Month: May 2014

 

Daily Wonder 5-30-14

 John Scripture

Thought for the Day: Norm Spradlin’s memorial service is today at Allisonville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), pharmacy 7701 Allisonville Rd., unhealthy Indianapolis, Ind., 46250 at 11:00 am. Our hearts and prayers go out to Ginny and her family.

We’ve all experienced a terrible day such as this. While as Christians we understand death is simply the beginning of a new life, that understanding rarely makes it any easier for us to deal with the emotional and physical loss of a loved one in the here and now. Throughout scripture we find laments as people grieve their losses, but we also find incredible passages of hope for eternal life, and reunion with loved ones after death.

I deal with death by acknowledging, as both scripture and science indicate, that we are more than these physical beings that seem so finite and fragile. We are, ultimately, pure consciousness—the consciousness of God made physical. When we die, our consciousness jumps from one reality to another. As the fabric between realities is thinner than imagination, I know that those whom I have loved are truly still with me all the time, because time and space are merely illusions of the created world. In truth, there is only One being, of which we are all a multi-sensory part.

I know that my mom and dad, my grandparents, Norm, and all those whom any of us have ever lost, are still with us all the time, wherever we are, because the reality of reality is that consciousness can neither be created nor destroyed, only altered.

Prayer: I feel your presence with me, in the gentle breezes of summer, in the infinite light of the stars, and in the melodies of the songbirds. You are all and all are with me, forever. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-29-14

Scripture: 2 Peter 1:4
God made great and marvelous promises, check so that his nature would become part of us.

Thought for the Day: For many Christians, May 29th is observed as a special holiday celebrating the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Some churches (including ours) celebrate this holiday the following Sunday. However, most Protestant churches don’t celebrate the ascension, the transfiguration, and other Catholic holidays associated with the spiritual side of Jesus. I have found that many of the traditionally Catholic holidays add an air of mystery and hope to our faith. The ascension of Jesus is for me, the most powerful metaphor in scripture pointing to the truth and complexity of our being—more than physical, we are spiritual creatures. The ascension isn’t simply about Jesus as a one-time, one-and-only experience. The ascension points the way to our own true spiritual nature as well. As Christ ascends to God, so do we all.

It’s impossible to embrace religion without also embracing mystery. Being religious by definition means we believe in something we can’t wrap our intellectual selves around. Why do I believe in God? Because of experiences I simply cannot explain, and because without God, I don’t see that there’s really much hope in the world. Humans have shown time and again that we can’t solve our non-issues, blowing our differences out of proportion and blowing each other up along the way. My faith in God gives me hope that eventually, we will all ascend to a higher consciousness by realizing we are all dabs of paint on the canvas of reality, and that the picture is incomplete without all of us.

I read a great article recently by Fr. Robert Barron who wrote, “Ascension is the key that helps unlock the very meaning of our lives and the plan of God for the entire created order.” While I have some issues with the whole “God’s plan” thing, I do agree that the ascension of Jesus is a metaphor for the ultimate goal of every human—to ascend above the fractious, bloody fray, and live into our realized potential as holy, Christ-like beings.

Prayer: I pray to You, God of all being, for the ascension of humankind. Paint this world as a holy, loving, accepting, forgiving, peaceful, compassionate landscape. Impart every man, woman and child with recognition of their importance in this painting, and respect for each other’s colorful addition to this glorious canvas we call reality. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-28-14

Scripture: John 15:4
Remain in me, doctor as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Thought for the Day: By the time John’s gospel was being written, no rx the rift between Jews who followed Jesus and those who did not had grown untenable. The authors of John wanted to reassure the members of their community that holding firm to their understanding of Jesus and his teachings would bear spiritual fruit within and a change in the world beyond.

It’s also a reminder that while our spiritual discipline is an individual exercise, the journey of our soul is enhanced when accompanied by other seeking souls. By definition religion is a communal experience. We worship and learn from our faith community, and we work within the larger social community to affect loving change.

We can change the world for the better, but it’s a difficult job and all-to-easy to lose hope. If we are to be followers of Jesus, we simply must remember to remain true to his ideals by living as beings created in the image of God, imbued with the Spirit of love to carry on the hard work of Jesus, the anointed One.

A world full of hate will not be changed by hate; a world at war will not be changed by more war. Change only comes when we resist the systems and tools that keep us enslaved to a less than human experience. Change only comes when we accept help from God, who works through people like you and me, but just as often, works through people not anything like us.

Prayer: Make me an instrument of your peace, God of peace. Help me recognize that often you’re acting through people that society writes off. Help me awaken my society to your love, grace, forgiveness and compassion. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-23-14

Scripture: 1 Kings 4:29
God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.

Thought for the Day: It’s easy to write the Bible off as a quaint collection of stories by a primitive people, and certainly the world views in the Bible reflects the eras in which the stories were written. However, I think part of the reason the book has survived more than three millennia is because the stories also speak to timeless human ideals, qualities, and faults. For example, the Bible is full of stories about leaders, both excellent and tyrannical. Like so many characters in the Bible, Solomon is an idealized archetype who represents the responsibility God’s people expect (and deserve) in their leaders—whether king, president, or corporate CEO. For these ancient people who were awed by the power and beauty of God, the key to successful leadership was wisdom.

Wisdom in the Bible is both an intellectual and a spiritual pursuit. In fact, the wisest leaders all have a spiritual center, recognizing God as the source of their wisdom, and dedicating every action of their lives to God by justly serving God’s people. In scripture, the wisest leaders always work for the common good, and understand service as an honor. I think this is an ideal we need to revisit, and begin to demand from our contemporary leaders, all of whom have fallen miserably short in their responsibility to both God and God’s people.

Prayer: Where is the wisdom of Solomon, O God? Why have our hearts turned to stone? We beg You, move us back to a place where we serve each other. Compel us to realize that the only way to truly honor You is to take care of each other. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-22-14

Scripture: The Udana
Searching all directions ?with one’s awareness, buy viagra
one finds no one dearer ?than oneself.
In the same way,
others? are fiercely dear to themselves.
So one should not hurt others ?if one loves oneself.

Thought for the Day: We often talk about unconditional love as a trait offered to others. Christians use Jesus’ self-giving love to the point of crucifixion as an example of just how far we are called to go, but Christians also conveniently forget that Jesus could go to the cross (and not without protesting, by the way) because he loved himself so dearly that he loved others with equal affection. This comes from understanding that we are all aspects of God, equally loved and equally capable of loving.

We cannot love and accept others until we first love and accept ourselves. This isn’t about selfishness. Loving ourselves doesn’t mean we adopt an “I’ll get everything I want at the expense of others” mentality. Loving ourselves means we exhibit the compassion and respect we deserve as light beings of God. Then, once aware that we are indeed worthy beings, we can more readily and effectively extend the love of the universe to others.

We in the West have a serious problem with self-loathing. While the issue isn’t exclusive to us, it’s more prevalent here than in any other culture I’ve ever experienced. This self-loathing then emanates from us to others, the result being a culture of hatred, mistrust, and hoarding. We’re afraid of lack and limitation, even though every spiritual leader that’s ever existed, from Buddha through Jesus, has told us these are illusions caused by personal insecurities, which we then extend to the world and imprint on every other being. It is a false view of the world, like the mirror Paul suggests we see through darkly.

When Jesus tells us the kingdom of God is within (Luke 17:20), he’s saying the same thing as Buddha 500 years earlier: We are the keys to universal love. We are the dreamers, the hope-filled, the purveyors of universal, unconditional, all-inclusive love. That inclusiveness includes our own self-image made in the glory of God and led by Spirit to physically be the incredible lightness of being. We are made to be light to the world, but we cannot shine if we refuse to believe we’ve been ignited.

Prayer:
This is a traditional Buddhist metta (hymn of universal love)—you might want to repeat it over and over and over, 1000 times a day: 

May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
Namaste: the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you.

Daily Wonder 5-21-14

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:5b–6.
We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, sales let us not be like others, medicine who are asleep, ask but let us be awake and sober.

Thought for the Day: For the past week or so I’ve been focusing on the darker side of life. I suppose I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the constant stream of bad news—kidnapped schoolgirls, explosions, spying, hostile land grabs by dishonest empires, corporate abuses, and by my own frustrations with systemic sin of every kind. Yeah, I said the sin word. I avoid it because of its moralistic misuse, but the evils we commit against one another are simply sinful. They are an abuse of this glorious gift of life—this gift from God. When we kidnap another human or blow up a school, or trample on the sovereignty of another people, we’re abusing God’s very being.

Life is meant to be lightly lived, but sometimes I lose the light that I know is surrounding me, infusing me, creating and recreating me. Instead, I feel entrenched in a thick syrupy darkness. I lose the lightness of being. Bombarded by bad news, I lose hope. The human race is asleep, unaware of what we are and unwilling to believe we’re more than we appear. We look at each other as competitors for limited resources, when in fact we are all the physical manifestation of God, living in a world without limits. The problem is not a lack of resources, the problem is in the way we fail to consider each other’s importance based on our birthright as children of God. We see physical or religious or ideological differences and never consider that perhaps, as a single species, we might have more in common than we’re allowing ourselves to admit.

We are all called to be children of light, not of darkness. We are born to spread the incredible news that God loves all of us equally, and that we are created in God’s image as purveyors of that love. Yet we constantly fall into the darkness, fighting against each other (which is the same as fighting against God). We fight against the changes our global socio-economic system needs if this world is going to reflect the light of God rather than the darkness of evil. We fail to live up to the rebellious standard set by Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and others—a difficult standard, yes, but required if we are truly to call ourselves enlightened.

We can changethe world. All that’s needed is to join hands with our brothers and sisters around the world, of every ethnicity and religion, and understand we, though many, are actually One. We need to hold hands as we walk out of the cave of despair and enter the bright light of a new day lived in God’s world of peace, justice, equality and love. We can do it. The first step is actually giving it a try.

Prayer: Rekindle my hope in You, God of loving change, so that when the light of day grows dim, I will become the light my family of humankind needs to leave our darkness behind. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-20-14

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:20-21
Timothy, shop guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all.

Thought for the Day: Christianity is (and always has been) a multi-faceted religion. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Christianity is a branch of Judaism, which always encouraged creative, outside-the-box thinking (unless it could potentially bring down the wrath of an empire and the destruction of an entire civilization, as was the case with Jesus’ not-so-thinly-veiled rants against the Romans). Education and lifelong learning are part of the very fabric of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Yet passages such as the one above, written to a group of people who were turning away from the mystery religions of the Roman Empire and to the monotheistic teachings of Jesus and Paul, have been used in the modern era as excuses against secular education, especially science. The instruction Paul gives here is not to close our minds to knowledge in general—say, the teaching of evolution or a heliocentric universe, or a 4.5 billion year old planet. This instruction was instead specifically about not mixing the ideas from the ancient polytheistic religions with monotheism. It’s a religious education instruction, and it’s largely about Paul teaching Judaism to a group of Gentiles. It is not in any way, shape or form an admonishment against learning in general.

Knowledge is never a bad thing. It’s the only way we can discern the difference between fact and fiction, and without knowledge we never would have started imagining our relationship with God in the first place. I believe the more we learn about the natural and quantum worlds, the more we learn about God, and ultimately, the more we learn about ourselves. There is no reason to shut off our brains simply because we’re religious. In fact, because we are religious, we should encourage each other to learn as much as possible about everything, because absolutely everything has a clue about our relationship with God locked within.

It’s not knowledge we need to reject these days. It’s fear of knowledge, because those who oppose real education know that education liberates enslaved minds. And those who enslave—from Boko Haram to Nike, don’t want that sort of liberation in any way, shape or form.

Prayer: Help us realize, God of all knowledge, that learning is a good thing that leads us always closer to you. Open our minds to the reality of this ancient universe, as old as You, part of You, every molecule a revelation, every star an inspiration, every brain cell a gift through which we discover Your love, generosity, and liberating intelligence. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-19-14

Scripture: John 4:24
“God is spirit, see and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Thought for the Day: Last week I wrote about the original meaning of satan as general adversity. Apparently, order around the same time there was an article in the newspaper about Pope Francis, shop who believes in Satan as a physical evil overlord (thanks Robert, for that simultaneously fascinating and disturbing article). My problem with embodying either God or Satan physically is the implication: this makes them at least some sort of super-being puppet masters, or worse, some sort of alien overlord puppet masters. Now, with the latter I could easily get a show on H2, which might as well be called “The Fictitious Alien History of Earth Channel.” With the former, I could write for Marvel. Either way, I’m writing fiction.

Getting caught up in discussions about the nature of good and evil is immaterial (pun intended). Embodying God and Satan in some sort of physicality misses the mystical point of these archetypes as traits shared by all human beings. Every human on the planet knows the difference between right (represented by the God archetype, and later by the Jesus archetype) and wrong (Satan). We choose whether or not to be decent or selfish human beings. We choose to cherish or destroy life. We choose to be accepting of our differences or intolerant of anyone who isn’t “just like us.” We’re either decent human beings or not, and the responsibility for our decisions lies firmly on our shoulders, not on Satan’s or God’s. This is the idea behind free will, after all. The fact so many of us continue to choose evil is disappointing, but I can’t blame it on Satan or our fallen nature or any of the other excuses religion has invented. Human nature is evolving like everything else in the universe. I just hope we evolve to a more loving state of being before we wipe each other out of existence, and blame that on Satan too.

Prayer: I believe in God as a pure, loving energy out of which everything that seems real is created. Remind me, Loving One, that the only war between good and evil going on is within my own consciousness. Help me always choose good and resist anything that abuses my own or any other soul. Help me change the hearts of the very human powers of this world who abuse, enslave, and kill, so they too might come to know the Universal Love that is their birthright. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-14-14

Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 

Thought for the Day: Anytime I hear someone talking about “the devil” I immediately imagine Flip Wilson and his favorite catch phrase, “The devil made me do it!”. The link will take you to one of Flip’s early performances on Ed Sullivan. It’s brilliant on many levels, but perhaps especially because it so blatantly exposes two human tendencies: to simply role over when we’re confronted by an adversarial situation, and to blame someone else for our own poor choices.

The Devil wasn’t always a scapegoat though. Although all ancient religions had demons, they were typically the former gods of an overthrown civilization (Baal, for example, goes from being the most powerful being in the Babylonian cosmos, to the devil in the Jewish cosmogony). For early Jews, satan in that context meant an “adversary” of any type—not just “the devil,” and most of the time they were speaking about a corrupt system of some sort, whether political or religious.

By Paul’s time, the idea of  “the devil” (lower case) was being replaced by the idea of “The Devil” (uppercase). This was more than a grammatical transition. This was a change in concept from the idea of the satan as an adversarial archetype, to the idea of Satan as a creature.

Whether you think of the satan as representing general adversity, or Satan as an evil puppet master, our response is supposed to be the same. We’re never to roll over and simply let the devil do what the devil will. We are never to let corruption force us to recoil in fear (for that is exactly what the corrupters want). Instead, we are supposed to face corruption with the integrity of God.

We are not helpless against the devil, and in fact, we are designed to respond to the devil with integrity. We are made to stand up for our rights and the rights of every child of God. And by the way, I shouldn’t have to say this, but “every child of God” means every human on the planet, regardless of creed, color, gender, gender identity, belief system or lack thereof, sexual preference, or anything else we claim to make “us” okay and “them” not okay. The real devil is in our belief that some of us are beloved of God and others are not.

We’re all in this together. Our differences are created by us. But we’re killing our planet and each other. We are faced with the great satan, and need to double down against the devils of slavery, oppression, injustice, corruption, selfishness, greed, hate, ignorance and envy as systematic ideals. We all need to find faith in something more equitable and love-filled, whether that’s religious faith or not. Have faith in God or have faith in yourself or have faith in humanity or better yet, have faith in all of those.

I’m not superstitious. I don’t think Satan (upper case) makes me do anything. When I mess up, I know I’ve done it to myself. “The Devil” didn’t make me do it. But I’d be an idiot if I didn’t look around the world and see how miserable we’ve made it, and while it would be all too easy to blame The Devil, somehow knowing we’ve done it to ourselves? That makes it even worse.

Prayer: Righteous God, Don’t let me off the hook. Compel me to face adversity in all its’ deplorable forms. Speak through me as a voice of compassion, move me as a force for human unity, and remind me that the only real response to adversity is love. Amen.

Daily Wonder 5-13-14

Scripture: Ruth 1:12a
Return home, try my daughters.

Thought for the Day: More than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls are still missing. The girls were taken in part because they dared to seek an education. Perhaps if the abductors were a little more educated, they wouldn’t have perpetrated this heinous crime in the first place.

Yesterday, the United Methodist Church (which has a long history of liberation work in Nigeria) sent this heart-breaking prayer request around the ‘net. Please share it with your friends as we continue to keep all these and all at-risk children in our hearts and prayers.

Prayer:
Loving God, you created each of us in your image — girls and boys.
You gave us eyes to see the beauty in each other and in all of creation.
You gave us ears to hear the stories of our elders.
You gave us minds to create and heal.
You gave us arms to embrace and comfort each other.
You gave us legs to play, dance and explore new and familiar places.
You gave us imagination to see what others cannot see.
You grieve the violence and deprivation facing the missing girls in Nigeria and around the world.

Comfort them in their fear, torn away from their school and families.
Sustain the families who grieve the loss of their daughters.
Transform the hearts of those who dishonor your beloved children.

God of hope,
give us strength to be vessels of peace and hope.
Give us courage to end hate and free the oppressed.
Give us wisdom to nurture the sacred worth of girls in all that we do.
In the name of Jesus the Liberator,
Amen.