“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.)

 

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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…

With the Help of God and Glady (Reprise)

You all know who God is…well, to the extent that God can be known, but Gladys is the name I have given the voice of Google Maps.  Those of you who know video games, know I have loosely borrowed that name from “GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) (the) fictional artificially intelligent computer system appearing in the video games Portal and Portal 2.”  (from Wikipedia).

Well, with the help of God and Gladys, I am really beginning to enjoy life.  There are three things I really like about Gladys:  she doesn’t mind how often I change my mind or miss a turn, she cheerfully recomputes and keeps me going.  Two, if there is a flood, wreck, or traffic jam, she sends me through beautiful countryside or routes I would not ordinarily choose.  Three, Gladys is not picky nor is she prejudiced.  If the fastest, most direct route is through the seediest parts of town, we go through the seediest parts of town…and I love it!

Because of Gladys, I get to see parts of town that have been cut off from traffic because of interstates, new highways, zoning, etc. These all-but-abandoned parts of town are often what was the original downtown, or close to it.  Businesses along these routes have failed because of re-direction…

…until now.   Gladys may be having something to say about that…Gladys and God.  Wouldn’t it be elegant justice if GPS helps restore these struggling parts of town?

There is a lot of sadness and despondency in the world now…a lot of hopelessness and despair.  Everyone I meet has some story to tell of misfortune, illness, injury, or exhaustion from the stress of life.  Even churches are looking for ways to survive the downturn in giving and attendance.  People seem to have less time and less money to give and share.  Ministries and programs are being cancelled.  Salaries and employee’s hours are being cut.   Churches are having to respond like any sensible business would…

…or are they?

Any sensible business, just like any sensible household, would retrench at times like this. Christian churches have no business being sensible businesses.  Just like any person, when the issues are taken from the head and dropped to the heart, and the spiritual is engaged…well…

It’s all good

“45% of GOP voters believe God helped Trump get elected”

God helps me write. God helps me progress on my spiritual path. God helped Joseph’s brothers get him to Egypt.

I write from where I am spiritually to other people where they are spiritually. I have a ways to go; we all do.

President Trump’s actions and statements are jolting people from despondency and complacency. That’s good.

President Trump’s actions and statements are prompting people on spiritual paths to ramp up their practices. That’s good.

President Trump’s actions and statements are encouraging people to pray. That’s good.

President Trump’s actions and statements are causing people to think things through, to consider the consequences of their actions and comments, to consider who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them.’

“What you meant for harm, God means for good.”

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

That’s from Genesis.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Open your ears.

 

 

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)

God in the Ordinary

A few days ago, I posted my thoughts on God’s interest in everyday, technically non-religious, and seemingly non-spiritual events like football games.

In this morning’s meditation from Richard Rohr, he does a better job of saying the same thing:

God’s revelations are through the concrete and specific.

We have created an artificial divide or dualism between the spiritual and the so-called non-spiritual.

Biblical revelation is saying that we are already spiritual beings; we just don’t know it yet

 

Here’s to our learning just that!

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations are found through his Center for Action and Contemplation website.

“Boring Stories of Glory Days”

This is an essay written by a new friend…a fellow Clemson fan…a fellow Dabo Swinney fan.

Moments

I heard an interview the other day with a former Clemson football player who was in the locker room with the Tigers after they won the National Championship. He was detailing the utter jubilation contained within those four walls from 18 to 22 years who had just ascended the mountain top of college football. This was a moment. A moment that would live with them the rest of their life. A moment that would include a ring, hardware that they could wear on their finger for the world to see and ask about. A moment they could put on their resume even if they never played a single down or step on to the field. A moment they could rehash and retell to anyone who was willing listen.

This former Clemson football player continued that the head coach Dabo Swinney talked about how proud he was of his players. Proud that they never gave up, proud that they not only believed in themselves but each other and then he talked about the moment. He reminded his player that as great as this moment was it would not and should not be the greatest or defining moment in their young life. There were many more moments ahead of them, graduation, marriage, children, moments that should equal if not be greater than this moment right here, right now.

I am a big fan of coach Dabo Swinney. Now I don’t necessarily agree with his in your face Christian views or speech but I can’t fault the man on his faith because he has proven time and time again he not only talks the talk he walks the walk as well. Yes, he is making millions of dollars a year, money that can and will cover a generation of future Swinney’s but there was a time when he had nothing, literally nothing, but his faith and a dream and those moments, those memories keep him grounded. Ground he passes on to his player’s.

For many people a single moment, a single accomplishment defines them. They spend much of their life reliving or trying to hold on to that one point in time. What they miss is the rest of their lives, a full life filled with more than just one moment.

Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
and I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

Glory days well they’ll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

Bruce SpringsteenGlory Days