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.

Trump and the Martial Art of Highway Resurfacing

I have done a lot of interstate driving over the past 45 years and applaud the advances made in the process of resurfacing the highways.  This morning, I watched the process of busting up the old surface with the laying down of new surface material immediately afterwards.  I was aware that there exists only a small window of opportunity through which repairs to subsurface structures can take place.

Imagine the delight of those agencies responsible for the maintenance of subsurface structures when the highway department schedules a resurfacing.  For a water department to bust up the surface of a highway is costly and they don’t have the right equipment; to be able to make improvements when someone else is doing the busting up is almost an opportunity too good to pass up.

What has this got to do with Trump?  A lot.

Trump is intent on busting up bureaucracy and regulation.  That bust up would allow a window of opportunity through which changes to old systems can be made before the situation crusts over again.

Regardless of our feelings about Trump’s goals and intentions…his reasons for busting up existing systems… all of us would agree that there are improvements that can be made to those systems. I would suggest that we not waste valuable time and energy focusing on his motives. Our goals should shift away from attacking Trump to being prepared to implement improvements  when the opportunity opens up.  This is where the martial art comes in.

“Aikido techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack.”  (Wikipedia)  Don’t attack Trump; Use his efforts and energy to make improvements.  What is meant for harm can be used for good.

 

 

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…

“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.

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

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

For the past several days, I have ramped up my reading of scripture and books about God, Christianity, and spirituality. I have also been very open and vocal in expressing my beliefs and faith. I was feeling very clear and strong, spiritually. I was functioning in the present moment and doing good work.

Then, late yesterday, I was conned: I purchased what turned out to be a very inferior product that I really couldn’t afford. The salesmen, who came door to door, misled me and misrepresented the product. When I discovered the poor quality later, I felt crushed because not only had I been careless, the young men and I had shared our religious beliefs: we had talked about our beliefs in God and the importance of strengthening that belief…long before it is too late. (one young man’s mother had just died.)  Sergio and I even discussed his desire to write, particularly when he receives divine wisdom from God.

What was worse, though, was that purchasing something impulsively when I cannot afford it, is an old pattern for me. So, not only was I crushed, I was disappointed in myself.

It got worse. Later last night, I fell into another old habit; I found myself in an imagined conversation with the people who had destroyed my financial and material security 15 months ago. (I was wrongfully fired and lost my home, income, credit, reputation, friends,…)

And it got worse still…most of last night was spent in a twilight sleep where a dozen or more memories of being mistreated, marched across my consciousness.

This morning, I feel a bit beat up and stunned.

What do you think is going on here?