Monday, May 2, 2016

Uncomfortable Questions

The Mystery within...
It was refreshing for me to hear Patty Griffin tell how her patriarchal prejudices as a former Catholic were challenged with her singing of old gospel songs in her music video, “The Making of a Downtown Church.”  Her honesty brought my disquiet, my prejudice, with religious language out in the open.  I am grateful for its exposure.  Now I can ask the uncomfortable questions in how to ameliorate my prejudice.

In “God Never Hurries” I wrote:

"My fourth unit of Clinical Pastoral Experience helped make leaving a natural, easy step. What I learned so well in that unit was to respect where other people are in their relationship to God and their belief system. I knew then I could leave and respect those who chose to stay. That made it easier. Years of deep-seated resentments evaporated when I walked away—a welcome blessing. I knew work in pastoral care would go nowhere unless I adopted a religious affiliation, which I have chosen not to do. I told my fellow students that I would only work as a chaplain if I could claim an ecumenical affiliation. It was suggested I create one."

So much of the language of today’s Christianity is exclusionary that I find myself not even using the name of Jesus who was the total opposite of exclusionary.  So much goodness is overlooked within prejudice.

What if we all questioned our prejudices? 

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Writer's Duty

The Mystery within...
A National Public Radio program guest caught my ear on a “To the Best of Our Knowledge” broadcast titled "Depolarize Now!"   Elif Shafak, a Turkish writer, was one of four guests speaking on depolarizing.  Shafak highlighted the value of story telling in exposing people to the differences of others non-judgmentally, thereby helping to bring different people together.  She said it is a writer’s duty to ask questions but not provide answers.  It is up to our readers to answer the questions for themselves and ultimately lead each one of us to ask uncomfortable questions of ourselves.  She spoke of a cultural evolution in progress that invites us to empathy and understanding of the other.

The broadcast got me excited about a project I want to start soon--to list all the “What if…” questions that end each God Never Hurries post for the last three years by title and subject matter.  I then want to weave these posts together to create more questions we can ask ourselves that will bring us to more empathy, understanding and compassion for the other. 

What if we all learned how to ask uncomfortable questions of ourselves?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Goodness Within

The Mystery within...
During times of extreme stress or difficulty I have occasionally experienced a Caring Presence within--separate from myself—but yet a part of me.  Recently I have experienced something similar that I would call a brief invitation to a good cry.  It was fleeting but a comfort to know a good cry is within if I need it.

In a more distant past I am now recalling when the Goodness Within brought life giving acceptance and forgiveness of another when I felt overwhelmed with rejection.  I was having a hard time just functioning so I sat down and did some deep diaphragmatic breathing while saying a prayer I adapted from a former yoga class.

Lord, keep me protected.
Nourish and guide me in my life.
May I help create vitality among one another.
May there be no enmity among us.

When I got to the line, "May there be no enmity among us," my overwhelming feeling of rejection was replaced with a blessed sense of acceptance and forgiveness of the other.  It was a life changing moment that became a catalyst for changes I needed to make in how I lived my life.  Those changes allowed me to tell the tale of other life changing encounters with the Goodness Within in "God Never Hurries." 

From "God Never Hurries:"

"Be not afraid."

"Justice will be kind it will be done over a period of time."

"I hold your hand and all of you, know that we are one."

"Your father will forgive you."

What if we all trusted the Goodness Within to guide us through life changing encounters? 

Monday, April 11, 2016

No Control

The Mystery within...
Serious illness has recently revisited those I care most about and reminded me that I really have no control over what happens to another.  Accepting that fact has taken some of the edge off my angst.  I can pray for the return of health, make chicken soup, be available to help, and offer suggestions.  But I really have no control in the outcome.  Acceptance of that fact feels like grace.

I was grateful for my rain gear and rubber boots as my yellow lab Oliver and I took a break to walk to the woods in a gentle rain.  There, bright green moss covering some rocks is the first color to return to end winter's subdued landscape.  Upon closer inspection, tiny green shoots of new life are beginning to poke through the brown wet carpet of last year's leaves.   And I felt graced again when I realized that this simple pleasure is all I really need in my life to feel complete.

What if relinquishing all control is the way to peace?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Snippets of Wisdom

The Mystery within...
I have a friend who is active in the Black Lives Matter movement who also helps me navigate the world of electronics.  I envied the training she recently attended for her social justice work.  So each time we've met since, I've asked her to share one snippet from her social justice training.

- Stay spiritually nourished was the first snippet.

- Practice good self-care was the second.

- Look for beauty in the world was the third.

Then this past Saturday I attended a mini workshop with Marianne Helm, "Two Perspectives on One Life Lived," presented through stories aimed at making us wise.  Each story was told twice around one set of facts.  The first telling had the protagonist react positively to the given facts; then it was retold but had the protagonist reacting negatively to the same facts.  The positive or negative energy generated from the two versions of each story was astounding.  To reinforce this in our own lives we wrote our own positive and negative reaction story to facts in our previous day.  I left the workshop with a deep knowing that my attitude creates my reality and also has a ripple effect on others.  Even if bad things happen, when I take a closer look, something good can come out of everything. True happiness is within my control for it originates in my mind and heart.

And today as I sat in a waiting room there was a free publication titled "natural awakenings" on a small table next to my elbow.  "Wise words" caught my eye and when I picked it up and turned to the page indicated I found "Bruce Lipton on the Epigenetics Revolution—Our Beliefs Reprogram Our Genetic Destiny" written by Linda Sechrist.  Lipton, a stem cell biologist, is an internationally recognized leader in bridging science and spirit.  Epigenetics (epi meaning above) is a revolution in our knowledge and awareness of heredity.  A few astounding snippets from Sechrist's article:

- Changing our lifestyle, beliefs and perceptions also changes our genetic expression.

- Our perceptions and the way we live, including our spiritual nature, adjusts our genes to manifest either a functional or dysfunctional state of health.

- As more of us hold the intention for living a life of love and peace, the broadcast of that harmonic energy amplifies and those not yet there will eventually entrain to the stronger signal.  This is the shift we need to make for conscious evolution to occur.

- We can't die because our real identity is represented by the invisible environment-derived broadcast, which might be referred to as spirit. 

All of the above reminds me of my November 23, 2015 post Reflecting on Instability and the priest, paleontologist and mystic Teilhard de Chardin.

What if science shows us changing our own individual actions can save the world?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Invite Positive Change

The Mystery within...
If you were in the wrong would you rather be admonished or invited to change?  If good religion is sourced in love, compassion and tolerance wouldn't it also be inviting?  If all is sacred, why exclude?  If non-violence creates spiritual healing, wouldn't we all want to become more inclusive and peaceful?  Could the exclusionary hierarchy of patriarchy find peace and healing in promoting diversity among its ranks?  I'm not at all sure. 

Barbara Brown Taylor, a former Episcopal pastor who left her position to teach theology, summarized so beautifully in her book "Leaving Church" what religion needs today:  "We needed a different way of being together before God, shaped more like a circle than pyramid.  We needed to ditch the sheep paradigm.  We needed to take turns filling in for Jesus, understanding that none of us was equal to the task to which all of us had been called.  We needed to share the power."  And she asks this great question, "…might it be time for people of good faith to allow that God's map is vast, with room on it for both a center and an edge?  While the center may be the place where the stories are preserved, the edge is the place where the best of them happen."

Nathan Schneider—The Wisdom of Millennials was a Krista Tippet's On Being guest.  He remarked institutions will always fail us but are necessary and important only if they are willing to change and grow.  He saw the prospect of positive change in the Nones, those claiming no religious affiliation yet many striving to lead a good life.  Though I am considerably older than the Millennials Schneider was talking about, my leaving church has infused me with a blessed freedom.  I have broadened my spirituality through exploring a variety of spiritual practices that have helped me grow.  Will today's Nones be a force for future positive change in religion?  Only time will tell.

What if we trusted God will eventually draw positive growth from the changes happening today?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Share Your Beliefs

The Mystery within...
I was exposed to some good diversity training in my former work life with the USDA Forest Service as managers worked to comply with Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.  In addition to adding and advancing minorities and females in the workforce, the Forest Service was also coming to terms with the importance of biological diversity in natural resource management.  Just as biological diversity is the hallmark of a healthy ecosystem, a symbiotic relationship among diverse people can create a vibrant workforce.  I believe the same holds true for spiritual growth since I understand spirituality as a profound sense of belonging to one another and the earth. 

In "God Never Hurries I wrote:" I continue my spiritual journey ecumenically seeking truth from a variety of formal belief systems and non-religious sources. I enjoy Native American ceremony and teachings; and attendance at a local nature center that offers a wide variety of presenters, with discussion, under the broad title, “The Spiritual World of Nature.” I partake in a monthly ecumenical Christian service, and a catholic discussion group called Wisdom Seekers led by a spiritually in touch priest. I’ve learned to pray with my body through Yoga. I’ve done classes and retreats presenting Buddhism and Hindu beliefs, and have enjoyed group Kirtan sing fests. I’m in two book clubs and delight in finding the spiritual through many different authors’ creativity. And I just continue to look for and find God everywhere.

I gratefully accepted the loan of a PBS video titled "Beyond Our Differences" featuring prominent spiritual leaders from around the world.  For me the video highlights were:  roots of good religion are sourced in love, compassion and tolerance--quests for certainty are dangerous; there are different approaches to the same goal—to create good human beings; everybody and every thing is forgivable; God is found in the heart and where people come together; surrendering to anger and hatred is violence against yourself; non-violence creates spiritual healing; we are to help people understand each other; authentic spirituality is working with the excluded and abandoned; all is sacred; inalienable rights belong to everyone and everything; surrendering to the Mystery will reveal your purpose; it is most important to be brave; a recipe for peace is for everyone to contribute a small part; when you become peaceful your life is different; appreciate and celebrate diversity; share each others gifts.   

What if we all shared our beliefs while honoring everyone and everything's inalienable rights?