A Hole That Might Just Not Get Filled

July 31st, 2015

Self Esteem is a hole that might just not get filled.  Ever.

We continue to dump more and more into it.  But the “bottom is out of the bucket” so to speak.  Lot of filling but no filling at the same time.

I think these words by Father Richard Rohr however offer a critical shift….

John of the Cross [author of "The Dark Night of the Soul] understood the true meaning of humility, which is not self-deprecation or low self-esteem, but a simple acknowledgment that I am very small, quickly passing, and insignificant as a separate self. That is just objective truth. Our dignity and sacredness precisely comes from our connection. With this deep and experienced and inherent connection, John was free to rest in a union that could not be taken from him.

So we find self esteem far differently than how we imagined.  We find it through connection.  Through connection with God and others, connections through which we find our true selves.  And a miracle – that kind of “finding” comes because we are not actually looking any more!  The self esteem question now asleep.  We are too busy joyously connecting to give the question time anymore.   And we know this: “The Lord is present with you the moment you start to love the neighbor.” (Secrets of Heaven 904)

 


Falling In Love With Being Hurt

July 28th, 2015

Very easy to wake every morning with an agenda that starts with problem and moves to complaint.  We appear, as one author noted, “to belong to a generation that seems deeply hurt.”

The hurt births a cynicism, “a doomed and distrustful worldview.”

This cynicism is not just relegated to those without a religion or faith but to those in churches as well.

How about this … Stop it!  And join. Jump in.  Begin a day not with problem and complaint.  Start with intent.  A loving intent.  And watch the world bloom.

We have to be willing to open ourselves up and to believe in something bigger than ourselves in order to go somewhere. We need to be convinced that there are things worth knowing so that we can cultivate the spirit, energy, and drive needed to follow that journey. We have to be willing to listen to, and be inspired by, the teachings of our elders and the learning of a thousand generations of humanity. We have to trust, even though we are the internet generation with much of the knowledge of the world at our fingertips, that we are not so clever that we can snub our collective noses at the great anthology of human experience. That takes intelligence, yes, but also trust, belief and sometimes even blind faith. (Mohammed Fairouz)

Radical Hospitality is Based on ONE thing….

July 24th, 2015

Radical hospitality is based on one thing, one question….

How interrupt-able is your life?

 

 

The Search For Moral Purity And Who We Would Invite Over For Coffee

July 23rd, 2015

We all search for a moral purity shaped around our own often limited view of the world and its functioning.  Conservatives and Liberals share that search.

Dr. Richard Beck pointed out where the spiritual search for purity runs amiss in both camps.

Conservatives, he holds, host a tendancy to “circle the wagons.”  To practice the art of expulsion.

Liberals tend, on the other hand, to pursue a righteousness and purity of cause to an extreme that frankly frightens others.  An “aboveness” and “otherness” that disconnects.

Both are driven by the impossible pursuit of moral purity.

Is such purity possible?  No.

From a New Church perspective being human is to always be a mixed bag of greatness and flaw. We get better. We improve. We press our weaknesses, with God’s help, more and more out from the center of our being and more out into the perifery but those weaknesses remain.

And possible there is even a blessing to be found in that place.

As Anne Lamott shared, there maybe, out there, the morally pure.  But she sure sure wouldn’t want to have them over for coffee!

Psalm 8

LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

in the heavens.

Through the praise of children and infants

you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

You have made themfn a little lower than the angels

and crowned them with glory and honor.

You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

you put everything under their feet:

all flocks and herds,

and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky,

and the fish in the sea,

all that swim the paths of the seas.

 LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Bill Cosby

July 22nd, 2015

For many of us in the Philadelphia area I would imagine the recent revelations regarding Bill Cosby are beyond disappointmenting. For a man known as a cultural icon of family values to instead be exposed as a sexual predator is a disjuncture of epic proportions.

And there are lessons here as well.  We live largely in an honor-shame culture.  Those public personalities we love and celebrate quickly become those we loath and detest.  An either-or proposition.  A flip of the switch.

There is a place for outrage and necessary accountability.  And there is a place as well for compassion.  Compassion for all.  Compassion that starts with the victims.  Compassion for the man.  Compassion for his family.

Compassion can grow from a simple starting point …. There is sin.  And sin grows out of all too human compulsions to find self satisification at the expense of others.  Sin harms and what Bill Cosby did in drugging and seducing young women was sinful, as dated as that word may sound.

And I harbor a sense – not well articulated – that the honor-shame dichotomy somehow draws us away from the deep looking that would allow us to address sin in more meaningful ways.   The honor-shame dichotomy places the problem “out there.’  It creates a form of distracting entertainment.  And yet in that public flogging there isn’t engagement.  No engagement with the problem or problems.   Just blood sport.  Just a Roman Colosseum-esque thumbs up or thumbs down.

Christ stopped the mob gathered to stone the woman caught in adultery with the words, “Let him without sin cast the first stone.”  Christ stopped her as well with the words, “Go and sin no more.”   I don’t know how exactly that fits with Bill Cosby’s story.   What I do wonder is if there aren’t ways to host deeper conversations, like what Christ did here, around issues of sexuality that maybe help us help outselves.  Help us as a culture. Help us help our children.

 

Offering a Foundational Yes

July 11th, 2015

Spirituality presents us with two possible starting points.

The first is the starting point of creation, a creation in which God invoked original blessing seven times … “and it was good”, a statement that eventually became it … “was very good.”

The second is the starting point of original collapse, original sin.  In the Biblical narrative, that staring point comes to Adam and Eve being sent from the Garden Eden.  Banished from paradice for sin.

Richard Rohr writes extensively on this topic.  And this topic is critical to our basic understanding of spirit.  The punch line … we must start, as God appears to, with original blessing, an original “yes”, a “yes” that grows through all time.

What does that “yes” say?

  1. The world is ok
  2. The universe is for us and on our side
  3. We are not alone.  God is with us. We are not the doer
  4. A foundational trust that it is going to be ok because God is good which creates an openness of mind. heart, and and body
  5. If God is good then I carry an inherent – an in-here – dignity in myself as do all others
In a practical sense, that means waking not with problem but with promise.  Not with blame but with gratitude.
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And of course that is the context of New Church theology as well, a theology that holds that our inmost “spark” was created, formed, and remains for all time in the Divine, actually in the highest forms of love embedded in heaven.  We will wander and fall.  But the original blessing, nurtured for all time by God, remains.
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Beautiful stuff.
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Join me in saying “yes” to the day!
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The Connectedness of All Things

July 9th, 2015

A beautiful vision for the world is the ancient Christian image of a Grand Human.

 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4)

Emanuel Swedenborg expanded on that idea, noting how all of heaven could be pictured that way. In Heaven, he held, “mutual love makes all angels into something like a single human being.”  (Secrets of Heaven 1013).  Beautiful.

That connectedness is so much what we struggle for in Christianity. It requires what Dorothy called a “gesture upward” to the poor and suffering.

And any struggle “for” will be accompanied by a struggle “with.”  That struggle “with” is born of our never ceasing endeavor to critique vs. serve.

I wonder more and more if we can only give energy to one or the other. Restated, we can either spend our life’s energy on “critique” or “service.” And obviously my “vote” is for “serve!”  (Movie fact … the critic in the hit movie Ratatouille was named “Ego.”  That should make us giggle.)

Find your “little Calcutta” as Mother Theresa put it, and serve there.  Find a “church”, however that may look for you, that supports that journey.  And a church that joins together in a community that hopefully – and paradoxically – helps you be more than just you.  That pulls you sacrificially outward into a broader universe of meaning.  Not by judging “worthiness.”  But by a candid acknowledgement that we all are pretty darn broken and we need one another and God.

The connectedness of all things.

What I know about the Declaration of Independence

July 3rd, 2015

A different document than most of think…

  1. Written after the Revolutionary War had started, after the battles of Lexington and Concord
  2. The word “property” was replaced by “and the pursuit of happiness”
  3. The Declaration or Independence originally referenced slavery as an afront: “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”  The passage was tragically deleted.
  4. The Declaration of Independence was not a strategic plan.  It did not give rise to the Constitution which came many years later.  We started fighting, declared our independence, and slowly came to form the type of government we have today.
Why does this all matter?
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Because I believe freedom on the natural or on the spiritual plane ….
  1. Takes us on a long, tumultous  journey
  2. Is critical so we must “proclaim it” over and over again.
  3. Is arduous so must be willing to work in the hardness that it takes to live it
We tend to see freedom as finally being free from all shackles.  But much of freedom is actually taking those same hands, now unfettered, and putting them “to the plough” as the Bible would say.  ”Freedom from” moves then eloquently to the more workmanlike notion of “Freedom to”, a place where freedom and discipline go hand-in-lifegiving-hand.  Freedom is hard work.  Blessed.  And hard.
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Happy 4th of July!!!
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A Watershed Decision

June 26th, 2015

Today will be a day writen of in history books as the Supreme Court affirmed the right for same-sex marriage.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy wrote….

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were….. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

How will this decision be received?  By some it will be regarded as yet another sign of a land increasingly untethered from any moral bearings. For others it will be a cause to celebrate.

Many religious, driven by fear over others reactions, will understandably not speak to it one way or another.

But yet I think it prudent to speak.

Marriage is sacred.  And marriage between one man and one woman has long been held, very understandbly, as a core compact upon which healthy society rests.  New Church theology clearly and beautifully holds to that.

And we live in changing times. The reasoning behind this decision deserves our open attention because it is a reasoning based on thoughtfulness and compassion.

So maybe what we are called to is balance, a balance that see both, sees the clear Biblical teachings that hold that marriage is between one man and one woman. And clear canonical teachings as well that thought and truth, centered on love, evolve.  They unfold.

… whenever a doctrinal teaching rises out of a life of thoughtfulness it is the kind of teaching that belongs to faith. …. Anyone who lives a life of love for others knows everything there is to know about faith. Secrets of Heaven 1798

My hope is that denominations then that seek to hold to what they see as sacred truth and in so doing do not perform single-sex weddings can hold to that truth as they see it. And my hope is that denominations that seek to live into a more expansive view of marriage and family can do that as well.

There actually is room for both perspectives.  Room for considered, kind dialog between the camps.  This IS the law of the land now.  The legality is settled.  And to allow it to become one more issue over which divisiveness reigns would be unfortunate in a time that so badly calls for a considered sense of God’s life and love, a life and love that we all share.

Talking with Angels?

June 25th, 2015
Abraham Lincoln, with the Civil War looming, offered these words in his first innagural address…
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”.
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One must love his phrase … “touched … by the better angels of our nature.”
Emanuel Swedenborg wrote about that “touching” by the better angels of our nature.  For him, he found that connectivity centered in three “standards” he wrote of in “Secrets of Heaven” 1680.
    1. Offering our best intentions towards others

    2. Thinking only good thoughts about others

    3. Doing good things for others whenever we can
He believed that these “standards” connected us with angels.  With heaven. Live that way right.  Live that way and we experience heaven on earth, and we talk with angels not with human words but a love born of care.
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