Month: September 2014
I Hear You
Dara: I’m very fortunate – my four kids like much of the music I like. I don’t know how many families have sing-a-longs in the car to such diverse hits as “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Eye of the Tiger”! We listen to classic rock, oldies, really really oldies, folk, and blues, and my kids can keep up with nearly every tune I love.
They have their own musical tastes, too, though – and they want to share them with me. We are a family that wants to share our sorrows and our joys with each other, and music, for us, is all joy. My son recently said to me, “Mom, I want you to look up a song by Listener, called ‘Wooden Heart’”. He told me it was unique, a combination of spoken word and music.
What it actually was, was a man with a gritty voice, speaking with a particular meter and intensity that was hard for me to listen to, overlaid by disproportionately loud strains of plaintive guitar. It wasn’t really my style. It set my teeth on edge a little. But I did listen, because my son wanted me to. And behind the gritty, intense vocal performance I heard words that rocked me to my core:
Nik: We’re all born to broken people on their most honest day of living
and since that first breath,
we’ll need grace that we’ve never given.
And my dreams are sails that I point towards my true north,
stretched thin over my rib bones,
and pray that it gets better
but it won’t,
at least I don’t believe it will.
So I’ve built a wooden heart inside this iron ship,
to sail these blood red seas and find your coasts.
Don’t let these waves wash away your hopes,
this war-ship is sinking,
and I still believe in anchors
pulling fist-fulls of rotten wood from my heart.
I still believe in saviors,
but I know that we are all made out of shipwrecks,
every single board
washed and bound
like crooked teeth on these rocky shores.
So come on and let’s wash each other
with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves
and run up on this beach.
Come on and sew us together,
tattered rags stained forever.
I am the barely living son of a woman and man who barely made it,
but we’re making it,
taped together on borrowed crutches and new starts—
we all have the same holes in our hearts.
And my hopes are weapons that I’m still learning how to use right
but they’re heavy and I’m awkward—always running out of fight
so I’ve carved a wooden heart,
put it in this sinking ship hoping it would help me float
for just a few more weeks,
because I am made out of shipwrecks,
every twisted beam lost and found
like you and me,
scattered out on the sea
I wear this tide like loose skin, rock me to sea
if we hold on tight we’ll hold each other together
and not just be some fools rushing to die in our sleep.
All these machines will rust I promise,
but we’ll still be electric,
shocking each other back to life,
Your hand in mine,
my fingers in your veins connected,
our bones grown together inside
grown stronger in time.
Because our church is made out of shipwrecks
from every hull these rocks have claimed
but we pick ourselves up,
and try and grow better through the change.
So come on y’all and let’s wash each other
with tears of joy and tears of grief,
and fold our lives like crashing waves
and run upon this beach.
come on and sew us together,
we’re just tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember
Dara: Wow, right?! I came home and looked up the lyrics and read them again and again. And it really got me to thinking – someone was speaking truth to me, but it was presented in a way not familiar to me, so I very nearly didn’t even listen. If you won’t listen, you’ll never hear, and we all need so desperately to be heard, don’t we? We need someone to hear not only what we are saying with our mouths, but the larger truths we’re speaking from deep inside.
One of my family members with dementia says to me, “Do I give a donation today?” She says it every day. Every. Day. It’s easy to hear that literally and respond literally – “No, it isn’t church day today. We go to church on Sunday.” It’s harder to hear the truth behind it, “I want to give what I have. How can I help?”
A friend says in her voice message, “Hey, sorry I missed you. Give me a call whenever. No big deal.” In the tone of her voice I can hear, “I need to connect. I need you. Please help.”
Jesus also asks us to listen carefully and hear the truth. He often taught in parables, and asked the listeners to look deeper for meaning and truth – “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” – this phrase appears over and over in the Gospels, connected with hearing truth that is hidden within the words spoken. The Message translation says it this way, “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
And the truth needs to be heard, whether it’s cloaked in King James language, or a heavy accent, or buried behind gritty vocals and a sad guitar, or whispered by a child, or shouted by someone who doesn’t think like you do, or whether you find it, unexpectedly written large on your own God-inhabited heart in quiet moments alone. You’ll have to do a lot of listening to hear the truth. And when you listen, you will have to listen hard. You will have to listen with your heart.
God of everything seen and unseen, discount
You fill our hearts with love
and our souls with joy.
You make us want to shout praises in Your name
from the highest mountain tops, recipe
so all the world might hear and know of
Your compassion, site
Your inventive nature,
Your playful creativity,
and the infinite nearness of Your love.
We come now in silent reverence
to feel the nearness of You.
[pause for silent meditation]
Yet while we so want the world
to know You more intimately,
we must also remember that
in order for us to exalt Your name,
we first have to listen for and hear Your voice.
We just need to be still and quiet now and then.
In fact, we need to be still and quiet more often.
We live in a noisy world,
with products and pitchmen
and ads tempting us with
shiny new objects
all vying for our attention.
Our instinct is to shout louder,
to pitch You and Your merciful love
over and against
the materialism of our age.
But this just causes us to fall
into lockstep with the product pitchmen,
and causes anyone who might listen for Your voice
to shut us out,
shut You out,
shut Your message out,
just as quickly as they change channels
from one commercial to another.
You can never be a commercial,
Wondrous and wonderful God of all creation!
You are more than a product to sell to others.
You are the life-force of the universe,
the consciousness of our very existence,
the conscience of our humanity—
and You deserve more respect
than to be treated like just another product
sitting on the shelf,
in between the ice cream and the iPhone.
We beg Your forgiveness
for treating You like a commodity,
and come to you now in silent reverence.
[pause for silent meditation]
We send You our joys and concerns silently,
listening for Your voice.
We don’t need to tell You what we need.
By listening and connecting,
our thoughts become Your thoughts,
our hopes become Your hopes,
our loved ones come under Your care.
We pray only to connect with Your presence,
and we pray in silent reverence.
Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
Thought for the Day: I’ve always found this to be an interesting story. I doubt the word of the Lord was rare. God is constantly speaking; one need only look around the world to hear God’s beautiful voice in the wonder of nature. God speaks through the stars, patient through the formation of galaxies, case through a bee gathering honey and a blade of grass wet with morning dew. God is revealed in the small courtesies of strangers. God is constantly speaking.
The problem is that, generic like Samuel in this story, we’re not actively listening. We don’t genuinely expect to hear God speak to us—that’s something reserved for Moses or Jesus or Mohammed! This is a dangerous misperception, and it’s also somewhat of a cop-out. If the voice of God is only reserved for “special” people, then my responsibility to God (and through God to the world) is alleviated. We think, “I’m not special, why would God want to talk to me?” and we breathe a sigh of relief, because who needs the responsibility of a Noah or a Buddha? We might actually be a little afraid to listen for God, because deep down we know it will change our lives forever.
Our hearing problem has been exacerbated by the progress of science and technology. It’s hard to believe in an underlying consciousness to reality, much less believe that conscious presence might want to communicate with us, when we understand creation on a sub-molecular level. But that’s because religions still portray God on a macro, rather than micro-level. God is out there doing things. Yet the science of Quantum Physics itself seems to be a communication from God, a message we can receive now that we do understand the natural world more deeply. And that message is this: “I AM still speaking, and I AM with you, more intimately than you have ever imagined. I AM all there is, was, or ever will be. I AM you and your neighbor, the trees in your backyard and the stars in the sky. I AM the atoms and the stuff that makes the atoms. I AM conscious, and you are conscious because I AM.”
Prayer: Open my ears to Your voice, my heart to Your love, and my mind to the possibility that there is more to the universe than meets my ears or my eyes. Amen.
Thought for the Day: When we hear the voice of God, sale we immediately realize oneness. Hearing God happens not through our ears, but through every fiber of our being. Hearing God is a sub-molecular experience that awakens us to a greater, expanded awareness of reality. It changes everything about us, especially the way we perceive each other and the world around us. Oneness with God changes the way we love, and in fact changes the very meaning of love. When we hear God and listen, we take life, and the lives of our fellow human beings, more seriously. We take love more seriously. We take God more seriously.
When we sit silently and listen for God, we tune every bit of our being into a receiver for God’s still, small voice. Once heard, it is impossible to deny Oneness with the universe. This is why Jesus declares that our most important task is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind—with everything we’ve got, because everything we’ve got is God.
Prayer: My one, my everything, help me realize my deep connection with You, and through You, my deep connection with others. May this realization change the way I relate to my fellow human beings, and help us all become aware of our innate connectedness with each other, through the reality of Your loving being. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 11:15
Whoever has ears, pharmacy let them hear.
Thought for the Day: When we hear and listen to the still, sildenafil small voice of God, we are tasked to walk a different path. This puts us at odds with the rest of the world, every time. Earlier in this passage Jesus spoke of John the Baptist, whom the world rejected because he refused to sing and dance to their materialistic songs. Hermits don’t do well in public places, after all.
Yet, Jesus has also been rejected, only this time for being a little too friendly with the ways of the world. People didn’t approve of Jesus’ gallivanting about with prostitutes and tax collectors. In both cases, the larger society didn’t bother to learn anything about John the Baptist or Jesus. They are judged purely from a distance, based on appearances. The world is very good at judging appearances.
When we hear and actually listen to God, our actions are different. So there will always be people who think we’re too this or not enough that. Religious people will make up rules and regulations and claim we’re not religious enough because we enjoy a glass of wine or a dance now and then. They and the secular world will reject us because we feel called to serve on the edges of society where Jesus served. They’ll point fingers at us as we drive a prostitute to pick up pampers for her baby, or give a junkie a loving embrace to let him know he’s not alone in this cruel, judgmental world.
The secular world will reject us because we do our best to uphold God’s values of justice and equality for all, protesting against the corrupt power elite ruining our governments and corporations, driving the world deeper into economic and political collapse as they clutch greedily at their billions of dollars—dollars made at the expense of we, the people.
Our calling as people who listen for and hear God is to ignore the finger pointers. We are to care for the poor and wretched. We are to fight for economic justice by protesting unfair wage and labor systems. We are to love our enemies, even as they hurl bombs in our direction. We are to take a cue from John the Baptist and disengage from the ways of the world, but also remember Jesus, and stay in the world enough to loudly proclaim God’s new way.
Prayer: Shut my mouth and still my angry hands, good and loving Lord! Interrupt our noisy, hateful clamor and caress us with the voice of peace, understanding, love and hope, so that we might find the courage to be Your voice in this too wretched world. Amen.
We live in a polarized world.
We divide everything into neat little compartments:
hot and cold, treatment
light and dark,
good and evil,
left and right.
Yet Jesus teaches and shows us
that these opposites are not the truth, the way or the light.
We are one with You,
and through You,
one with each other.
Change our hearts and minds,
Holy, Universal One.
Makes us lights of unity
who brightly burn away the dangerous duality of mind
that has corrupted our world.
Refocus our being on You.
Retune us to the Universal Mind
present in Jesus Christ,
in whose name we pray.
Scripture: Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast, drugstore
because they trust in You.
Thought for the Day: Jesus is single-minded. He does not allow himself to be trapped in the dualistic thinking of the world around him. His focus is always and only on God and “God’s will.” Now, the term “God’s will” has come to be abused and twisted (like so much else in Scripture) to imply that God somehow has an intention for the path of one’s life. We’re told that God’s will is for us to be a carpenter, or that we fell into addiction in order to recover and find a deeper relationship with God, etc. This is not what the biblical author’s meant.
“God’s will” has to do with single-mindedness, with remaining steadfast in God’s love, in the manner of Jesus. Trust in God, absolute conviction and faith that God is an active presence of everlasting love in the world, shatters the illusions of the dual mind and gives us clarity of sight, thought, and action.
Jesus would look around the modern world and see beyond our borders of hate and terror. Completely focused on God’s love, he is God’s love in the world. He would walk into the middle of Syria and start healing all the children who have been maimed by falling missiles. He would preach and change the awareness of all who could hear, obliterating the dualistic thinking that has polarized our world and brought it back to the brink of nuclear war.
We too must remain steadfast and trust God. If we are single-minded and completely focused on God, then we too will become the Christs who change the world, because we now see and act differently.
Prayer: Good and loving God, keep me focused on your presence, reveal the truth of the world to me, and render the dark cloth of fear and hatred from my heart, that I may see and experience the world in the oneness of Your everlasting love. Amen.
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, treat but not crushed; perplexed, doctor but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Thought for the Day: In this passage Paul reveals the dualistic mindset prevalent in his Greco-Roman culture (and ours, unfortunately). Without even stopping to think that perhaps Jesus was trying to teach oneness, completeness, wholeness with the Universal Mind that is God, Paul is completely tainted by the idea that the body is a vessel for the soul, that the two are completely separate, and that the body is finite while the soul is infinite.
If we think about this from a new point of view, from a monistic (there is only one basic substance) point of view, then what we understand, as Jesus taught, is that there is no separate body and soul. The only thing that exists is the Universal Mind, the consciousness of God, Christ Consciousness, Buddha Mind, whatever you want to call it. When Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” he means it, and he means it for all of us. There is only One thing in all the universes, and that is a consciousness of intense energy that creates all physical reality, one quark at a time. It is appropriate to call that conscious energy God.
We are imbued with the very mind of God at a sub molecular level. It is what we are. It is what everything is. When we accept that, we see the world and everything in it differently. No longer is there “us” and “them.” There is only One. Jesus understood this. It’s why he rails against the socio-political system of his time that created hierarchical structures based on wealth and power. It’s why he ministers to the poor and the outcasts of society. He sees beyond the labels, beyond the dualistic mind that creates a false sense of lack and causes people to think some are better or more deserving than others—a mindset that is worse today than ever. Jesus sees only God everywhere he looks—in everyone’s eyes, equally, because he knows that not only is he literally the substance of God, but that God is all there is, the only substance that ever was or ever will be. All things are created not by God as some separate alien scientist—that’s dualistic thinking. No. All things are created from God.
This is a difficult teaching today, even though our science points us clearly in this direction. In the First Century? Forget it. It’s no wonder the Romans despised Jesus and his fellow Jews thought he was a lunatic. Any new and radical teaching, as Paul correctly understood, is met with resistance. But when we are one with the Universal Mind, as was Jesus, then we are not crushed by the outside world, we are not destroyed, we do not despair, and we know that it is impossible for us to ever be abandoned.
Prayer: God of wonders, reveal Yourself to me as an intimate part of my being—one, not two. Reveal Yourself to me in every person I encounter today, so I might better understand we are one, not two. Let the leaders of the world and the soldiers doing their bidding look into each others’ eyes and see one, not two, so that they are compelled to throw down their weapons and embrace each other as the particles of God we all truly are. Amen.
Quote: From “Beyond the Vernal Mind” by Munia Khan
“To become a sparrow you don’t have to be a crow.”
Thought for the Day: We have a mind-body problem, in that we think we have a mind-body problem. While Descartes is largely responsible for our modern thinking about a separation between our consciousness and our physical bodies, the concept has its roots in Plato and Aristotle. We especially suffer from this separation anxiety in the majority of the world’s religions: God is a separate entity from God’s creation, and humans are more separate from God than any of God’s other creations.
The Abrahamic religions betray this dualistic mind with their inconsistent description of our relationship with God. We are given an inferiority complex by their insistence we are fallen sinners who have been expelled from God’s presence because an ancient ancestor ate a piece of fruit in God’s garden, and like an angry farmer God chased us away. Disobedience is our great sin, and for that we have been punished and sent into the cold, cruel world. On the other hand, God promises to walk with us out of the garden. Later, God makes a covenant with us and forgives us. Then, God gets angry again and punishes us. Then, God once again forgives us. We are loved and shunned, loved and shunned, over and over again throughout the Bible.
Of course, these stories reflect nothing about the nature of God and everything about our struggle against the dual mind—and the ancient authors’ awareness of this struggle. What do you think the tree of knowledge of good and evil represents? It represents the dangers of the dual mind! They knew they were stuck, perhaps more than we, who have so fully accepted the idea of a mind-body connection, we no longer even stop to think if perhaps the connection is that they aren’t separate things.
We need to practice being of One mind, not two. We are the consciousness of God—mind and body are more than connected, they are inseparable parts of the whole. There is no separation between the physical and spiritual, there is only consciousness, and only one conscsiousness, God. It is this intense realization and acceptance that changes everything in Jesus’ life, and if we can accept this truth too, it changes everything in our lives and our world.
Prayer: I AM completely one with You, Holy Lord, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. All that I AM, You are, because You are all that I AM, every thought, every emotion, every concept, every muscle, every cell and atom of my being. Amen.
Scripture: James 1:5-8
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, hospital ask God, remedy who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, ailment and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Thought for the Day: The Wisdom of God’s single mind is a too-often overlooked Biblical thread that runs from Genesis through Revelation. The authors of Scripture constantly remind us that conscious awareness of, and unity with, God’s universal mind is only realized when we overcome our human tendency to doubt. We have faith in God, but little faith in ourselves. In fact, most of the time we’re told that we have no power to experience God—rather, it is God that does the connecting. And while it may ultimately be God who plugs us into a higher state of consciousness, we certainly have to be willing receptacles.
In a class at seminary I once used the analogy of humans being stuck in quicksand, and God throwing us a branch to grab onto, then pulling us out of the quicksand. One of my professors complained that the Biblical portrait was more like God lassoing us and pulling us out of the quicksand—in his view, we don’t even have the ability to grab the branch. I think this portrays us as too helpless, and certainly runs against the life and teachings of Jesus.
Jesus makes it very clear that we are to change our minds. He constantly teaches us to look at the world, each other, and our relationship with God differently. We’re supposed to love our enemies—an action we have to consciously make. We’re supposed to provide love and healthcare (Jesus heals people free of charge), and share our food and our resources with each other—all actions we have to take.
And finally, we are to pray and meditate in the manner of Jesus, so that we too can connect with the Universal Mind of God and move ever closer to the sort of intimate, unified relationship with God exemplified by Jesus. Prayer and meditation are absolutely intentional human activities, and necessary for us to reach a higher state of being.
So, never doubt that your spiritual work is important and necessary. Never doubt that when we reach out to God, God is already reaching out to us. For us to experience the One Mind of God, we too must be one-minded, always focused on an internal, metaphysical experience with God, who always pervades our reality like the air we breathe.
Prayer: Let me breathe You in, Holy One, so that I might be a breath of fresh air in a world polluted by the smog of doubt. Amen.