intoxicated. When they shake off their wine, then they will repent.”

I was re-reading some of the Gospel of Thomas this morning. It was one of the 13 early Christian writings found in 1945 in Nag Hammadi in Northern Egypt.

Its many references to light have always fascinated me, as I am connected to many light-filled moments in my life. Here Jesus says "There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, he is darkness.”  To me this is reminiscent of other things he is reported to have said, like don't hide your light under a bushel, let your light shine, etc. 

It seems to me that we are called to The Light and to let It flow and shine through us. We don't have to go somewhere else to find it. We cannot purchase it. It is already within us. If we don't shine it, we contribute to the darkness. 

Perhaps the darkness has intoxicated us so that we forgot who we are. Perhaps this is why, with the current attack on religion going on all over the world, there are those who are purveyors of darkness. From the woke shores of the far far left to the Marxist shores rising in so many nations, there is darkness. No Light of God is welcomed.  Yet there are those all across this planet refusing to let their light go out. To you I say, shine your light, keep shining, refuse the darkness.


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Living the Stories

This morning I awoke with an idea that startled me. I, and most likely you too, have been living the Bible teachings. It's like my earth school curriculum has been set up so that the key themes in the Bible are taught to me via my life experience. Some have been part of this experiential teaching numerous times. Maybe I didn't quite get it, or there were nuances I missed, or they were just so important that they bore repeating.

 One of the repeating themes has been -

 Judge not by the appearance, but by righteous judgement. (KJV) or in the Message translation: Don’t be hypercritical; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right. or in the Voice translation: You should not judge by outward appearance. When you judge, search for what is right and just.

Whatever translation, we are told to go beyond the surface, beyond first glance, beyond the ego's biased assessment, and maybe even to see the person and the situation from a God point of view.

There are untold numbers of examples in in my life. One example keeps coming to my mind this morning. I was once the pastor of a church that had a very old and beautiful building. It was built near the end of the 1800's. It was Gothic with a pipe organ, hand carved and beautiful woodwork. It tended to creak and seem a bit spooky at night.

One day a sweet young thing voice called me and asked me to perform a wedding that night. It seemed they loved the beauty of our church and wanted a woman minister. So I drove down to the church just before 7 that evening and went in and turned on all of the lights. Then I heard the roar of motorcycles in the parking lot, lots of motorcycles. My first thought was - oh no, nobody knows where I am!

In walked a group of leather-clad young people, chains, studs, the whole thing. The bride walked up to me. She was wearing jeans and a leather vest with nothing under it, nothing! She said, Your flowers are so lovely. Could I pick some for my hair? I told her that would be fine. She came back in with a ring of flowers in her hair. She looked so stunningly beautiful, glowing and radiating happiness. I had a conversation with the bride and groom and decided they were genuinely in love and aware fully of the commitment they were about to make. We all went in to the sanctuary, and I married them. They were so happy, tears in their eyes, beautiful vows they had prepared to say. Afterwards, they thanked me profusely and gave me the biggest honorarium I'd ever received. They waved as they rode off, faces covered with huge smiles.

If I allowed my fear led by the appearance to take over, I would have missed some lovely people and a precious memory. 

Either I am thick-headed, or this lesson is so important that it just has to be repeated - different scenarios, different faces, same lesson. I am getting better at it, but I do find I slip from time to time. Perhaps some of the examples I've lived are pop quizzes for me to see how I'm doing. Some are more like mid-terms. 

When I opened the Book of Life for this life, I opened the Bible stories that would teach me each and every day, even if I never actually opened a physical Bible. I did, however, open and study and read the Bible over and over, since early childhood. My life experiences and my understanding of the Bible maybe are a bit different than yours, but they are all rooted in timeless stories and sayings.

Thoreau said that an unexamined life is not worth living. I urge you to examine your life to discern which sacred stories are your particular curriculum, your assignments to learn during the course of this life. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Where Is Your Church?

God is in every place; think of every place as a church.  

     -- Jeremy Taylor  1613-1667

 In a great Cathedral, we are breathless at the soaring arches and dazzling stained glass windows. In a redwood forest, we feel enveloped in peace. Spending time contemplating a rose, we enter into a deeper relationship with Beauty. In a bustling crowd, we can suddenly see the many faces of God. Even in the seemingly uninspired places, there is God waiting for us to look beyond appearances, to shine our light and love, to be a lifter.

As we approach life with spiritual openness, we begin to discover that it is true, every place, every thing, every one is sacred. We come to worship and celebrate wherever we may be.

If we carried with us today in our hearts the quote from Jeremy Taylor, we might make some amazing discoveries.  Try it in the (church) grocery store, in the (church) park, in the (church) bookstore, in the (church) slum, wherever you go or whatever see on television or the internet - see a church. Then of course, the next step might be - how do I behave in church? Do I see others as spiritual brothers and sisters? Do I have a joyous attitude? Am I prayerful and caring? Can I be that wherever I am? Can I grow to act and think at all times as if I am in the Presence of God, for I am. Wherever I am, God is.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?

To be out of your sight?

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. 
               Psalm 139:7-12 The Message translation

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

An Insight From the Past

One who reads the words of prayer with great devotion may come to see the lights within the letters.  --- Hasidic teaching

To me, this has also been the outcome of the Christian practice of lectio divina, divine reading.

Skimming the surface of any great thought may give a glib understanding, but not the full robust and meaningful idea intended. It is there to be mined, to delve into, to roll over and over in our minds. There are layers and layers of meaning in the great writings of all traditions.

I also suggest it is not very useful to take someone else's understanding of anything of any consequence without deep contemplation of one's own. Peel back the layers of meaning on your own to reach the layer that speaks to you at this moment in time. 

It takes more time to genuinely go on a spiritual quest, but it is so rewarding and exciting. Many partially slumber through this life, skimming the surface, taking the easy way, and missing the gems, the truly good bits.

I encourage you to practice by mining the meanings in the quote at the top of today's writing. Then go on to other great words. Be a spiritual explorer.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

My Prayer

                                                         Infinite Divine Presence

Ground of my being

Breath of my life

Lead me to know You more fully

Guide my steps, my mind, my heart

Lead me to be all You sent me here to be

Wash away my fears and doubts

Awaken in me The Light

Release me from all darkness

Show me how to Shine

Help me love all of Your creation

Here I am Lord, at last ready to know You

Joy is sparkling in me

For You hear me and are even now responding with Love

I turn this over to You with the ancient seal of faith,

Amen Amen and Amen


Saturday, July 9, 2022

Lessons From My Granddaughter

We went each Halloween to a very elaborate maze. We were together at this time as it was also our granddaughter's birthday time. She had the most amazing spatial awareness. She would walk through the maze once and then run through it easily. One year, when she was 7 or 8, after I was done with the maze and sitting down, she wanted to go through it again. She came out with big eyes, saying There are some women in there crying. They can't find their way out. Can I go back and lead them out? She went to them saying, Follow me, I know the way.  The women came out amazed and praised her and thanked her over and over. One came up to me an hour later, and was still so thankful and incredulous such a small girl could do that.

This morning I awoke with this memory vivid on my mind, and a clear analogy. 

Jesus said Follow me, I know the way. He taught the way to live a spiritual life, the way to know God. People were astounded that a carpenter from the little village of Nazareth would know the way. It was so important that his teachings were even called The Way, and his followers were members of The Way long before the name became Christianity.

In this moment, in this second, I turn to follow The Way of The One who knew The Way. I cease flinging around after empty choices, using my life energy for naught. There is One who knew and taught and walked The Way. From this moment on, I will do my best to put my foot upon that path and follow. I pledge this in a solemn yet joyous oath, and seal it with the ancient seal of faith and integrity, Amen, Amen and Amen

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Summing Up My Life So Far

When I was a little girl and then a teen-ager, I read my little New Testament over and over and over again. Jesus and Paul became my Companions, Mentors, Role Models, and Friends. I had a problem with the preacher's words, that somehow didn't usually work with what my Companions were teaching me. I prayed and prayed

At the University, I learned about the history and development of theology by men of various times and places, of various understandings and intellects, of men before science, of men with control and ego issues and political axes to grind, of men with translation issues and documents that were written down long after the events, etc. I saw a web of confusion, of mutually exclusive ideas, of misinterpretations, of lack of understanding of context, and in some cases ludicrous conclusions.

So, I did what anyone with a conscience would do, I left the church, but I took my Companions, Mentors, Role Models and Friends with me. I did my best to be like them - to love lavishly, to forgive fully, to be generous of things and of heart, to care, to offer a hand up, to give thanks for all of God's goodness lavished upon earth.  Later in life, I returned to church, being ordained in 1978, offering my unique perspective, not regurgitated nonsense. I did my best to share only what I actually Know.

Sometimes the hurts of my life were hard to overcome and stood there taunting me. Sometimes I let my Companions down, and of course myself down too. I was well into my adulthood when I could finally release with complete forgiveness the hurtful people of my young years, and then those who came after. 

I seemed to attract the mentally ill, from extreme manic to borderline personality, each with their own challenges. I seemed to attract some raging angry people, some with advanced manipulation skills, some who were downright mean and uncaring. I came to see them as teachers, as testers to see how well I was doing in living as my Companions taught me. I faltered. Picked myself up and tried again. I cried. I prayed. I wandered through trees and felt the calm of old redwoods. I sat on shores and watched the endless waves. I stared at the night skies and thought of the millions of millions of galaxies and uncountable stars and planets. Oh how magnificent! How small my cares.

I lived the Book of Job, all being stripped from me - family, friends, money, home, almost all earthly things, with just enough left to cling onto the edge. I knew it to be a spiritual experience, a teaching time, a burning off of more of the dross. I hope to live long enough to have some time in the restoration phase, but I don't know if this wish will be granted.

From time to time, I have been granted a glimpse into The More. I have seen the Light. I have met what I call Beings of Light, I have seen beyond. I have heard with my ears Guidance loud and clear. I have sat in one place and seen another that was simultaneously occurring. I have had deep and profound spiritual moments, ever since early childhood. I have experienced inspirational writing that just flows through me without my intellectual gyrations. All were gifts. I cannot make them happen. They happen as gifts, as surprises, as evidence. For you see, I know there is so much more than those with earthly blinders can even imagine. I know the bedrock of earthly life is to develop spiritually in spite of, or sometimes because of, whatever is going on here. I know life continues. And I know it is a privilege to be given this opportunity to come to earth and develop our souls.

In case I don't get to know all of you who read my words on this blog, I leave this testimony to lift you and help you as you journey through your own journey of awakening to The More.

May your life be all God intended it to be when you were given the gift of coming here. May you drop your intense focus on the this and that of this place, and turn to The Light where you will find what you have been seeking. God bless you and keep you. 

With all of my heart,

M. Marlene Oaks

Monday, July 4, 2022

Blessed Independence Day

What a day it was, that original Independence Day. Men with a new vision of how to be a nation signed a dangerous document declaring this new land would no longer be subservient to Great Britain, indeed not a part of it at all. They risked everything to stand firmly against the greatest power of the day.

They were not perfect men, as men rarely are. They did have a great vision and the courage to stand behind it. I am always moved deeply when I think of those days, of the discussions and arguments that led up to the final document. Ordinary men became great men that day. I am thankful for them. My freedom is an inheritance from what they began.

Have you read it lately? Here it is:

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Signed by:     (Let us honor them today as well as our Founding Document)


Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton


North Carolina

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn


South Carolina

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton



John Hancock


Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton



George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton



Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross


Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean


New York

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris


New Jersey

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark


New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple