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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Meditation Insight re: 23rd Psalm

This morning in my meditation I had a different view of this Psalm come to me, and I want to share it with you.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, [Even though I sometimes resist or even forget]

I shall not want; [But I might want other stuff than what is good for me]

He makes me lie down in green pastures. [Whether or not I want to at that moment]
He leads me beside still waters; [Do I have to give up chaos?]

He restores my soul. [Sometimes my weary soul resists being restored for some strange reason]

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. [But sometimes I don't follow]

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, [Sometimes I want to sit down and have a pity party and stay in the valley awhile]

I fear no evil; for thou art with me; [I get scared anyway because I forget God is actually present]

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. [If I let You, You ward off attacks with your shepherd's staff]

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; [Even if people are against me, You are with me, showing those enemies they have no power]

Thou anointest my head with oil, [You seal me to You whether or not I deserve it]

My cup overflows. [Sometimes with what I don't want but apparently need]

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; [All things work together for good, even though they might not seem so at the moment]

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. [No matter where I am in this life or the next, I dwell in the Presence of God]


We can, and often do, resist our higher selves, but we don’t have to. Life can lead us to listen and follow.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Is Peace Possible?

As we possibly stand on the edge of WWIII, it seems to me that we who see clearly, we who love God and God's Expression that we call Creation, have some sort of spiritual obligation to stop the destruction and violence that seems to be accelerating.

I have often said that we need to be peaceful ourselves, following the great spiritual maxims to love one another. If we cannot be peaceful in our personal hearts and lives, how can we ask our collective nations to live in peace? We must demonstrate the possibility of peace with our own lives, our words, our actions. Then we must listen to be guided to participate in the world in such a way as to be part of an outbreak of peace on earth.

I am told in prayer that this is no longer just a good idea, it is on the verge of being urgent. We are on the edge of the most terrible war in the history of this planet, war with weapons so destructive that it is unlikely many, if any, will survive. You see it - guns and knives, attacks on each other, a proxy war between the West and Russia in Ukraine, China vowing to take over the world and now talking of supplying Russia with weapons, dictators of the world rattling nukes and voicing threats, leaders in the West talking of the great re-set of global government - and on and on. There is actual danger to us all.

We see all this. What can we do? Do we believe, have faith, that there is a solution, that we, just ordinary people, can do something to turn it all around? 

I don't know the answer. I do believe there is an answer. Let us pray that we will be inspired by The Divine Presence, known by many names, so that we do know what to do, and that we are given the courage to do it.

Oh Divine Presence, Holy One, Creator of all that is, we remember it is in You we live and move and have our being. We remember Your nature is Love. We remember the countless times in history You inspired people to do great deeds, to make meaningful differences, to stand for the right thing. We need You now so very much to bestow Your Wisdom upon us. We need Your Leading, for we alone do not know how to bring Your Peace to this precious earth You have given us. Dear Lord, speak to us, show us the way, Your Way. Rise up at least a few great leaders to inspire the people of this planet to love and save one another, to even embrace one another as children of You, as siblings, as one human race. We raise our voices together as one voice. Hear our prayer. Grant us Wisdom and Courage. May it be so! We seal our prayer with all that is Holy, and with the ancient seal of faith, with the fervor of our very heart of hearts,  Amen, Amen and Amen

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Jesus as THE Door

 Origen said a simple statement that intrigues me:

But it would require both much time and labour to collect together all the titles of the Son of God, such, e.g., as the true light, or the door, or the righteousness, or the sanctification, or the redemption, and countless others.

I don't recall reading this passage before when I first read "The Works of Origen." That is often the way with most any meaningful writing, at different times different things stand out and speak to us.

The idea of the teachings of Jesus being a door to God, to spiritual awakening, to at least partial resolution of my quest is striking me as most profound. I have come to think of his teachings as brilliant, as roadmaps as to how to live my life, to pointers to rise out of ego and into true spiritual steps, to incredibly inspired. To think of the teachings as a door means walking The Way leads me out of my limited consciousness into the infinite possibilities of The More. The teachings are not ends in themselves, but a doorway through which I can enter That to which He is pointing. 

That leads me into Paul's universal understanding of en Christo - the energy that animated Jesus animating us. The Cosmic Christ, the Universal Christ, the Energy of God flowing freely, Guiding, Urging Onward, Loving, the dark glass cleaned, the scales falling from eyes, the veil lifted. Being made new.

The Door!!! Simple yet life-changing.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Thoughts From an Early Christian

Origen lived from about 185-253 C.E. He was influenced by Plato (as were most of the early scholars) and Clement of Alexandria among others. Many have said he is the most brilliant and greatest genius the early church ever produced. On my Kindle this morning I was re-reading a book of his. I chose the below quote to discuss with you this morning.

For so long as any one is not converted to a spiritual understanding, a veil is placed over his heart, with which veil, i.e., a gross understanding, Scripture itself is said or thought to be covered: and this is the meaning of the statement that a veil was placed over the countenance of Moses when he spoke to the people, i.e., when the law was publicly read aloud. But if we turn to the Lord, where also is the word of God, and where the Holy Spirit reveals spiritual knowledge, then the veil is taken away, and with unveiled face we shall behold the glory of the Lord in the holy Scriptures. 

This idea, it seems to me, explains the wide array of opinions and theologies that endeavor to speak of what the scriptures say. They start with the same documents, but do not argue the same understandings. Some say this or that and others say the opposite. What are we to think? Origen notes that reading the scriptures without spiritual understanding is to read them through a veil.

It seems to me, that thought is related to Plato's, Aristotle's, and Augustin's idea that Virtue is necessary to know God. Origin tells us to turn to the Lord and let the Holy Spirit reveal spiritual knowledge.This leads me to Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading. This practice has been used by the mystics across times and places. It is part of "modern" Christian practice, brought forward by Centering Prayer and many current leaders in new Christianity.

With no agenda, no predetermined idea of what it should mean, or what you were told it means - with open heart and mind read a line of scripture slowly, read it word by word, re-read it, sit in the silence and let it roll in your mind. After just a few minutes, write down any ideas that come to you. Just write without evaluating, it's called stream of consciousness. After no more than 5 minutes, then go back and read what you wrote. Often you will be amazed at the thoughts that came through you.

It takes practice, but the veil can be removed. Let those with eyes, see, those with ears, hear.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Revisiting Aristotle

 For some reason, I felt led to re-read Ethics, which I have not read for a very long time. This quote below spoke to me this morning, such that I want to share it with you and also some ideas about it.

And as at the Olympic games it is not the finest and strongest men who are crowned, but they who enter the lists, for out of these the prize-men are selected; so too in life, of the honourable and the good, it is they who act who rightly win the prizes.

Participation has always been a part of my life, of who I am in life. So, I understand Aristotle's idea that you have to enter the Olympics in order to have a chance at winning a medal. You have to enter into life in order to give the gift of self. And, of course, it is a spiritual obligation to give one's best, most honorable, most excellent part of oneself.

The discourse we enter with this wholesomeness offers a lively debate on topics chosen, and after hearing all sides, some consensus may be reached or else more discourse must follow. It seems that the current situation is filled with those who wish to stop such discourse and limit conversation to what those in power have deemed to be the case. It seems to me that this is a move toward authoritarianism, not toward freedom.

There are many challenges in life, personal, spiritual, political, etc. In order to arrive at the best solutions, the best course of action in the midst of the challenges, we would be wise to listen to all points of view with the honest desire to find the best, not to just defend our particular point of view. Courage is needed to rise to these times and be the most sincere and honest people, truly seeking the highest and the best.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

More Regarding "The City of God"

I am finally to a more philosophical part of the book (9,300+ location in the Kindle) - I have persistently slogged through the many arguments against the Greek and Roman gods. And we arrive at his discussion of Plato. He describes Plato as the greatest of the philosophers having travelled Egypt and Italy in search of knowledge and truth, and adding his own brilliance. Here is a quote I'd like us to consider today.

Plato determined the final good to be to live according to virtue, and affirmed that he only can attain to virtue who knows and imitates God,--which knowledge and imitation are the only cause of blessedness.

Augustine makes the point, in agreement with with Plato, that all earthly things change and pass away, but that of the Supreme is eternal and changeless. So, it is useless to seek felicity in the body or mind.

Their conclusion is stated in the above quote. Virtue is what we should use as our guide in order to live in felicity. And virtue, perhaps the glitch for many people, requires us to know and imitate God - and therein is the path to a blessed life.

In many ways, in this "modern" time, virtue is scorned, and the opposite is portrayed in fiction and song and culture. It's a bit like Augustine's pages and pages bemoaning the violence and licentiousness in the theaters of his day. He ties that and the cavorting of the gods as major reasons for the fall of Rome, plus allowing the barbarians to gather at the gates and overwhelm in their invasion.

Many parallels to today it seems. I wonder if we have the wisdom and the will to turn to virtue, to seek to know and imitate God???

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Startling - Augustine's "The City of God"

Near the end of his life, Augustine spent a decade writing his major work, "The City of God." I'm at location 4,900+ out of 29,000+ locations on my Kindle, and he still hasn't given much in the way of his Christian theology, for which he is most famous.

His beginning is odd. I'm not sure - stoic, fatalist, or just coldly observant. He writes at the beginning of this book of the sacking of Rome that went on in his lifetime, beginning in 410 C.E. This book was completed in 426 C.E. in Hippo where he lived. He writes of the huge numbers of deaths in Rome and says things like They were going to die anyway, sooner or later, for all die. He writes of the stacks and stacks of corpses and says things like Dead bodies feel no sensations, so it really doesn't matter they are not yet buried. For someone who is going to be sainted, this seems oddly lacking in compassion, although technically accurate.

I guess this fits in with the next sections and premises. Rome and Greece have been wicked, violent, licentious, while true to their gods who were either ineffective in protecting them or were demons. He argues through huge mountains of data regarding wars and insidious attacks and murders and intrigues and horrible things in the history of these powerful nations. He indicates that there is a popular point of view that they were sacked because of Christianity and the people's slacking away from their traditional gods. Augustine, in excruciating detail, debunks this theory.

I look forward to getting to the point where he feels his case is laid sufficiently and can go forward explaining his view of Christianity. So far, in his defense of Christianity, he has made a few comments such as Christians would not behave so. He has made a point that I have made from time to time, that once Christianity became an imperial religion, its nature and teaching changed. I personally work to peel the imperial stamp and theology away, and to go back to the brilliant teachings of Jesus.

I also see in the history of Rome some disturbing parallels to our current situation as a nation and as Western civilization. I am reminded of the old adage He/She who does not know history is condemned to repeat it.