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…

“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…

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.

Patience and Thinking in Deep Geologic Time

This morning, Mark Nepo reminds me of Lao-Tzu’s wisdom:

I have just three things to teach
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These are your greatest treasures. 

Patience with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.

Nepo elaborates:

Fear wants us to act too soon.  But patience, hard as it is, helps us to outlast our preconceptions.  This is how tired soldiers, all out of ammo, can discover through their inescapable waiting that they have no reason to hurt each other.”  

Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them.

Richard Rohr, in this morning’s meditation, puts today’s political tensions in similar perspective:

I know the situation in the world can seem dark today. We are seeing theological regression into fundamentalist religions which believe all issues can be resolved by an appeal to authority (hierarchy or Scripture) and so there is no need for an inner life of prayer. In the United States we have seen the rolling back of a compassionate economic system and the abandonment of our biblical responsibility for the poor, the sick, and refugees. Fear and anger seem to rule our politics and our churches. We see these same things in many parts of the world.

The negative forces are very strong, and the development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But a “Great Turning” is also happening, as believed and described in many ways by such people as Teilhard de Chardin. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness.

The Apostle Paul has a marvelous line: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society. The church might well have done its work as leaven because much of this reform, enlightenment, compassion, and healing is now happening outside the bounds of organized religion. Only God gets the credit.

The toothpaste is out of the tube. There are enough people who know the big picture of Jesus’ thrilling and alluring vision of the reign of God that this Great Turning cannot be stopped. There are enough people going on solid inner journeys that it is not merely ideological or theoretical anymore. This is a positive, nonviolent reformation from the inside, from the bottom up. The big questions are being answered at a peaceful and foundational level, with no need to oppose, deny, or reject. I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with over seven billion humans on the planet. There is so much to love and so much suffering to share in and heal.

So how are we to be patient if so much is wrong?  By keeping today in perspective of a long view of mankind and by tending to our own “solid inner journeys.”  Krista Tippett, also guided by Teilhard, shares in Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, that he foresaw that the “realm of human intelligence, information, and action…like the Internet…would drive the next stage of evolution–an evolution of spirit and consciousness.”

Tippett makes clear, however, that “Teilhard thought in slow, deep, geologic time, and so must we.  A long view of time can replenish our sense of ourselves and the world.  We are in the adolescence of our species, not by any measure in full possession of our powers.  The twenty-first-century globe resembles the understanding we now have of the teenage brain:  dramatically uneven; immensely powerful and creative at times and in places, reckless and destructive in others.”

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

Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening is an excellent guide book for one’s “solid inner journey.”

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations are solid gold wisdom found at Meditations@cac.org .

I’ve just started Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise, but it looks to be the exact book I need to be reading right now.

My thanks to Ansel Adams for beautifully depicting visually, the massive stable strength that stands behind all of what we know as life.  Also, my eternal thanks to Lao-Tsu.

“Inner Yes is All it Takes”

This morning, I asked, “Is there a way to pray the shallow into being more deep?  Is there a way to pray the transformation of others?”

I’m finishing up The Wisdom Way of Knowing by Cynthia Bourgeault.  Re-reading the paragraph I finished with last night, I read just now

…once your being has become inwardly gentled and peaceable, those qualities of aliveness will flow out to others as a spontaneous healing and delight.

Bingo: Divine Compassion.  (As always, thank You.)

The rate at which I have matured in my faith and knowing over the past year is a bit scary. Does it signal the end times of my life…or the end times, in general?  Regardless, I am blessed…deeply and profoundly blessed.  I am not done, however, but being open to this divine education is such a different place.  All of my life, I have been guided along this path with bread crumbs of wisdom.  I can look back now and see where I drifted (or bolted) off of the path…and why.  But I am here, now…intentionally present…and available.

In order for the cosmos to function properly, human beings need to grow into their own hearts.  An inner yes is all it takes.  Once the willingness to begin takes over in you, whatever you need will come to you.  And you’ll be able to recognize it.   

There is no bad place to begin.  Simply open your heart and ask, trusting that the gift will come.  Do what you can where you are.  And be alert for the next step.  However it leads you, your heart will know the way home.

Celestial Navigation

On my former blog, The View from 5022, I wrote about making necessary adjustments to one’s life and efforts by using the analogy of sailing.  The post is titled “Coming About.”  A few nights ago, I performed the equivalent of pumping out the bilge, trimming the sails, and charting a new course.

To continue with that analogy, since the end of last year, I have experienced stalls, squalls, and I’ve run aground a few times.  But more recently, there have been breaks in the clouds and a freshening breeze.  When I crawled into bed Monday night, I knew there was much to be thankful for but, because of all of it, I felt a bit battered.  I grabbed a pen and the closest thing to write on, a prayer and praise journal (which was fitting), and made an assessment of the gains and the losses.

I had been struggling for months with a particular Canadian-born bank which had mismanaged my account and reversed a payment to the IRS, costing me hundreds of dollars in penalties, fees, and increases in interest.  The government consumer protection agency and the senator’s office helping me with the issue informed me Monday that the issue is being dropped.  To stay upset would only hurt me.  I tossed the issue over-board.

Inspired by the marches on Saturday, I enthusiastically volunteered my services to the senator’s office and was told someone might be in touch…at some point…maybe.  Issue tossed.

Since just after Christmas, I have written (actual letters on actual note cards in actual cursive handwriting) to 9 friends and family members.  None of them have responded.  Looking for addresses of others to write to, I came across an old phone list.  On it was the name of a former doctor who, earlier last year, had been enduring cancer treatments and surgery, a long time friend who, earlier last year, had been reeling from the emotional blow of retirement, and a former coworker, from 2001 time-frame, who was likely concerned about the future of her career with a governmental climate science agency.  I made the calls and was met with instant re-connection, filling my emotional sails with billowed hopes.

These issues and more were lined up down both sides of the pages like small fishing skiffs bobbing in the waves…but there was something else still disturbing me…

Last Summer, when preoccupied with my sister’s arrival from Alaska, I stopped attending the small Episcopal church on the other side of town.  Driving by there late last month, I saw on their marquee a notice about an oyster roast.  On Saturday, I noticed the date had been changed to this weekend.  I called.  I volunteered to help.  However, I was informed that the priest I had known there had died, suddenly, in December.  (I wrote about several of his homilies last year.  See “To the Extent that One is Forgiven, One is Capable of Loving” and “What I Didn’t Know.”)  He was one of the few people who has believed my inner experience of God.  (Father B: “You help me because you are able to hear what it is I am trying to say.”)  Recalling that he was now gone from earth, my enthusiasm was suddenly becalmed; I felt more alone on earth than I had before.

My faith and beliefs have come under attack, recently, by bloggers from opposite ends of the religious spectrum.  On the one hand, there are the bloggers who hold that all people should believe xyz, strictly and immediately.  (I respond that each person should be allowed and encouraged to be where they are on their spiritual path to God; at least they are on the path and God is not done with them yet.)  On the other, there are those who hold a larger view but accuse me of insisting that mine is the only way.  (I am out of words with that one; My way is MY WAY and I offer it as an example…nothing more.)

At the same time, ironically, I have discovered that there is a spiritual path…a Christian path…with followers who hold the same beliefs I do.  Although I have come to my beliefs, faith, and inner life the hard way, having found them, I sought to join them.  It seems, however, that although they acknowledge my interest, I have been excluded apparently because I lack the expected background and education.  So, I will continue on my own, navigating by the heavens and sailing ‘solo.’

The course I am left with is a simpler one, lacking an itinerary with specified destinations. It is more a way of sailing:  trusting in the guiding stars (Jesus and the communion of saints) and the breeze on my face.   Watching the tell tail, testing the wind, keeping an eye on the horizon (and the channel markers),…this is the stuff of life.

 

(I borrowed the image above from the web)

“I only have courage to talk this way because these are not just my ideas!”

I am quoting Richard Rohr.

In this morning’s meditation, Richard puts into the proper frame of reference, thoughts that I have been presenting on a friend’s blog post, “What’s God got to do with it?”  My friend has lamented, sarcastically, that “believers always have an answer.”  Well, there is a reason for that.

Richard Rohr gives this “succinct summary of the Perennial Tradition:

  • There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things.
  • There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality.
  • The final goal of all existence is union with Divine Reality.”

 

Richard includes in his message…and this is important…that

There have been many generations of sincere seekers who’ve gone through the same human journey and there is plenty of collective and common wisdom to be had. …it keeps recurring in different world religions with different metaphors and vocabulary. The foundational wisdom is much the same, although never exactly the same.

 

See https://cac.org/ for more from Richard Rohr.