The Promised Land

Yesterday’s devotional mentioned the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It reminded me of a time during my darkest days of bipolar despair when I had to force myself to even consider making an effort; I managed to get myself out of the house and walk. It was more like plodding but I recited the Jesus Prayer under my breath like a mantra. I remember inhaling “Lord Jesus Christ” exhaling “Son of God” inhaling “have mercy on me” exhaling “a sinner.”

This was during the time when family came to visit; the rabbits ran loose in the house unfed and fending for themselves; there was no clear floor space; I could barely get myself to work….or was I still working? I don’t remember those years clearly but I do remember quite clearly my sister’s exclamation, “You’re out of control!” I also remember my un-vocalized reply, “no shit; you think?” I had no one helping me. I was on the wrong medication, my therapist was bored with me and of no help, and I was in such deep despair, I had no clue what to do, and no desire to do anything. Getting my shoes on to walk was huge. Reciting the prayer was like small drops of cool water to a parched throat.

This walking prayer was one of several efforts of mine through those years to reconnect with God and to find divine help. Thinking about this, I became aware of an interesting bit of trivia: 40 years had passed between my giving in to an adulterous affair in November of 1976, (I was tired of being good) to a year ago when I consented to my spiritual growth “no matter the cost.” 40 years had passed…almost to the day. Those 40 years were hard, and I believe all of it (hard times and efforts to reconnect) have played into my being where I am now…but during those years, I felt completely abandoned if not rejected by God.

Truly, I spent 40 years in darkness, but I kept trying. There were times I wanted to give up and take the short cut home, but I never gave myself over to retaliating or being a mean or spiteful person. I continued to always try to do the right thing whether or not it was being rewarded or my despair relieved.
It took 40 years, but I finally figured out the benefits of completely giving up everything…everything from possessions, resentments, anger, agendas, aspirations, reputations, pride, vanity, even feeling good about my writing and my efforts to help others.

Then I found out that there is a word for that: Kenosis. It is a Greek word describing the process of giving up the stuff of one’s life…everything that a person identifies with or clings to. Jesus talked about this process all the time. In fact, his consenting to die on the cross was the ultimate giving up. I eventually saw that to follow Jesus means to do the same…to let go of all of it to remove all distractions and shades from having clear awareness of God. And it works.

When I was a teenager, I prayed fervently for the Wisdom so highly prized in Scripture and for a mastery of words with which to help and heal others. I have wanted the satisfaction of being a healer. Well, I am a healer now…and more; I am all of it. I am God…at least that is what remains when I get rid of all of my attachments…including my attachment to being a healer. I may not be able to fully and completely enter the Kingdom of Heaven because of my transgressions 40 years ago, but like Moses, God has repeatedly “used me as a channel of divine grace, guidance and power.”

(I have borrowed the image and wisdom from beloved friend, Fr Austin Rios: The Promised Land

When the Heart is Ready

Sometimes I read something and there is no purchase.  Know what I mean?  The hooks aren’t in place or I have yet to have ‘taken the prerequisite?”

Last night I started rereading The Meaning of Mary Magdalene by Cynthia Bourgeault. In Chapter 4 of TM3, “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene,” I ‘got it’ at a level I hadn’t before. Here are some notes I took and my thoughts on them:

p.46 (bottom) – Jesus: “find contentment at the level of the heart, and if you are discouraged, take heart in the presence of the Image of your true nature.”  I receive that as instruction…and as significant as if it were one of Jesus’ commandments.  A few thoughts:  1) it reminds me of something my priest said at the beginning of my desire to ‘return’ to God.  I had said, “I’m not sure I believe,” and he replied, “For now, just know that your friends and I believe enough for you.” In other words, trust that there is more connecting you and securing you than just your sense of your faith.

2) It points out the REASON for habitual contemplation and centering prayer…to reinforce one’s dwelling at the level of the heart.  Abide there and find contentment there.  (Again…my profound grasp of the obvious.) and 3) Back in 1979, several things happened: I graduated from college, my sister suffered her stroke in Germany and was moved to DC after her surgery, I chose to go to DC to help care for her rather than go to grad school.  While in DC, I became interested in Christian faith and theology.  I read a lot of CS Lewis, at first.  I also read some deeper theologians (Karl Barth, was one) but I’m not sure who I was reading that addressed this same concept of the presence of one’s Image in another realm and the importance of being aligned with it.  I recall waking in the wee hours because I heard the ‘heavenly host’ singing; they were rejoicing in my spiritual ‘turning’ or arriving or in-turning.  I’ve always referred to that experience as my ‘being saved,’ if I was ever asked about being ‘saved.’

p.47 Jesus: “the Son of Humanity already exists within you.  Follow him, for those who seek him there will find him.”  I wrote in the word “in” after the instruction to “Follow him” because it behooves me (and might behoove others) to realize that He is not saying to walk the paths of the Holy Lands or even my neighborhood, but to follow Him inward because I will find Him there…within me.  It is not so much ‘What would Jesus DO?’ as it is ‘How did Jesus BE ?’  He, too, went inward.  He dwelt inward.  He abided inward.

p.47 Jesus: “do not lay down any further rules.”  I don’t think the “lest you…” is even necessary.

Jeff Foster, in his podcast with Sounds True, described how to discover one’s true nature by honoring what ‘comes up’…what one feels (pain, fear, anger,…).  By allowing and respecting one’s feelings and reactions, one opens them to the elements and one’s clutching of them dissipates.  You own it….and that’s all.  It goes.  No struggle, no force, no clutch, not really any striving.  When the cap is released and the fumes dissipate, one’s true nature is all that remains and one is able to ‘rest,’ as he put it.  This…sans fumes…is one’s true nature…one’s origin or at least one’s transmitted or analogue Image.  ..how one is.

p.48  CB relates: “…ignorance of one’s true nature, is to blame for the suffering of this world.  Acting in ways that are ‘adulterous in nature’ (stems from) a failure to stay in alignment with origin…with the ‘root’ of one’s nature.”  …again, the REASON for frequent and habitual contemplation and the regular practice of centering prayer.