Poetic Wisdom from John O’Donohue

“You are in this time of the interim
where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out.

The way forward is still concealed from you.

The old is not old enough to have died away
the new is still too young to be born.”

John O’Donohue

 

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Revised Musing on God: Evolution & Revolution

“It is good and right that our own understanding of God and God’s purposes should change and develop.”  Geoffrey Tristram, Anglican monk

“[All of] life is engulfed in God and God can reach out to us anywhere at any level.” – Evelyn Underhill

I firmly believe that God appears to us as we see God; if we see God as Love then so God appears. If we see God as angry, so too will God appear.  If all I see is an angry God in Scriptures, then so shall God be.  If I see God as Love, then too shall God be.  In truth, each of us holds the power of perception over how God comes to us.  Maybe all that needs to happen is the slight transformation of how we see God in order to become more open to real grace and to grow closer to God as God Is (and not as I see God).

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Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong said that “imagining God as a “being” with primarily anthropomorphic constructs is an immature way of imagining God.”  I could not agree more.   The late theologian Paul Tillich nailed it on the head when he spoke of God not as “a being,” but rather as the “Ground of all Being.”

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My spiritual task is to “discover the Infinite in the finite.”   My passion, my hunger and my search in life is for oneness with God, not some fairy-tale, mythological/magical intervention by God.

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As I watch and study Christians from all walks of life and from every construct (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) I am coming to believe that the greatest enemy of (our) faith in God is not doubt, but certainty.  By its very nature, certainty blocks the child-like nature needed to see and experience God unfettered, without constraint.    ‘Certainty’ assumes a perspective that can become myopically idolatrous – the belief that my beliefs are the Truth (rather than my experience of truth) and that there is no need or room for the evolution of beliefs.

Our Scriptures are thousands of years old, our creeds are more than 1500 years old and our liturgies are about 500 years old and our Christian faith has evolved almost nil.  Every single facet and paradigm of human existence has evolved and changed in some capacity or another in that time period: science; technology; medicine; politics; education; economies; philosophies.  But NOT so much in the Christian faith.

I wonder why that is…

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In the early years of Christianity, the common hallmarks of those who followed Jesus (and and who were called people of the Way long before they were called Christians – which means by the way, “little Christ/little Messiah”) included their immense and passionate care and love of each other, their enemies and the poor, the widows and orphans; they were also known for not serving in the military and for burying not on their own dead but the dead of the ‘pagans’ as well (not only a gracious thing to do but a HUGE public health positive that helped stop the spread of disease).  You can study the manuscripts of non-Christian historians and writers and even they wrote of this as a “marvel to behold.”

Now if I run that by what Christians are known for today (at least the ones we see on the news and on political talk shows and read about in the news) : almost violent and all consuming in their being against abortion; hating gays, lesbians and all who are different; cutting social welfare programs and healthcare; hating all Muslims; protecting the 2nd Amendment at all costs; anti-immigration nationalism; and a stark aloofness towards climate change and protecting and preserving God’s creation.

As the old 1990s song says: “things that make you go, ‘hmmmm.’”

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God may be never changing, but I must…change.  I must allow God to ‘evolve’ me with a revolution of the heart – a revolution of radical love that alters my own agenda, placing it at the service of loving neighbor, showing mercy, doing justice, and practicing kindness regardless of my religion or denomination or political slant.

In the end, I pray for God to evolve me into someone who imitates God and that, my friends, would indeed be a Revolution!

“God’s Invitation” (Ruth Halvorson)

“God invites us, perhaps even challenges us, to become co-creators and co-collaborators in birthing fledgling dreams and in encouraging fragile seeds that have lain dormant within us.  When I finally acknowledged, honored and acted upon this truth that I perceived within, I experienced God’s presence as never before!   With this acknowledgement I began to recover a greater acceptance of myself and also deeper relationships with God and the rest of God’s world – relationships which are all interconnected.

As I became more aware of the presence of God in my life, I also became more attentive to the deeper promptings and leadings within my own being and began to look more honestly and objectively at my own gifts and resources.” (Introduction, p. i)

“To step out in faith is to experience risk and uncertainty, but it is also to experience God’s loving embrace and continued steadfastness.”  (p. iii)

By Ruth Halvorson, founder of ARC Retreat Center and quoted in Action Reflection Celebration: the ARC story

“Turned Upside Down” (Fr. Thomas Keating)

“The Divine action may turn our lives upside down; it may call us into various forms of service.  Readiness for any eventuality is the attitude of one who has entered into the freedom of the Gospel.  Commitment to the new world that Christ is creating requires flexibility and detachment: the readiness to go anywhere or nowhere, to live or to die, to rest or to work, to be sick or to be well, to take up one service and to put down another.

Everything is important when one is opening to Christ-consciousness.  This awareness transforms our worldly concepts of security into security of accepting, for love of God, an unknown future.

“The love of God will take care of the rest of the journey … ”

Fr. Thomas Keating

An Excerpt from “Guide Them Safely Home, Lord” (Internet Monk)

Note form Niles: Today’s post is taken from one of my favorite online writers and sites, Internet Monk.  The live link to the site is found at the end of the article.

“Bearing (and Sharing) Burdens” – Chaplain Mike

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

Sometimes as I deal with my patients and their caregivers, it’s the religious people that befuddle me most. One cliché I have heard repeatedly from caregivers who are people of faith is, “I just try to remember that God tells us he will never give us more than we can bear.”

I hate to burst your bubble, but God never said that. Never. Said. That.

I’m not sure where that cliché came from, but it is not in the Bible. Jesus didn’t say it. Paul said something like it in 1 Corinthians 10:13, but if you check you will see that he is talking about our common temptations and how God provides the means we need to escape them. The text does not say, “God will never give us more than we can bear.” Nope. Somebody made that one up.

The plain fact is that there are burdens in life that are too heavy for any one person to carry.

For some reason, many well-intentioned folks don’t want to accept that. So they try to handle challenges that are simply beyond their ability to deal with alone. The results usually aren’t good.

That’s when I direct them to another verse in the Bible that is clear and unambiguous: “Bear one another’s burdens…” Is not this verse telling us that everyone needs help sometimes? There are loads that are too heavy for one person to carry, and we can’t do it all by ourselves. So, help each other out! That’s pretty clear, right?

One more thing: I also won’t buy it if you tell me that since God helps you carry your burdens, you don’t need other people to assist you. This is the same God who said that it is not good for us to be alone. God created us to live in relationships, families, and communities for the very purpose of loving and supporting each other. God wants you to get help from others!

Instead of what I often hear, I’d love it if more caregivers would say, “God regularly gives me more than I can bear. That’s why I love and appreciate his gift of others in my life so much.”

 

By Chaplain Mike.  Original can be found at Internet Monk.

Cracks in the Margins

Sometimes I want to blow the lid off this blog; and be so real it will make even the closest of friends scratch their heads.  I desire authenticity; about my life, about where I am spiritually yet I fear judgment – mostly from within, but somewhat from others.

I want to tell you that my faith in God has been an intimate part of my life for 30 years and yet sometimes I feel it slipping away into a pithy form of agnosticism.  The faith I profess is 2,000 years old.  The Creeds I quote are less than 1,700 years old.  The rituals from the Mass some of them are less than 600 years old.  All things have changed in those time era’s but not religion, not much at last.  In the last few years alone I have changed drastically.  I change…my mind, my heart, my jobs, my friends, and yes, some of my beliefs.  But God I know is timeless.

I am wanton to share that most Christians offend me, somewhere along the way the American version of Christianity became a marriage of conservative politics and social causes ensconced in fundamentalist tenets. That is not my faith; nor the faith and life of Jesus.  But I am also left empty by liberal politics that have all but abandoned their religious inspirations for protecting both the poor and the vulnerable. In truth, care of the poor, the abandoned, marginalized and the broken are the responsibility of those who claim to follow Jesus (there are over 400 verses citing God’s concern and mandate to care for the poor and oppressed in the entire Bible).  But it seems Christians these days are known more for their hate than their love.  I fear Jesus would not recognize his followers” if he were reading the papers and visiting the churches.

I am saddened and sickened by most of what constitutes Christianity these days, if I am to be honest.  It seems my faith is fed more by what is outside of it bounds than what is within it.

I am not alone in my disillusionment.  One of the NY Times’ bestsellers was a book by Frank Schaeffer (the son of one of the “fathers” of the rise of Conservative Christian political viewpoint), entitled Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God.  Then there is the rise of the religiously disillusioned, the “Nones” who according to the Pew Research Centers: “[are a group of] people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics” as well as those who have left the church of their youth while still holding to a deep faith in God, just not in organized religion.

Some days I feel like a “None” – I believe in and love God, deeply, but I find most organized religious expression to be pedantic at best, ruled and run by angry zealots who are milquetoast concerned more with doctrine and dogma than compassion, justice and mercy (the weightier matters of the Law according to Jesus, see Matthew 23:23).

I am rambling.  But I am seeking clarity and honesty.  I love Jesus.  I mean I am really into Jesus and the words we have for him on record (I’m a Red Letter Believer you could say).  You would not know it by stepping into most churches these days but Jesus spoke more about helping the poor, money, loving your enemies and forgiveness than about heaven or hell.  And not once did Jesus ever condemn my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.  Jesus never said “love the sinner but hate the sin” – a diatribe I have a hard time with because I am not so skilled at separating the “sin” from the “so-called sinner.”

The long and the short of it is I am seeing the cracks in the margins.

My faith is old, and dry.  My prayers are empty and “feel” worthless.  The God I professed years ago is no longer the God I turn to in times of trouble or joy.

The man I see in the mirror, although I know to be a child of God and made in God’s image, is cracked, faltering, burdened with a sense of hopelessness.

Maybe what I am going into and through is a deeper, more authentic way of living; a birthing into the death of childish faith into the reality of the Real.  Or maybe, I am simply spiritually lazy and perpetually defiant, needing to reject something in order to feel powerful about anything.

I still believe…but I don’t.  I have faith, except when I don’t.  I am one with a God I know longer believe in.  I am in the light even more so when I am in this darkness.

I find comfort in the words of the German mystic Meister Eckhart who said it best when he said this: “If I had a God I could understand, I would no longer consider him God.”

Musings on the Incarcerated

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)

Moses committed murder and was never brought to (human) “justice.”  And Moses was still called by God after his crime to lead one of the greatest liberation/freedom movements the world has ever recorded.

King David set up a plan to ensure the death of one of his closest, beloved, and most faithful generals because he, David, had had an extramarital affair with the generals’ wife, even impregnating her. He did all that premeditated to cover his own arse from getting caught.  And even after all that God called David the “apple of His eye.”

Jesus spent time in prison during his trial for sedition and was crucified between 2 thieves.

The Apostles served time in prison. John the Baptist was incarcerated. Joseph did time at a juvenile detention facility.

The Book of Acts is often celebrated for being the book that introduced us to the early Church and what the earliest followers of Jesus lived like BUT did you know it’s also the Book of the Bible that mentions the word prisoner more than any other Book in the Bible?

Though most ‘Christians’ and followers of Jesus take a “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality and also support capital punishment, it would do us well to reflect upon this truth: that God has used prisoners and criminals time and again to bring “salvation” and healing to various communities. And this God also mandates that we remember and care for the prisoner (saying nothing about doing so based on acceptable and unacceptable crimes).

God only states that when we visit the imprisoned we are visiting the Lord Jesus.

Not a sermon, just a challenging thought.

For more on this check out the Gospel of Matthew 25: 34-46 and www.captivefaith.org.