The Gift of Hard Times

Trauma raises consciousness; darkness reveals the presence of God; Loss removes the stuff that has kept God hidden all along.

Children who have been abused, neglected, or tormented learn to watch the signs to know when to move and when to duck. That skill serves them for the rest of their lives. That sight enables them to find their way by noticing hints and clues.

Ii is only when we are in the dark, that we search for light. If we run in terror, searching for a way out of the darkness, we hit walls and break toes. It is when we are still and our eyes adjust that we can see the shapes of our own making and know that all else is what is eternal.

In that darkness, when the shapes of our own making are most clearly defined, removing them one by one or all at once, reveals more of the eternal. It isn’t the job or the relationship or the dream that takes up the space, it is our terrified clinging…our attachment to those things. It is our hoarding of attachments that take up all the space.

If we don’t toss this stuff, life will. We can release our attachments now or do it when our bodies wear out; either way, it is going to happen…and the benefits of eternal life start once we do. If you are blessed (and we all are) these attachments can be tossed for us, ready or not. Our choice is whether to immediately fill that space in with another attachment or whether to pause and breathe and allow our eyes to adjust further to see God standing there. We have been God all along.

I am, you are, he she it is manifestation of God…covered over with stuff. All of us. (Yes, them too.) We are not separate from God. We’re just God covered over with tarnish, scars, scales, agendas, paperwork, … attachments.

If only just for a moment, peel that stuff away and let the God part of you breathe.

(I write this prompted by the injury of Deshaun Watson. Deshaun has very little ‘stuff of his own making’…very few attachments. He was not raised with abuse or neglect but with love; his faith has been nurtured through hard times, however. He will demonstrate this faith as he heals and reveals the presence of God he holds up for all to see. Watch him and learn. See how faith reveals God.)

Thy Kingdom come…but in the meantime…

A message worth hearing from some ‘religious leaders’…

The story of creation presents us with a panoramic view of the world. Scripture reveals that, “in the beginning”, God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment. At first, as we read in Genesis, “no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground” (2:5). The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy, for which all of us share responsibility until, “in the end”, all things in heaven and on earth will be restored in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10). Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.

However, “in the meantime”, the history of the world presents a very different context. It reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.

The consequences of this alternative worldview are tragic and lasting. The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people. The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures. The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development.

Therefore, united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good, we fervently invite all people of goodwill to dedicate a time of prayer for the environment on 1 September.  On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations. After all, we know that we labour in vain if the Lord is not by our side (cf. Ps 126-127), if prayer is not at the centre of our reflection and celebration. Indeed, an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world. The goal of our promise is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.

We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.

From the Vatican and from the Phanar, 1 September 2017

The Christmas Condom (Reprise)

Okay, yes, that is a crude title…

…but no more harsh than what we sometimes say to friends and family over the holidays.  Therefore, I suggest that, as part of our morning ritual, we slip on an extra layer of skin, this one well lubricated with the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I’m serious.  Despite our best efforts to rid our psyches of past traumas and wounds, people…particularly those we grew up with…have an amazing ability to push well-hidden buttons.

Shirley MacLaine once said that she had life all figured out…her life and everyone else’s lives…and then she went home for Thanksgiving.

We all have our infections…some more deadly than others…and just like practicing safe sex, we all should do the right thing and keep our infections to ourselves.  Practice protected interactions.

And, just like with safe sex, it may not feel the same; it may not be as much fun; but that nasty barb or snide remark will infect and cause as much harm as syphilis.  (By the way, syphilis causes blindness; did you know that?  Nasty remarks that keep old wounds full of germs and pus will blind ‘loved ones’ to your virtues…and vice versa; did you know that, too?)

Remember, condoms protect both parties.  Before you press the doorbell, if you ask Jesus for the blessing of a Holy Spirit ‘condom’…and make sure it is on you, snug and secure…then you will be protected and protecting.

Happy Holidays

The Embassy and Best Practices

Followers of Jesus were instructed to be ambassadors for Christ. (That’s in Corinthians.) A gathering of such followers, therefore, could be considered an embassy.  I’d like to think of it as the most important of all embassies, therefore, I would call it The Embassy.

If I were to open a branch of this Embassy, I would make things simple and just ‘borrow’ the best practices of other similar entities, for example:

  1. Kneeling – It is a good posture to get used to and well familiar with; it is difficult to cop an attitude while on your knees.  Children pray on their knees.  Surrender, its value and purpose, is revealed when one prays on one’s knees.  I have found that spiritual meditation is quite potent when done on my knees.
  2. Silence and meditation – I have heard centering prayer or spiritual meditation  likened to sitting on the porch with a loved one…just being present; no talking necessary.  To be honest, I cannot hear Christ if I am always talking or thinking.  By the way, mindfullness meditation has a different purpose and is not the same thing as spiritual meditation.  Both are good for you.  Do both.
  3. Confession and repentance – I sometimes forget that Christ is always present in me; I tend to pile stuff on top of Christ…stuff like hurt feelings, fear, anger, wants, obsessions and thinking that I am ‘all that.’  Listing all that stuff and choosing to let go of it, works.  Plus, it’s realizing that God is not ‘out there’ or ‘up there’ somewhere but in and throughout me.  Repentance is getting back to that right thinking.

These are just some of the best practices.

This Following Jesus Business

Jesus came into the world without the generational issues that we have to deal with.  Therefore, He was aware of… and showed… full Christ presence from the very beginning of His ministry.  He did not have traumas, neuroses, and complexes that got in the way of His knowing His Father’s will at all times. Nothing hid His being Christ.  We, however, need to do the hard work of stripping away the issues and distractions to reach that clarity.

I have known people who have died without reaching a clear awareness of Christ.  I have known people who never even tried to address their issues at all, unaware that working out their own salvation is theirs to do.   I have also known people who have reached that clarity and were able to live the last years of their lives in full Christ presence and in full service of the Father.

We have been given the means to do the hard work of shedding all of the interfering stuff.  The Holy Spirit has blessed us with knowledge of dealing with addictions, resentments and hate, illness and diseases.  We have psychology, spiritual healing, prayer, AA groups, solid advice on what to eat, how much exercise to get, the importance of spending time in nature, deep breathing, and good sleep.  All of that knowledge and help has been provided to assist us in shedding our issues.

While working out our salvation, we can spend precious and protected moments in silent prayer and meditation…becoming familiar with that clarity.  With enough consistent practice, we can carry that grounded Christ presence out into relationships, crisis moments, and the world.

But we must still do the work.

Jesus spent His life psychologically whole, unattached to possessions, and undistracted.  He spent time in prayerful meditation to maintain His clear awareness of God.  All other times, He was open to the people around Him and present, in the truest sense.  He was attentive, aware, and conscious.  Follow Jesus’ example.

It is not necessary for us to be crucified on a tree in order to die to our distractions and issues.  But what Jesus demonstrated was that once we choose to, after a time of grief, darkness, and confusion, we awaken full of Christ and ready to serve.

Follow Jesus.

A Gift that Counts

…the Gift of Fore-Giveness

Okay I’m playing with the words, perhaps, but walk closely with me here, if you will:

It seems it is time to address dark generational issues in my life and in the lives of those close around me.  During my work yesterday morning, looking at the evidence of painful and sensitive generational issues, I backed away from the specific situations for a bit and looked at the dynamics of incarnations and karma, in general.  Whether or not you believe in reincarnation or even karma, I think you can accept that ‘sins of the father’ can be visited on the son.

So, I was thinking about how my mother treated me and I extrapolated that out to how she was treated as a child by her parents (based on stories she told us about her mother and father).  Then I thought about how, if souls reincarnate, why they reincarnate: to either ‘get it right this time’ or to pay for what they did in their previous incarnations.

Without going into the details of the patterns, clues, and repeating tendencies, (and there are many) if I look at all of this from a distance, without attachment, I can see how one generation plays into the next and how the law of Karma explains why.

Then, it dawned.

What if I stand in the infinite, the eternal, the non-time space and…holding in awareness all of my incarnations through history…I forgive all those souls who have hurt me therefore owe me a karmic debt?  Then, what if I ask those souls whom I have hurt through history, therefore those souls to whom I owe a karmic debt, to forgive me?

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

We’re talking a whole chunk of forgiving…past, present, and future. That, to me, would be a Gift that Counts.  AND, if enough of us do this kind of work, that is how all souls can be forgiven.

 

It’s time

After a lifetime of treading water over the dark end of the pool, after decades of working to stay above the murky deep, I now stop thrashing and slowly slip in.  As the dark cold water closes in over my head I am at peace and expectant…listening:  What do you have for me?

Voices travel well through water and fog.

Just as it’s the struggles that grow us up, it’s the dark that grows us deep.  Choosing to not stay on the surface, choosing to let go of security and safety, lowering the eyes and dropping down is the nod of consent:  I’m here…I know you’re here too.  Tell me…

‘Bad’ or ‘Good’

I have tried all of my life to be a good person…kind, sweet, patient, compassionate, respectful.  I have not always been successful but it was my goal…my intention…because I was raised to believe that I was a ‘bad’ person …naughty, untrustworthy, immoral, and mean.  That was the default assumption of my parents and I never knew why.  If I dressed up, my father said I looked like a slut.  If I had a friendship with a boy, my father assumed it was sexual.  If I made a mistake. my mother accused me of hating her.  If my sister was unhappy with me, it must have been because I was having an affair with her husband.  If the neighbor hit me, I must have been doing something wrong to deserve it.

This craziness extended well into adulthood.  At work I wasn’t considered credible and most of my programming was discarded (without even looking at it) because it was assumed I was not smart enough.  I was not welcomed into the family business.  My husband made a game of never letting me have my way.  Family members suspected me of sabotaging otther family members.

The thing is, I was smart enough.  I was credible.  I was a good person.  Unfortunately, I am not made of bronze like the little girl on Wall Street.  The abuse made an impression on  me.  So, I decided to stop trying to prove everyone wrong.  I am 62 years old.  I let it all go…and I let go.   I expected to be angry or resentful or bitter…yet, I wasn’t.  I expected to be disappointed.  Nope, not that either.

Then, yesterday, I killed a bird…a robin.  It flew into my car.  That was my complete undoing.  I had to pull over out of traffic and I wailed.  (“Blessed little bird…I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry…”)  The crying released a whole lot of hurt…a lifetime of hurt.  I was wailing over my being a contributor to the pain in the world…in hurting an innocent created thing.   I was also crying for all of the small beings (people as well as birds) throughout the world and throughout time who are lost, alone, and beat up without deserving it.  I cried for children, as well as 62-year-old women, who feel tossed, misunderstood, wrongfully accused, neglected, and unprotected…people who haven’t a chance and have no way of knowing how to get a chance.

I assumed, as I cried, that having given in, darkness would soon take me over, but that didn’t happen.  I was at peace and I was still kind, loving, and compassionate.  God allowed darkness, mean-spiritedness, fear, guilt, and jealousy to beat me up for 62 years.  Yet, I still have free will.  If the Eternal Divine is allowing me an either/or…I choose neither; I choose Christ.

I am beginning to understand that polarities like ‘bad’ and ‘good,’ ‘positive’ and ‘negative,’ ‘light’ and ‘dark’ are necessary for life to be experienced, but neither one should be prefered over the other.  It is through the pain of bad experiences that we grow.  For an image to be an image, it must have both dark and light.  Christ encompasses all of it.

(I borrowed the image from the internet.  It belongs to CNN.)

“Lord, this is what I’m hearing”

You help me because you hear what I am trying to say.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

People are always asking me, “How can I get my brother to understand this?”

How do we get people to change their behavior?

Why don’t you understand me?

If I could just get you to see things differently.

They won’t understand until they are ready to; some people never do.

Why am I trying harder than the people I am trying to help?

She could get out of that, if she wanted to.

They know not what they do.

I want to help him; why won’t he let me?

They are not going to hear what you say until they wake up.

Do you hear me?

It will not happen until you are ready for it

If only my mother had known this before she died…

My goal is to find a way to raise their consciousness.

She’s not ready for it.

Lord, show me the way

I read this before and it made no sense; Now, it is crystal clear.

I guess I need to start over; I don’t get it.

All in good time…

They are at a higher level of consciousness; that’s why.

People could change if they wanted to.

We haven’t got that kind of time !

Wake up and smell the coffee

He who has ears, let him hear.

When they get older, they’ll figure it out.

We thought education was the answer, but it hasn’t changed their behavior.

I don’t know how.

I want the wisdom that is so highly praised in scripture.

If I only knew how to get through to him.

I tell them what to do but they just don’t listen.

It takes one to know one.

Why can’t I change?

You’re not waiting on God; God is waiting on you.

Are you ready?

“Information is not Wisdom”

Ever since the beginning of Lent back in March, I have been studying the writings of spiritual teachers and mystics, contemporary to ancient.  I have been accompanied by other pilgrims through an internet forum and through email.  Since Easter, most of the original group has lost interest, leaving about 5 or 6 of us.  The conversations have deepened and become more personal as we get to know each other.

This small group of us bring together varied spiritual backgrounds and life experiences and have shared where our understandings come from…books, doctrine, speakers, ancient texts, holy scripture,…  As I learn from my friends, I naturally expand my interest to include their suggested ‘teachers.’  Then, as one writer recommends another, I have expanded the margins of my interest beyond my own spiritual heritage.  I now find myself walking my spiritual path carrying about 12 books and as many websites.

I am a follower of Jesus, a true Christian.  I am a constant seeker of Christ in life and believe Christ is what is sought, the ‘wisdom,’ in all spiritual practice.  Christ guides me so I am able to find guidance in all areas of life.  Each morning, I gather my ‘library’ about me and pick which ‘speaker’ will speak to me today … which teacher will tell me what to do.  Well, that’s what I did, until today.

Lately, I have been struggling with insecurity in discerning my personal path.  The varied sources describe the same journey but with different sign posts, markers, and itineraries.  In truth, for most of my life I have not followed any prescribed path but some of my fellow pilgrims have, and I have wanted to know, “Where am I on the map?  How am I doing?”  In fact, for the past 12 days I have felt I have lost my way, lost sight of the trail, and may have lost my right to be on the path because I had lost faith.  One of my online friends sent me several passages from a teacher he highly regards and between the passages he included simply, “Ask Jesus.”

This morning, I picked up The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo and before reaching today’s meditation (October 7), my finger stuck in the page for September 9.  Making a quick promise to myself to go back to September 9 next, I moved on to October 7,

It is so tempting to want the answers before we begin the journey.  We like to know the way.  We like to have maps.  We like to have guides.  But we are more like a breathing puzzle, a living bag of pieces, and each day shows us what a piece or two is for, where it might go, how it might fit.

So many of my questions were answered by that alone, yet because a promise is a promise, I returned, smiling, to September 9:

If at times you feel numb or distanced from the essence of what you know, perhaps your mind, like the sage’s teacup, is too full.  

Information is not wisdom.  If you cannot speak when your mouth is stuffed with unchewed food, how can you think clearly if your mind is stuffed with undigested information.

Then, without even thinking about it, I took up Thomas Merton:

The purpose of a book of meditations is to teach you to think and not to do your thinking for you.  Consequently, if you pick up such a book and simply read it through, you are wasting your time.  As soon as any thought stimulates your mind or your heart you can put the book down because your meditation has begun.  To think that you are somehow obliged to follow the author of the book to his own particular conclusion would be a great mistake. It may happen that his conclusion does not apply to you.  God may want you to end up somewhere else.  He may have planned to give you quite a different grace than the one the author suggests you might be needing. (emphasis mine.)

 

*************************************************

So, my two dozen references are just that….references.  Seeds.  Bread crumbs…suggesting the path…not a loaf to be my whole meal.  I will trust.  The lesson is in the living of life.  The next stepping stone will appear beneath my reaching foot and I will know where I am going…when I get there.

And so, as my friend suggested that I ask Jesus, I now do…