Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

May you all know again and share the joy and peace of God's loving light born again to us all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

POEM EIGHTEEN


I miss the mountains
and the youth who climbed them

I miss sunset
from Shining Rock
eating from the blueberries
which smother its base

Ever been there
where a part of you
forever remains behind

Still
in my slowly
aging dreams
I hear giggling angels
in the tumbling creeks

I still smell the cinnamon musk
of rain wet rhododendron
the incense of innocence

I remember love as
what we are
not as a calculation

Those aren't tears tracking
from cheek to jaw
they're only liquid
remembrances
of what's to come

Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

POEM SIX

I missed the towns and sights
lost in the journey

In the journey
I saw flowers and fire
rain and dust
and birds flitting around
roadside carrion

While I'm lost
along
the way
back

Thursday, November 18, 2010

POEM NINETEEN


Let the broken heart be
blessed as blessed bread is
broken to feed healing hearts

Gather the crumbs for
the feast

Pass the cup
collect tears turned
to sweetest wine

Passing the bread
and cup
call us all
to the broken union
restored
again and again and again
as lovers
restored
to their first passion

Timeless
eternal
moments
enveloped in
common call

Hear
the voice
of the first lover's call

Remember
the first touch
the first kiss

Live them

Give them away
again and again
and again
as bread
for the feast
of the multitudes

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

h a i k u 1

by sorrow or joy
the salt in the tears remain
holding their flavor

POEM THIRTY-FIVE


The sprout
must break
the seed

To break
the earth

To raise
the stem

To bear
the bud

For the
bloom
to break

For the
blossom
to break

To break
the haze
of my
heart

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Four Prayers


Introduction

This five-part series is an offering of Contemplative Prayer forms I’ve adopted or fashioned over the past thirty years or so. The forms include prayers of Thanksgiving, Compassion, Centering prayer and a contemplative approach to Liturgical prayer. These forms also represent an outline for a general prayer form where prayer serves its beginning and end as being directed toward action through a deepening prayer life of relationship with God. With prayerful self-examination and self-development, these forms are aimed at a more active relationship with creation. Like the sunflower always turning to face the sun, Contemplative Prayer serves to keep us moving in the wisdom of Mother Spirit to our Light in Christ.

I believe a primary lesson of scripture is to describe our suffering as being born in our sense of separation from God the First Love, ourselves and each other. I also have found that scripture describes deep prayer, from a place of Gratitude and Compassion, represents a significant step towards closing the gap between God, self and each other. This deep prayer is also a step towards forgiveness and healing, a stride forward in the restoration of our relationships in each other and from the suffering of separation we experience, which in the Christian tradition is called “sin”.

Though these four forms represent different traits and immediate intentions of prayer, these four prayers are all based in the Christian tradition of Contemplative Prayer. These prayers also are understood to find themselves growing from, hopefully, the humble place that is found in an overall attitude of Gratitude and Compassion. These prayers then seek to restore balance to us, to lift us when we’re low, and humble us when too high, but which always serve to grant us vision to see ourselves truthfully in the balance of God our Loving Father and our neighbors, humanity.

Gratitude has become the starting place for my prayer life and has become the anchor for my intentional living. For me and the circumstances of my life presently, gratitude reminds me that life is a gift in which at its center is the greatest gift, Love. Thanksgiving for the Creator and the creation also allows me more humility, knowing that all love I receive ultimately is granted to me, regardless of what I do or don’t do, as a gift from the giver. All love, whether from God or from those friends, family and any person who honors me with their love, is a gift freely given to me and is something I should never take for granted.

Following thanksgiving, compassion comes a bit easier. Though often difficult, compassion is the beginning of my reciprocation of the gifts of love which have been extended to me, whether or not I am always truly deserving, or even willing to acknowledge. Compassion is then the first step towards action, as I acknowledge then give voice to the relationship I recognize at the core of my humanity, the primordial relationship with The Source of our being, The First Love. I recognize God loves me and you, and our recognizing God’s love as the basis for us, in our loving each other, acknowledges the elemental characteristic of being human as social beings in a state of relationship. In this understanding of myself in relationship to God and you (regardless of how difficult our relationship), compassion is the humble acknowledgement of my place as simply a part of the rest and the rest as part of me, where we all share the same value or worth as the other. Compassion reminds me that as God’s loving creatures, we all are deserving of the love, healing, happiness, peace, joy and well being that comes in our loving God and each other. Compassion reminds me that without relationships, I am nothing.

I also find it important for me to model Jesus’ prayer to action in his ministry. The gospels relate many times that Jesus would first offer prayers of Thanksgiving before conducting a miracle. The gospels also relate that Jesus would be greatly moved in compassion to conduct a miracle. Regardless of the simplicity or complexities of the miracles in our lives (the first of which for me is in our capacity to love), the attitudes of Gratitude and Compassion make me more and more open and vulnerable, to all the miracles which unfold from the most divine aspect of our being, love.

I cautiously offer a testimony for your consideration. It is cautious in that my experiences are mine and in no way reflect how anyone else’s life “should” unfold. There is only one “should” for us in our lives as Christians, to love God and love each other. So please don’t take my following words as anything to measure life against, but just take them as an offering to consider and experiment with as you reflect on your circumstances and discern your way forward. As well, my experiences will make a supportive example of medical research presented later, which gives tangible evidence of what we spiritual people already know, prayer is good for us and changes our lives for the better, spiritually and physically.

I was laid off in August of 2009. As you might understand, it has since been a very difficult time. It has been difficult in many ways. First, healthy people want to work and enjoy work which in turn encourages a healthy state of being and mind; they reciprocate each other. It’s difficult finding ways to fill time and see that time as fulfilling when unemployed. It takes some time to find ways to restructure living in constructive ways, in the now empty schedule of daily life that was the workday calendar. The moment after being laid off, all those calendar days and months of pre-penciled-in duties and chores, of clients, sales and staff meetings which represented a full and productive life, are now empty spaces. After being laid off, to look at the work calendar of ink and pencil filled schedules, is to see through those notes as a mirage, as ghosts hovering above the paper of a life no longer to be lived. That is a dead life, no longer in existence. That calendar is meaningless. The danger is thinking that I am now also meaningless.

Second, and every bit as significant as the routine and financial reward of working, is the significance of social interactions with clients and co-workers which provides the very important sense of community found in the workplace. Eventually too the financial pressures which arrive with the departure of paychecks are obvious. Finally, there is something humiliating in being unemployed. The sense of being at the mercy of others--those who laid me off, being on unemployment (and subject to the whims of politics), whether or not I am viewed by the hiring public as being worthy of being hired, not receiving responses to my resumes sent out (much less being offered an application or job)—all these have at times left me feeling humiliated and doubting myself.

Though the incredible generosity of others has been very helpful, and for which I am deeply and ever grateful for, there also comes with receiving the generosity of others, at times, pangs of embarrassment which leave me feeling doubly shamed, both in my need and by my embarrassment. In these times there have been days of great depression and an increased sense of suffering. I know I’m not alone and that in all likelihood these are moments known and shared with the millions of other unemployed people, right now.

Because of these circumstances, I can hardly express how important it has been for me in these times, both in my basic sensibility and prayer, to have rooted myself in the attitude of Gratitude and Compassion. These attitudes and intentions have certainly aided me in my not being overwhelmed by the negative emotions, real and imagined, which at times have become powerfully manifest during these times of stress.

As well, the choice to respond to my circumstances from gratitude, rather than fear or resentment, restores to me a sense of self-direction in my circumstances. Rather than having a sense of being helpless to, or controlled by forces beyond me, in this case being laid off and eventually being hired someday, I am taking direction of my life and sense of it into intentional spiritual direction, centered in prayer, and also in this case, “good works”. I know of many who have also restored their sense of well being in their choosing to first act from a determination of gratitude. I will also later show neuroscience reflects this by evidencing the changes in brain structure and chemistry, which confirm the idea that we can literally change how we think by what we think: we are what we think--and pray and meditate.

My sense of gratitude also reminds me that I have come from and continue to come from a place of plenty. I once had plenty of money and less time, now I have (much!) less money and much more time. Before, I gave more money to causes, now I give more time. Also, and most importantly to me now, my sense of gratitude in prayer, coupled with my relative increased sense of suffering, has allowed for me a deeper sense of compassion, and certainly a growing and more engaged sense of compassion being acted on in into my community. A great gift to have emerged in these times has been listening to and allowing Jesus, in words and Spirit, to prayerfully weave my sense of gratitude and suffering together into a cord which binds me to the center of my life, Jesus Compassionate.

Though I still struggle to find work, I know I have purpose and meaning.

Still the end of every month is an ordeal to find money for rent, bills and dog food. Through the grace of The First Love and the people who love me, who help me in the ways they can, emotionally, spiritually and practically, a way is found to make ends meet. To the people, who pray for me, who love me, who teach and support me, I prayerfully acknowledge them as being the beautiful instruments of God’s nurturing love, the answers to my prayers and my newfound source of plenty.

Here ends the testimony.

Clearly prayer is powerful. Science confirms it. I and others testify to it. Prayer creates an open place in our psyche and being within the living of our lives. Prayer reminds us that we humans aren’t truly solitary, that we need each other. Prayer reminds us that we need God’s love and each other’s love, in grand ways and very simple ways. Prayer reminds us that love requires vulnerability, and to love means being vulnerable and being open. Prayer makes us open, to every moment and every situation, open to let God shine through the thin places into us, through us, and into each other, inclining us to be restored and to restoring each other.

Prayer is communication, an opening of lines of communication, to Creator and creation, including you and me. Funny thing about people, they see openings and they naturally want to go through. I think that if we remain open to circumstances as they unfold in our lives, other people may instinctively respond to these openings as a means to help. I think healthy people want to help those who are open to help. Being helped is gratifying, but helping is much more gratifying. God’s children are helpful by their new nature and know the gratification of compassion and helping. I am grateful for the prayer that leads me to it.

I offer one last idea to hold in mind and just consider when thinking about prayer as a Christian: I have been giving quite a lot of thought to the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion beyond the usual notions. For now I’ll just express what the crucifixion signifies to me presently, and how I am now challenged by Jesus on the cross as an understanding to being better centered in the living of life. Jesus on the cross offers me direction when I view the images of the gospels’ overall telling of the crucifixion: Jesus in suffering, in feeling isolation, to Jesus praying compassionately, leading to his release from suffering, and ultimately leading to resurrection. How did the crucifixion stories lead me to focus on prayer of Gratitude and Compassion and how did they lead me to peace and growth in these times of my stressful circumstance? I suggest the gospels’ telling of Jesus' crucifixion offers a microcosm of human life, where our turning point from suffering, to the joy of rebirth, is revealed to us from within the depth of Jesus' suffering, revealed by his humble and compassionate act and prayer of mercy, “Father forgive them.”

Next: Part Two, Prayer as Contemplation

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

POEM FIFTY-SEVEN

She is
everywhere

More than
muse or
goddess

Lover
Vehicle
of
my being

Vessel
of
sorrow

Bearer
of
what's best

The taste
of your milk
remains

The taste
of your wine
lingers

I
am
a
pillar
of
salt

I
dissolve
on
your
lips
and
tongue

I
dissolve
in
your
tears

Dissolved
distilled
evaporated

Into
a
purer
state

POEM SIXTY-ONE

Hear
the spirit
whispering
love songs
in the wind

See
through
the world
and earth
the
realm
of
soul and life

Listen
in the heartbeat
of your beloved
for the
murmurings
of
first
love's
creation

See
the soul
in the
whimsical darting
of the
hummingbird

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lightening The Lifeboat

"Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat so small."

The Breton Fisherman’s Prayer


This week while spending time with a friend he mentioned a phrase I'd not heard or thought of in a very long time. He said, "I've been looking at all the things I have and I am lightening the lifeboat." He was clearing out what he determined to be the clutter collected around his house over the years.

My friend was referring to a drill known to people of the water; it's called" lightening the lifeboat." Which means if something isn't elemental to your living, it goes overboard. There is a simple prayer, "Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat so small." This prayer emphasizes the meaning of lightening the lifeboat, given the vastness of the sea, the lighter your boat, the greater the chances you stay afloat.

In the tradition of the Old Testament the sea represents many things, elemental and dark powers, and the forces of chaos, until the Spirit of God moves over the waters establishing order from which teeming life then comes forth. The sea also is symbolic of our separation from God. Jonah sought to escape God by going to sea.

Later in the New Testament, Jesus calls on Peter to join him walking on the sea’s surface, to stroll on over across the waters of The Galilee. Peter gets out of the boat and begins walking on the water, but within a few steps he begins to sink into the sea. Something again takes the enlightened Peter as he begins across the surface; something weighs him down, causing him to again sink into the chaos.

I feel for Peter. It’s hard enough to keep the boat afloat, but to then get out of the boat, and walk on the water’s surface? Until I get to the point where I can walk on water, above the chaos of daily life, I’ll work to keep the boat in shape. I’ll be lightening the lifeboat.

How many times have I seen my life adrift on the chaos of the sea? Who doesn’t know the difficulty staying afloat on the chaos of life, where disappointments or loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or some unimaginable calamity besets us? Who hasn’t had the order of life thrown into complete utter upheaval? How many times has the vessel of life been tossed up and down on the stormy waves of chaos, crashing onto our little boats, soaking us as the boat fills with water threatening to sink it?

I have seen many storms. I have been adrift for long periods of time in the vastness of the sea. Many times I’ve found myself lightening the lifeboat. Much of the stuff I’ve chunked overboard has been the weight of material things which weigh down the boat, making it sluggish and slow to respond. Unnecessary weight drops the gunnels dangerously close to the water. Then when the big wave hits all that stuff I don’t need, or really want, will sink my boat before I have a chance to bail even one cup of water.

I've been lightening the lifeboat of much emotional stuff as well. This is a good thing as the emotional stuff carries even more weight than all the material stuff I could ever fill the boat with.

Anger, unresolved guilt, anxiety and frustration, all fearful dead weight putting me and my boat at danger in the first moments the sea threatens. So overboard with all that weighty mess which does nothing to sustain me.

In lightenting the boat I've also noticed that the collecting of thought and theology, especially my former orthodoxy, ultimately began to bear down on my little boat. This is not to say that ignorance or mindlessness is the preferred state. Actually the opposite is truer for me as it takes an active and curious mind to discern where the intellect is most helpful in living spiritually, as practicality, living the intentional loving life of a servant to creation, as Jesus directs me a Christian, to do.

For me living my life fully isn’t to blankly deny the realities of the world, the chaotic sea of life, but to figure it out myself and live it out through my prayer, discernment and actions. Nor is it to passively give up my responsibilities to decide and act over to someone else’s understanding or beliefs. Neither is my life fully realized in pursuing my intellectuality for intellectuality’s sake alone.

The challenge for my intellect is to find the ability to better love creation in what I do. It is in thoughtfully discerning the realities of life, science and leaps of faith, to understand how they contribute to, or diminish, my ability to better participate in the love of God, me and creation. In this way my intellect partners with my spirit to better understand the complexities of a world which makes greater and faster demands upon my life.

My spirit also reminds me to slow down and reconnect to the Spirit in contemplative prayer, in prayer with the community and prayer for the well being of the world and creation apart from my troubles, needs and desires. In such prayer I also come to better know and own the consequences of what I do, which also is lightening the boat.

To forgive the unforgiven and myself is to be lightening the lifeboat.

I strive to make wise decisions as I am lightening the lifeboat. I realize it’s much more than about being ordered, it is being intentional. Order without intention is merely bridled chaos. My real satisfaction and happiness can’t be sustained only through orderliness alone, but found instead through the joy of intentionally living for love, peace and justice.

Of course the lifeboat is my heart. Though the Spirit is its buoyancy, I can weigh it down and sink it like a stone. I have to keep the boat that is my heart light and nimble, trusting the buoyancy of the Spirit to keep it afloat on the chaotic waters around me. I must trust in God’s love, our love, to sustain me and help me in the space of my boat to gather and sustain those who’ve fallen overboard. When I fall overboard, I need to trust those who reach out to me.

When I attended Regent’s College in London, there was an old and beautiful pub I knew called The Friend At Hand. Its sign portrayed a strong arm and hand reaching out from the bow of a lifeboat to all who pass by. We Christians should be a friend at hand, reaching out over the chaos to any who want a hand and pull them aboard. We are wise in the Spirit, there is plenty of room and we have all we need.

Monday, September 27, 2010

POEM FOURTEEN

The way
of the heart
is a
bare footed journey

Which road is without
stones and thorns

Which is without
the broken glass
of shattered desires

The safe
paved road
still
burns blister hot
in the heat
of the day

The dusty road
is muddied from
the shower of tears

Stop and squish
the mud
between your toes

Friday, September 17, 2010

Desert Bloom

Tonight a friend of mine mentioned her struggles with not being able to “do enough” in the face of suffering in the world. She also spoke of the exhaustion she is experiencing from work, family, her church life and her volunteer work. She is still in her twenties and already feeling worn out. She is even attending Sunday evening service instead of the main service to be spared contact with all the hubbub and offers to expand her ministry in more parish volunteer work, because when the word gets out you are one who says “yes”, everyone comes asking for more. She had become to feel guilty about saying “no”.

Is there anyone who can’t relate to these feelings? How many times in my life have I felt at once overwhelmed by events, demands of commitments to people, promises and causes? How many times after giving time, money and energy to any number of projects, when after all is said and done, that one ends up thinking that little has been done to answer the big problem? Sometimes it does just feel like we’re plugging the leaking levee with fingers and toes, that I’m out of fingers and toes and the storm surge is bearing down. These could be signs of being a bit too engaged beyond our means, it could be time to back away for a bit. It could mean it’s time for us to do less for a moment and let Spirit do more.

Even the gospels suggest that the fully human Jesus had moments when the fully human Jesus felt the stress. In Luke’s gospel there are times when Jesus sounds downright surly and frustrated by the demands being made upon him relative to his limitations. Yes, his limitations. At some point fully human Jesus must have come to the place all humans come to: too many demands, too many needs, too little time and energy, and too little me to go around! At some point, fully human Jesus, had the very earthly mortal realization, “I can’t save everybody!”

I can’t save everybody: a fully human and true realization, a mature realization recognizing our need for help beyond ourselves.

At some point even Jesus had to back away. At very least he had to eat. He had to sleep. He had to have more time for basic human requirements, time for a bath, even time to go in the bushes (Jesus peeking from behind the bushes might be an instructive icon?). Jesus was even known to unwind at parties from time to time.

He needed more though. Sometimes he had to get away, to go to “a private place”. At times he sent everyone away, even his closest friends. Sometimes he returned to the desert. He needed some time and some space to go away “and pray”, to let Spirit do more. There is no mention of Jesus experiencing guilt in saying “no” and going away to care for himself, so why should my friend or anyone else feel guilty by saying “no” when we need to?

At first the desert may seem simply harsh, uninviting, dangerous and even ugly. The desert seems absent of life, a great empty expanse of space. The desert seems the place where all things simply whither and die. Yet as all these descriptions of the desert are true, so are their opposites true. The desert would seem to be the last place to find beauty, to find life, renewal and restoration.

I find the desert to be deeply beautiful and alluring, a place where Mother Earth is stripped bare of all lush adornment to rest before me as naked, raw and stunning in all her flawed glory. In the desert I can find myself enchanted and seduced by beauty of simplicity. I find my senses elevated to a natural intoxication, at once threatened by the danger, and also overwhelmed, as though lying down for the first time in the passionate naked embrace of the beloved.

Everything is more intense in the desert, the heat of the day, the chill of the night, the stark strands of shadow and light at noon, the depth and swirling numbers of stars at midnight, the clarity of light at dawn, and the thick light draping of colors in the cascade of dusk. Dusk is my favorite time, watching the colors of the desert, the infinite varieties of reds, yellows, browns, greens and grays, all shifting forms and depths of light and color as the sun settles its light in deepening shades of gold, orange and red. Then there follows the infinite change of color in the twilight sky, the blues and pinks of atmosphere dissolving into purples and indigo as stars, planets and galaxies emerge from behind the vanished veil of light.

I leave the desert refreshed and revived, energized from a place very deep within, a place very elemental and spiritual. I often feel this way remembering the desert, the place of raw elemental workings of life and spirit, and amazing beauty. While most of the desert life remains hidden from the casual glance, the desert does teem with life, which is never more apparent then during a desert bloom. I am fortunate to have seen a desert bloom which followed a hundred year rain event. It is amazing, beyond words, to see expanses of desert covered in flowers, and the bright garden greens replace the usual muted brown grey green of scrub brush. Richly colored blossoms of yellow and red replaced the expected desolation of desert space. The internal blooming of time in the desert is harmonized with the external flowering of desert time.

Most often the desert experience of restoration is something gained through eventuality, born in the tensions of the desert’s absolutes, found in bearing its heat and desolation, bearing its thirst and sense of desperation, found in overcoming the fear of the desert’s lethal power to arrive to a point of appreciation realized at the end of a day survived, exposed to its elemental powers of heat, wind and sand. It is no wonder that prophets, monks and everyday saints find themselves in the desert and return to the desert to search again, when again feeling them selves depleted and lost.

There is another desert to be found when reaching the place of spiritual depletion like my friend described to me last night. There is a desert to be found and restored in when feeling empty and desolate despite one’s best efforts. This is the desert inside, the place in the heart, soul, mind and even body, where we have emptied ourselves out in our prayers and efforts to work good works. This is a glorious desert of great beauty, the heart and soul of a person, your person, emptied out. This is a desert to enter and return to.

This is not a desert to be feared, but respected and appreciated for the beauty it will reveal to the earnest seeker. This is a desert to be explored, ravines and crannies, hills, dunes and flats, canyons and caves. This is a desert within which to pray. Pray your prayers, as in this desert your prayers are all you have. You may pray the office, until you can no longer stand seeing the ink on paper. You may pray for others passionately, you may pray humbly for yourself too until your voice goes hoarse and then fails in silence. Then you learn to pray the desert prayer.

Silence. The prayer of the desert is silence. This prayer is the prayer of all energy spent in the burning sun of desolation, where all vitality is sapped, too tired to even thirst, too tired to even feel desperation, too tired to do anything but listen. Listen in the silence of the empty heart. All other voices are exhausted. There is only One Voice to hear, the first and only voice in the heart of our being. In this place, there is only one voice to hear.

Listen to the wind now moving across the singing dunes in the distance; hear the Spirit wind blowing low whistles across the mouths of caves. See the Spirit wind gather sand and dust, hear the howl of Spirit as it covers the hill where you sit, feel its power knock you down, its power tears your tattered clothes of experience, until you are balled up, naked and clinging to naked desert like an infant to its mother’s breast.

Howl into the wind. Howl after the wind and hear your cry echo through the barren desert canyons and ravines. Know the deep elemental power found remaining from your very depths sounded in your howl, hear it echo back to you and know you remain, and smile knowing you are stronger now, hearing your desert heart call back to you. Know the sound of your voice echoing the voice heard in your absolute silence. Hear the power of your voice in the strength of Spirit wind. And cry if you will. Flood your desert heart like a hundred year flood and be awed by the desert bloom.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spirit's Cartwheels


Of late I’ve had an urging to know more about the early years of my religious tradition, the days before Christianity began to take shape as an institution, to the time when it wasn’t even known as Christianity but known as “The Way”. I now experience a compulsion to know the earliest history of my spiritual ancestors. I want to know the communities which are the roots and base of my spirit family tree.

I am not alone in this. Many Christians I know have the same questions, the same desire to know our spiritual ancestry. There seems to be a growing sense that we are turning a full circle to where our community is being more and more directed by Spirit, and which lives in the Spirit, in our relationships and communities. There is also a sense of struggling with competing orthodoxies, traditions and interpretations as they manifest themselves, on one hand, as issues of exclusive cultural and linguistic authority, and on the other hand, which experiences life in the Spirit as an expansive, prophetic and inclusive invitation to God’s loving community.

So there is then a desire to know how our early ancestral communities lived before orthodoxy of culture and scripture, and before church and empire made a pact at Nicaea. How did the early church deal with these same issues, as these issues did exist, and how did the early church began to coalesce around their answers?

Our Christian ancestors were Jews who were students of a Jewish teacher named Yeshua, whom we now call Jesus, who taught The Way as a means to fulfillment in relationship with God and the world, who was crucified by Rome in collaboration with the Jerusalem temple authorities, whose followers knew he died and who they later experienced as resurrected, as living and then experienced the same teacher as mysteriously departing from their earthly experience. They then naturally thought of themselves as figures of authority as they had lived with and studied with Yeshua. They represented authority and orthodoxy, as it were, to the fledgling community of believers and set down the conditions of membership accordingly.

It wasn’t long though before the drama and conflict of differing opinions began to surface. There was a new voice in the community; a man renamed Paul after his mystic conversion through his vision of God, risen Christ, and living Spirit. The original students of Yeshua had one idea about our relationship to God and each other, while Paul had a different idea about these relationships. In short, the debate was about inclusion. Who shall we allow into the community and how shall we treat one another in community?

This discussion has a familiarity to it. It has immediacy to it; we Christians are having discussions about gender (still) and sexual genetics and what these “non-refundable” human traits mean in our churches, our courtrooms and legislatures. Who shall we “let in” and “keep out”? It seems the Spirit keeps wanting to reach ever outward, and people would still seek to contain her. Curious exercise of energy, trying to put limits on the infinite. What is it about us that loves exercises in futility?

One of the insights I gain from the Bible is the historic struggle between people who seek to extend their loving relationship with God to more and more people and those who wish to inhibit it. It is a story of those who would seek to control humanity’s relationship with God and those who would seek to liberate people into relationship with God. Our history is our walking circles around these issues while Spirit does cartwheels through our hard-working preconceptions.

Institutions arise, they invoke authority, require people to invest themselves into the institution, its interpretations and the institution eventually becomes the source and center of these lives. Prophets arise and say otherwise, reminding people that the living loving God is first, and that people aren’t made to serve the institution but that the institution is made to serve people, to remind people that injustice is in putting the needs of institutions before the needs of people. Not just “our” people either, but “those” people, any and all people, because all people are God’s first and we can’t love God if we don’t seek to love all people, even strangers, even our enemies.

Even as Jesus lived and taught there were differences of opinion over who had authority to correctly interpret scripture and its meaning in our relationships with God and each other, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, were all laying claim to the truth and the authority. Add Jesus to the mix, asking us what else matters that we love one another? It would seem ironically that within months of Jesus’ death that claims of authority to limit God’s realization in the world was again being argued by Peter and Paul. Perhaps we are reliving the early days of the church, the early days when Peter and Paul first understood the course of the church was inclusion. Living bodies grow and live or they atrophy and die.

And again the Spirit exerted herself to be realized as the source of all, to be loved and shared by all, loving God as loving each other, as God loves us for no other reason than because. Still the exclusive claims of exclusion persist, after all these thousands of years, as though the inevitable can be staved off. Eventually, in the timeless journey of the human soul with the timeless One, the human soul comes to remember its purpose to love. This is the orthodoxy I celebrate.

Yet Spirit still seems to have her way, the way, growing in the fullness of time, pushing ever outward, pregnant and giving birth to more and new life, born in the loving act of creation with creation, eternal Madonna and all of us her children.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

POEM TWENTY-SEVEN

Of you sorrows
let them flow
whether as a stream
or a river
let them flow

Let them flow
let them
restore you
and water
your fertile ground

Friday, September 3, 2010

POEM TWO

Into the liquid gaze of night
my eyes lead my soul
to the depth of dark
star splattered ball of heavens
in cosmos
and I'm left longing
with sweet pain to return home

I can return
I burn to return
home

Past and through
stars and space
return to
your embrace
first star
first light
and last

Your love

Monday, August 30, 2010

POEM THIRTY-EIGHT

Searching
in my actions
and prayers

Finding
in the breathing
space
in between

I open
the book
to find
wonders
indicators and signs
in sentence
phrase
and word

Finding
you

Resting between
the lines

Finding
you

Living
in the
desert
wilderness
of
the margins

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wrassilin' With "Media"

Certainly I am an Anglican, if for no other reason, in that I wrestle and struggle on the Via Media, the place and journey between faith and reason. Of course, faith (Spirit), and reason don’t exclude each other. The sometimes rough ride in the relationship between Spirit and reason is understandable. However there was a time when Spirit and science did exist in mutual understanding and the two were indistinguishable from the other, in that they were both pursuing the revelation of truth, in the workings of God in creation, and in human experience. Prior to the Enlightenment, it was then natural for reason and Spirit to work towards understanding human experience in the classical disciplines of theology, philosophy and natural philosophy, what we now call science.

It is ironic that “science”, now as some religion of the absolute, was born in the Enlightenment, as the “founding fathers” of Enlightenment were people of faith and even clerics. Science has become a religion unto its own, one only need to visit the Museum of Natural History in London to observe science’s sense of worth. Architecturally, the museum is a cathedral. If not for the sign out front, I would have expected to hear choirs rehearsing as I entered the edifice.

Before the presumed supremacy of science, Copernicus, Galileo and Newton pursued the understanding of what they called natural philosophy. They weren’t setting out to disprove God, but to understand how God set things in motion and how God then sustains these things set in motion. They didn’t view their pursuits as anything more than one part of a whole of understanding. They didn’t hold natural philosophy above theology and philosophy, they considered understanding all three components of knowledge necessary in the whole human development of people.

Do not misunderstand; I am in no shape or way “anti-science”. I love science, rational thought and reason. Nor should it be thought that because I know the spiritual life, that I or any like me should be thought of as “superstitious”. It is a narrow mind which can’t see the difference between superstition and spirituality and it is an equally narrow mind which only sees that spirituality and science must exclude each other.

There are scientists also who presume an absolute, definitive and singular attitude towards science’s ability to establish and maintain the parameters of reality. They believe in this being their realm, and themselves as its sole arbiters. There are scientists who have a holistic view of reality and knowledge, acknowledging the spiritual aspect of persona, and maintain an objectivity regarding the place of science in understanding the mystery implicit in human existence. Reason does cohabitate our existence in Spirit.

There are also those religious who have run presumptively amok, who have placed their religious beliefs ahead of everything. They assert their views as the singular authoritative, and absolute correct interpretation, of all things omniscient. They too have claimed the exclusive right to determine and dictate the parameters of reality within the confines of the God/human relationship as they believe it. This is hubris of the highest order, to attempt to put shackles on the infinite possibilities of infinite being, to restrain the discretion of the Creator in our relationships as given to us, as in loving the Creator and loving creation.

I understand this. I understand the illusion of confidence in certitude. I understand the role this illusion plays in science and religion, which seeks to put doubts to rest, to hold the primal wolves of animosity at bay. Whether one is religious or practices the religion of atheism, many of us search for an ideological anchor to both orbit around and to keep us from flying into the infinite fear of possibilities.

We all at times would be dogs on chains bound to a stake, and at times, we all perceive running in circles around the stake as freedom. It could be freedom in context to the chain’s length, but it’s not the same as running unfettered through the woods or across a field. I’ve seen dogs chained like this, at times running themselves around, winding the chain around the stake until their collar has them pinned to the stake. The smart ones though will use the leverage of the tight chain which pins them to the stake, to slip their collar and take off running, a fantastic sight! Struggles can lead to freedom.

Playing football in high school, after season, we players had a choice for how to spend the winter, make the basketball team, or in my native tongue, wrassilin. There was no other choice, we weren’t going to be allowed to do the do-nothing required to get out of shape. I wasn’t very fond of wrestling, but it did keep me in shape. Wrestling also made me stronger, more flexible and more agile. It was also very close constant contact with the challenger, sweat on sweaty and sometimes bloody grappling, striving not to be pinned between two opposing forces, the opponent and the mat. Wrestling, it turns out, was more than anything else a matching of wits, eye to eye. It was not enough to have skills, but one had to be interpreting and anticipating the opponent’s moves, thinking several moves and feints ahead, in order to gain the necessary leverage on the adversary.

Wrestling is not about the violent trading of blows, no punching, no kicking, no weapons; wrestling is grappling with the opponent and finding leverage as the subduing means. Wrestling is finding the center of mind and body, to find the balance, and leverage on the forces which weigh on you in a given space and time; good skills to have.

These days I’m wrassilin with Media, more specifically, with liturgical language which perpetuates certain non-sustainable properties to the Deity, which is a distraction from my healing relationship with God and from being healed in relationship with God, but that’s another discussion for another time. The point is I’m wrestling with this and in some ways the outcome isn’t the point, a point, but not the point. The point is found in the act of wrestling, facing the challenges, getting out on the mat, sweating, getting beat-up a little, bleeding a little and building some character, as we say. Trusting in the process because of what my intention is, to grow in the life of Spirit.

The history and traditions of spiritual life are recorded as humans struggling to understand their notions of God in context to their particular time and place, to wrestle with what it means to be in relationship with the Spirit and each other. The issues change as we have changed through history in our ancient journey; they become larger in the ever expanding circle of compassion and justice, our meaning in God and each other. It is a tremendous challenge to struggle with the Spirit and to keep-up with the ever expanding circle of God’s love; wherever we are in history, it’s hard for us to meet the challenge of the Spirit in our hearts and minds.

The wrestling mat has a circle painted on it, the ring. The challenges are inside the ring, challenges known and unknown, here and now. I must enter the margins, into the ring of mental and spiritual challenges to find my center, my strength and to accomplish growth. It’s in the ring where the Spirit challenges us to wrestle, to grow in mind, body, spirit and heart, in the ever growing understanding of what it means to love God and creation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

POEM SIXTY-SEVEN

Under the overpass
spirit
wears a tangled
matted crown

Spirit's light
still shines
in hollow eyes

Soiled smelly clothes
hang as drapes
on spirit's bones

With broken nails
on dirty hands
spirit reaches out

Spirit sounds
in rattling lungs

Under the overpass



POEM SIXTY-FIVE


Sit in quiet
letting thoughts
and feeling pass through
as I listen to the silence

It is my soul
I hear singing
in harmony

It is with the sounding
of words that the
difficulties begin

Friday, August 20, 2010

POEM SIXTY-SIX


How cruel is the man
who raises butterflies
only to clip their wings
when they insist upon flying

Certainly
God must be
better than this

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mystic Margins


I’m one of those people, one of those for which the mystic comes easy. The mystic experience is easy for me, always has been. I don’t know if this is because at the age of five I landed on the top of my forehead, on a concrete driveway, after being pushed from a ten foot retaining wall. I don’t know if it’s due to unique brain chemistry or extraordinary temporal lobe activity. Perhaps my mystic quotient is high for any or all of these reasons. Possibly it is that I was simply born this way. Regardless, my having real tangible mystic experience is a part of what and who I am, every bit as much as my 14 EEEE sized feet. Like my feet, I have no choice in the matter. I can pretend my feet are size 11 and squeeze my feet into size 11 shoes, but it will hurt. I can pretend that I’m not mystic, but it hurts.

In our culture, being a mystic is like being a 14EEEE sized foot in a store where the salesperson only wants to sell size 11 shoes. It’s not that there aren’t 14EEEE shoes being made, the store may not choose to sell big, OK, huge shoes. It could be the store has huge shoes, but they’re in the back of the storeroom, on the top shelf and the salesperson just doesn’t feel like making the effort to grab the ladder and make the climb to retrieve the goods. Our culture wants to squeeze us into whatever it is it’s selling or willing to look for.

Our culture has very little use or even tolerance for mystics. Perhaps mystics are part of the collateral damage of Enlightenment or the Industrial and Technological revolutions. It could be that mystics represent the elemental aspect of being a free spirit, the ultimate expression of a psyche, mind and person who can’t be reigned in and placed within the confines of culture. Religions (spiritual, scientific and political) don’t deal very well with free spirits. At some level all religions depend upon conformity among their constituents. Mystics may represent the ultimate threat to authority, because mystics are the polar opposite of an authority of culture rooted in the current controlling temporal, quantitative and materialistic philosophies of life.

I think there are more people who experience the mystic than we realize. I see the mystic experience as a primary aspect of being human; indeed a capacity for the mystic is one of the things which separate us from other life forms on earth. I believe the mystic experience comes in all shapes, sizes and degrees. Some are experienced as feelings and intuitions while others can be full-blown anomalous phenomenon.

What is a mystic experience and how is it different from other anomalous phenomenon? The primary difference in my experience is that mystic experience is centered in my spiritual life and my pursuing relationship and understanding of God, Spirit. Yet, I don’t believe in the supernatural. I believe in ordinary phenomena and anomalous phenomena.

Part of the understanding of the fullness of human experience is in moving past the misconception that there is natural or supernatural experience, which is to be believed or disbelieved. Everything which has occurrence in the cosmos occurs within the natural order and is therefore natural. We typically perceive and experience ordinary phenomena (OP) as everyday life, which is predictable or occurs within dictated established parameters of probability.

Then there are those things which fall outside the predictable probabilities around which our ordinary lives are structured, these are anomalous phenomena (AP). These AP have been labeled as “paranormal” and “supernatural” or “bunk” and “BS”. These labels represent misunderstanding or a mental conditioning and nothing more. I think the bias against AP is primarily a case of misunderstanding. In many cases, I think that our ability to prove or disprove AP has simply been in the technological limitations to observe and record AP. It’s not my intention to delve too deeply into OP and AP, I simply address AP as a reality, which many scientist take seriously, if quietly.

Albert Einstein referred to quantum physics as “spooky science”, as its core of understanding the world, is entirely up-side-down from our daily “common sense” experience of living. Go back to me, the five year old whose head hit concrete: my solid head hit solid concrete resulting in major concussion, lots and lots of blood and lots and lots of stitches. Yet, the quantum reality is that my head isn’t so solid and mostly made-up of empty space, all of which comes as no surprise to my dad. But, the same is true of the concrete which left me concussed and bloody but failed to split my skull. It too is mostly empty space. It is true there are no solids in the strictest sense.

Our bodies, large, small, attractive and less so, are small cosmic models, in that like the universe we are mostly empty space. We are subatomic, are molecules and elements loosely held together in electromagnetic forms we recognize as birds, trees, skulls and driveways, all vibrating at different rates which then when touching, cause the sensation of contact. They also cause the sense of the collision of flesh on driveways. Did you know that we never actually “touch” anything, ever? There is always a very tiny electromagnetic field around everything. It was the concrete’s field which collided with my field; its field tore my field which released energy which then tore the matter of my skin.

Consider the bizarre nature of the quantum realities in the Observer Principle. This phenomenon was noticed in the early stages of particle accelerator experiments, where subatomic particles were first observed. Scientist were initially unable to repeat experimental results, their data would not collaborate each other’s findings. These particles kept demonstrating different behavior in the experiments conducted by different scientists. It wasn’t until enough data had been collected that the particles were revealed to be behaving exactly the same, in different ways. The particles always did exactly what the individuals expected them to do. As different people expected particles to behave differently from other people’s expectations, the particles did what was expected of them by the person in control of the specific experiment. This was the consistent result of the individual experiments.

Ponder also new research in the quantum realm which has found that atoms communicate with each other, and at a rate of communication faster than the speed of light. They call this communication, teleporting. Researchers expect that in twenty years atomic teleporting communication will replace silicon as the media of data exchange in computers. This subatomic communication between particles and atoms may explain the Observer Principle, and may explain phenomena such as ESP and remote viewing.

Duke University spent decades in ESP research and proved beyond the realm of chance probability that ESP is real, with some individuals having had success rates at nearly 80%. Stanford University conducted remote viewing research which was so successful that the military took over the research as part of their intelligence program, literally “spooky stuff”. Researchers are now using full-light-spectrum cameras when researching hauntings, and are revealing shapes and forms behaving in direct correlation to haunting AP, which were never visible before to human eyes or traditional cameras. Perhaps technology is catching up, to correct and reform the orthodoxy of science.

All of this is fascinating and is intended only to open the mind to what lies beyond the common-sense or conventional thinking of our culture. It also may explain the spiritual, mystical wonder which forever remained in the heart and mind of Einstein. I’m sorry Mr. Dawkins, but despite your need to strip Einstein of his spirituality by trying to prove he didn’t really mean it, what Einstein said and wrote regarding his spirituality, he really, really meant. Otherwise, he would not have expressed them. To Mr. Dawkins’ great atheist disappointed dismay, there are millions of scientists who have spiritual and even religious beliefs. I break bread with quite a few of them weekly.

Which brings me back to the beginning; there are a great many ways to experience the mystic, whether as a large AP experience such as Saul experienced, or a small “ah-ha” in the experience of a beautiful sunset, or the embrace of a loved one. One may even develop one’s mystic quotient. Think of the mystic experience as going to the beach, the place where land and ocean meet and meld. Look around. Look out and see those people so adept in the ocean that they can swim the English Channel, very advanced stuff. These are the waters of Buddha, Isaiah, Jesus and Rumi, perhaps. Maybe we see Francis of Assisi, Gandhi or MLK out there chest deep and body surfing back into us. Most of us are content to get our feet wet; maybe we wade out knee or waist deep. Some of us will never even wet our toes in the water. If we want, we can all learn and gain confidence to swim a bit.

There is an ocean of experience available to us which in all its ways is radically different from that which we landed mammals experience. It is richly full and abundant in life and from which we draw the elements of our lives. The ocean is our origin, scientifically and spiritually, as God first breathed Spirit over and into the waters to bring forth life. The ocean feeds us. Through the cycle of evaporation, the salty ocean is even the source of fresh water for all land life. Yet it can also be perceived as a place of great danger, and if one is unwise and unprepared, it can be. Still the ocean is a constancy of beauty and bounty. So it is too with the mystic experience.

I do believe in the mystic quality innate to all humans. I believe that when anyone thinks outside of themselves to consider anyone, anything or problem beyond the immediate existential moment, then they are walking the mystic beach. Anthropologists now suspect that it was mystic experience which gave early humans the drive to move out of the darkness of caves and create communities, culture and simple technologies. Whether it was by accidental consumption of alkaloid rich fungi, or through the production of high levels of dopamine from the stress of prolonged dancing or from the natural fasting of low food levels, people arrived to a vision of life outside the mere confines of survival. Some anthropologists even suggest that these early mystic experiences triggered changes in neural DNA which led to the outrageous acceleration of culture and science of the past 10,000 years, in geologic time a mere blink of an eye, taking humanity from loose wandering proto-communities, to where we are today, like the ocean, beautiful, bountiful and at times dangerous.

It could be we begin to experience the margins of the mystic at birth, the moment where we first move from the solitude of floating in the salty waters of the womb, to contact with someone outside our insular world of prenatal solitude, and into the first hands which hold us and touch us, connecting us to someone outside of ourselves. It could begin the first time we are held to our mother’s breast and we feel good in her warmth and her feeding us, the moment we have our first sense of primal happiness given to us from someone other than ourselves.

I think it is a mistake to view our mystic/spiritual selves and realities as irrational, illogical, delusion, superstition or fantasy. Though certain cultural powers would have us disregard our spiritual mystic selves, I believe the mystic may be the most significant aspect of our humanity and to dismiss it does great harm to our human experience. The mystic is the key to long term vision of responsibility for ourselves, humanity and the earth. There is a difference between superstition and spirituality. There is in mystic the great rationality which has given birth to ethics, compassion, justice, liberty and the responsibilities of individuals to communities and communities to individuals.

I believe that whenever our thoughts and feelings move beyond the mean of survival and into the concerns and cares of others, we engage the margins of the mystic; we walk down the slope of beach to the water’s edge and wet our toes in the mystic ocean. To be mystic is to give careful thought to where we are and how we can best get to where we are going while doing as little damage as possible and while easing as much suffering as possible: are there any more rational considerations than these? As people give more thought to compassion they wade deeper into the mystic, as they begin to act more deeply in compassion, they begin to swim in the mystic waters. These waters belong to everyone who perceive and practice compassion.

My understanding of the God of Jesus is as a Spirit of love and compassion, expressed in Jesus’ directions to his followers to love God as loving each other and creation. I also believe that God is love and is manifest in our loving, in that when we love or experience love we experience God and are present with God in our loving. Then any consideration of love and compassion is to enable the mystic, and acts of love and compassion are to engage the mystic relationship between Spirit, self and creation. Here we then begin to move around within the mystic margins.

Regardless of the AP I’ve experienced as large things and small, they lead me to act on deep considerations I make regarding Jesus and his teachings, as central to my understanding, the center of my life with God and each other. Like Mary, I would “treasure all these words and ponder them in (my) heart,” so that as Paul wrote, “Christ may dwell in (our) hearts”.

Celtic Christianity holds a tradition of spirituality where we see God shining through the “thin places”, where we perceive God as not one removed from us, but here with us, around us and within us, “the one in whom we live and move and have our being”. Our ordinary daily lives are wrapped up in God. We live simultaneously in two worlds, physical and spiritual and like wet sand on the beach, the thin places are where the worlds touch and interact. At that point we may also realize that though we may not live in the ocean, we don’t actually live on the dry land we thought we did. We actually live in a gaseous sea of water vapor, the thin place that is our atmosphere. We are connected.

The mystic is a place at least of margins and the merging of me to all and all to me, a place of initiating relationships and the ever present pursuit of sustaining and deepening relationships. The mystic is the stubborn and dogged pursuit of love in all its presence and applications. Above all the mystic is being open. Be an open heart, an open mind, an open life. Be open, aware and vulnerable to the wonder and Mystery that is God and love. The Mystery is a means of grace, always present and waiting for us, to willingly engage it in our life and being, our love and relationships.

Come on down to the margin of sea and shore. Just get your feet wet, think about God, as love and think about what love really means to you, what it requires of you in your relationships with friends, family, strangers and even those who wish ill of you. Be open to the water’s invitation. See what happens in the beauty and abundance of these mysterious waters.