Saturday, November 10, 2012

Knowing What We Know--And Trusting It

You all have heard it said how many times now, “There is a reason for everything.” Well. I don’t think there is a reason for anything. Nothing has to be what it is. Everything could be something else. Nobody has to do what he or she does, except to the extent that we all operate out of complexes and insecurities and stuckness we developed in our childhood and youth—but there is no controlling power forcing us to do one thing and keeping us from doing another.
And if there is an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a tornado, or a war, or a drunk driver, or … It does not follow that the hand of any god was involved, directing the action, producing results and outcomes according to the omniscient plan of the god in question. And yet, and yet… I am very much confident that there is a will beyond our will at play in our lives, a purpose beyond our purpose calling us be aware of its presence and trust ourselves to the drift of its current. We have our agendas, but there are unconscious purposes we do not begin to grasp. Inner space is as vast as outer space.
And nothing has to be what it is. That malignancy? That heart attack? That fall that left your child paralyzed for life? NOT the design and plan of an almighty god! Stop thinking of the things that happen as being sent to us because we sinned and deserve to be punished—or because we are stupid and need to be taught a lesson—or because we shine and are being rewarded with goodness and grace. Stop thinking that things happen for a reason. Stop trying to answer the question, “Why did this happen to me?” Stop asking “Why?” And start asking, “What purpose could use even this to transform and make whole?” Start asking, “How can this possibly become a means of healing and grace in my life or in anybody’s?” And put yourself in the service of a purpose beyond our power to conceive—much less make sense of—much less understand—much less explain.
Transcendence is the first step to transformation. We transcend the madness of mindless destruction, chaos and evil when we trust ourselves to a purpose that can use even this to connect people with the ground of wholeness—the source of life and being. Of course, the power to do this lies beyond “because I say so,” but courses through the heart of your experience with life. You know the truth of the experience of a purpose beyond your own purpose at work in your life. I am not making this up or telling you something you have no knowledge of. What I’m saying here connects you with what you know to be true because you have experienced it, you have felt it, you have touched—and been touched by it.
You are not here, now, by your own hand. You had nothing to do with arranging the turning points in your life, where you might have gone some other way to some other outcome and been somewhere else now—if it had not been for an unexplainable event, or act, or word at just the moment you needed such to turn things one way and not another, and now here you are. Not by your own doing. There is more than you at work in your life. And I’m saying be aware of it. Know what you know. Trust it. Align yourself with its thrust and direction. Be confident in the flow of its current, and look to it to carry you through all of the winds and waves of time to lands you cannot imagine and adventures beyond belief.
In other words, do not quit. Do not despair. Do not give up. You are not alone with your life. Open yourself to purposes beyond your power to conceive and say, “Okay. I’m with you. Show me what you got.” And see where it goes. What, exactly, do you have to lose?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Home Is Where The Heart Is Welcome No Matter How Different It Might Be

We have different ideas about how things are and what needs to be done about it. “You like to sleep with the window open and I like it closed, so good-bye, good-bye, good-bye.” Who is right—who is wrong—about the window being open or closed? We are different to the core. If we were all perfectly aligned with our core, we would still be different. Oneness at the level of the heart is not agreement about the window being opened or closed.
I have a Tibetan singing bowl that I used, before I retired from the ministry, to begin and end ten minutes of silence in the early Sunday service. We had a Vietnamese Buddhist monk address the congregation at one point and I asked him to bless the bowl. He agreed to do so but said to me, “We Vietnamese Buddhists do not need this for meditation. It is a Tibetan tradition. We go straight into the meditative state.” There you are. Buddhist denominations.
Oneness is not agreement. Like minds like to sleep at different room temperatures and take different approaches to entering meditation. What are the things we all need to agree to? What are the things we can be free to do differently? It’s important to agree about what we can disagree about.
There are women who are pregnant and who, for various reasons, cannot carry their pregnancy to term. They need the option of having an abortion. There are gay people who are in loving, committed, monogamous relationships with each other. They need the option of marriage with full rights and privileges included. There are illegal immigrants in this country who need the option of legitimacy—perhaps “Economic Refugee” status—and ways of working out the details of their residency for the good of all concerned.
The rules we agree to honor and live by have to take our differences into account and cannot mandate bell ringing or window closing upon all without regard for individual needs and interests. We have found ways of making exceptions regarding how things are to be done for Amish and Mennonite communities. It is not asking too much to think that we might do the same thing for people of different persuasions regarding how things are and what needs to be done about it. The greater the number of differences we can allow and still live together in caring, respectful, ways is the chief characteristic of a place I could call home.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Making the Unconscious Conscious

You know all those affairs you have had, are having, or think about having? It’s your Soul saying, “How about me, baby?” Or, it’s your Soul seeking comfort and consolation in the arms of Love. Either way, Soul is at the bottom of it, behind it, beyond it, wondering when you are going to wake up and understand.
Soul communes with us, communicates to us, through projections. One way we see Soul is in the form of actual or imaginary lovers. We have to learn to see Soul in the person of the other person. What does she/he have that we need beyond the pleasure of sexual attention? What is the source of our attraction to THIS person and not the one sitting next to her/him, or standing behind, or in front, of her, him? What sets THIS person off, makes THIS person “hot”? Why THIS person and not that one, or that one over there?
We have to do the work of making the Unconscious Conscious here. What is trying to come to life in our Unconscious? What is striving to become Conscious in our Unconscious? What is struggling to be born in us and through us into the world?
When we make the Unconscious Conscious, we bring forth into our actual, physical, life, qualities and characteristics that were latent in our Unconscious, waiting to be born. We make the Unconscious Conscious by becoming Conscious of certain aspects of the Unconscious and giving them expression in our life. We exhibit them and make them a part of our way in the world. We integrate them into our life and they become and aspect of who we are. Of who we now are, which is who we have always been, and who we will be.
Carl Jung said, “We are who we always have been and who we will be.” We make this statement a reality as we make the Unconscious Conscious. This is our work. We live to make the Unconscious Conscious in the time left for living. This is the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Holy Grail and the Land of Promise, and the work of Enlightenment—bringing the Unconscious forth into the light of day, making the Unconscious visible and apparent in the context of our life. Incarnating God.
The work of the Incarnation is this very thing: Making the Unconscious Conscious, bringing God forth into Human life. The equation of God with the Unconscious is not as blasphemous and heretical as it seems. This is not to reduce God to human form, but to raise the Unconscious to the level of the Divine.
We all are both God and human being, the visible form of the Living God (to use Biblical terms most of us are familiar with). This phraseology is simply an attempt to say what is at stake in the experience of bringing forth the Unconscious, of making the Unconscious Conscious and apparent in “the field of action” (Joseph Campbell), in the world of space and time.
This requires us to re-think the standard view of God—to move beyond the doctrinal definitions (“God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in his [sic] being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth” – Answer 4, Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1647) into the realm and work of “the evolution of the idea of God.” We “grow our understanding of God” by “bringing God forth” in the field of action, which is our life in the world of space and time as we make the Unconscious Conscious.
Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate,” and,  “What is not brought to consciousness, comes to us as fate.” Or, to get us back to where we came in, it comes to us as an actual, physical affair with a hot little honey or a big manly hunk—or as an imaginary, fantasy, affair we dream of and wish could be real. What needs to be real is not a sexual liaison  with the subject of your desire, but the actual qualities/characteristics/aspects that you find desirable about the person who is attractive.
After the actual affair plays itself out, you will still be attracted to people exhibiting the qualities that are stirring within your own being, trying to come to life in your life—to be expressed and exhibited in your way with life. You will project onto them the you you are refusing to become, thinking that if you could only marry them everything would be wonderful. If you do marry one of them, you will soon enough wake up to all the things they also are and will wonder what in the world you were thinking when you married this person—who will likely be wondering the same thing about you. You both are in the same boat of trying to be completed in the other, while your individual wholeness depends upon your bringing forth into your individual lives who you are capable of becoming in the time left for living.
The work of Individuation (Carl Jung’s term) is the work of coming forth into who we are—into who we always have been and who we will be. It is the work of making the Unconscious Conscious—the work of waking up to who we are and who we also are—the work of integrating the opposites within into a complementary whole—the work of bringing ourselves forth into the field of action which is our life in the world of space and time. This is the work this is ours to do in the time left for living.
I’ll post some pointers here from time to time. Encouragement for the journey, cool water along the way. I hope you find it helpful.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I once knew a woman who read cracks in the sidewalk and deciphered secret messages revealing the real truth of life. “Cows are in charge,” she said. “Cows rule the universe. They give their orders to the clouds which carry out their will.” Every rational objection to her way of seeing had an immediate irrational counter explanation. Talking to her was an amazing experience. When she was on her medication, she was almost able to pass for a regular human being. I thought she was the most unusual person I’d ever met until I encountered a man who deciphered secret messages from newspaper photos.
Then along comes Michele Bachmann and the entire Tea Party contingent, hosing us all down with their rank irrationality. This is apples trying to talk to doorknobs here. Reason cannot say anything that irrationality cannot hang, draw and quarter. How does society function when the people who ought to be on heavy doses of medication aren’t? And the people who don’t need medication have to take it to deal with the people who do need it but don’t take it?
Who thinks Fracking is a good idea? Show of hands! Look around. See all those little hands waving? Belong to people not taking their meds. Who thinks Global Warming isn’t real? Show of hands! Same sad story.  Who thinks cows rule the world? Show of hands! It’s all the same, don’t you see? Facts have no impact upon people who know the real truth.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

God, Finding God, and the Search for God

The first thing that has to go is God. This is to say our idea of God, but with us there is no separation. To our way of thinking, our idea of God IS God, so God has to go. God is not a fact. God is the supreme value, the value before which all other values pale and recede. God is the Prime Necessity at the heart of being, and this Prime Necessity which we call God is indistinguishable from who we are called to be.

Joseph Campbell has said, “This whole idea is basic to Tantra: to worship a god, you must become that god. No matter what you call the god or think it is, the god you worship is the one you are capable of becoming.” Before you leap to call this heresy, consider:

Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” “Yes, well,” you say, “Jesus was the Son of God.” To which I would say, “Jesus never called himself the “Son of God.” He always referred to himself as the “Son of Man,” a phrase that easily lends itself to the translation: “a human being.” Stay with me here. In John, Jesus prays, “That they (that is, his followers) might be one even as we are one, thou in me and I in thee.” And the command, which somehow didn’t make the top ten, that God gives the people in the Old Testament is “You must be holy as I am Holy!” And, again, "You must be perfect as I am perfect." In other words, "You must be as I am!" In the New Testament, Paul declares, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Clearly, the position that we must become the God we worship is not foreign to Biblical theology.

The call of God, then, is the call to become who we are, to be ourselves—our Self—the Self we are capable of being. The spiritual journey is the hero’s journey, the spiritual quest is the search for the Promised Land and for the Holy Grail. It is described by T.S. Eliot: We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.

The face of God is a mirror reflecting those who behold the face of God. Thou Art That. Amen! Ain't it so!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sermon at South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church

Luke 9:23-25Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves?”

Homer, in The Odyssey, has Odysseus say: "I will stay with it and endure through suffering hardship / and once the heaving sea has shaken my raft to pieces, then I will swim."

A sermon should help you with your life and help you with your relationship with God. These are not two things. These are one thing. Jacob Bronowski said, “If you want to know the truth, you have to live in certain ways.” He meant you have to live truthfully. You can’t know the truth if you are kidding yourself about wanting to know the truth, if you aren’t willing to look the truth straight in the eye. If, in the words of Col. Nathan P. Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth,” you’ll never know the truth.

We cannot say we are seeking the truth when we are seeking only to confirm our convictions, whether those convictions pertain to the superiority of the Arian race or to the superiority of orthodox Christian dogma. If we live in the service of truth, we have to be open to what our explorations uncover, to what our experience shows us to be true, no matter what our preferences might be. We have to stand apart from our assumptions and prejudices—our prejudgments—in order to know the truth. We have to take the blinders off and live in ways that are truthful—in ways that do not deny or hide from any aspect of truth—if we want to know the truth.

The Bronowski principle applies to knowing God. If we want to know God, we have to live in certain ways. If we want to know God, we have to live a godly life, but. This does not mean what you think it means.

You think a godly life is morally pure. Not so. Jesus was called a glutton and a wine bibber, and a son of Satan. Jesus was accused of blasphemy, heresy and sedition. Jesus was out of accord with every Book of Order of his day. Jesus was as far from the traditional understanding of moral purity as a person could be. The scribes and Pharisees, on the other hand, were morally pure to the core—as to keeping the Law they were perfect—and they knew nothing of God.

A godly life has nothing to do with moral purity. A godly life has everything to do with living so aligned with the life that is truly our life to live, with the life that needs us to live it because only we can live it—so intent on doing what truly needs to be done in the situation as it arises—that God couldn’t live it any better than we are living it, couldn’t do it any better than we are doing it. When we live like that—living the life that is our life to live and doing what truly needs to be done in the situation as it arises—we say along with Jesus, “The Father and I are one.” We are one with the Father when we are one with the life that is our life to live.

When a sermon helps you live the life that is your life to live, it helps you with your relationship with God. When it helps you with your relationship with God, it helps you with the life that is your life to live. Our life flows from our relationship with God, our relationship with God flows from our life. The two things are one. But, there is a problem.

The problem is that the life that is our life to live is not the life we have in mind for ourselves. This was Adam’s and Eve’s problem, and it is our problem. We suffer from a conflict of interest at the core. There is the life we are built for—the life that needs us to live it—and there is the life we want to live, the life we dream of living, the life we wish were our life to live. Which life will it be? Whose side are we on?

This is a tough one, this whose side are we on question, but if we get it right, it’s smooth sailing all the way. It’s a hard one to get right because we think we know what we are doing. We think we know best. We think we have our true interest at heart. All of this in complete denial of the evidence to the contrary, which establishes without the slightest doubt that fooling ourselves is what we do best, no, telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best, no, letting ourselves off the hook is what we do best, no, shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best... If anything is clear about us it is that we do not have our own best interest at heart but we are sure that we do. It is hard for us to give that up, to hand that over, to say, along with Jesus, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” This is the hardest thing. We need help with it. And that’s exactly what we get, the help we need, if we have what it takes to take what is offered.

Carl Jung says, “In every one of us there is another whom we do not know.” I call this other within our “Invisible Twin.” Our Invisible Twin knows who we are and who we are to be, what the life is that is our life to live, and what kind of help we need to live it—and is there to offer it, but. We want nothing to do with this invisible other. We want what we want and not what we ought to want. This is my definition of sin, by the way, wanting what we want and not what we ought to want. I have another definition of sin that means the same thing: Sin is being wrong about what’s important. We think the wrong things are important. It takes a lot of living to get all of this straight. We are stubborn to a fault, and are sure that what we want IS important, so it takes a while.

And all the while, our Invisible Twin knows what’s what—what we ought to want, what’s truly important, what we ought to be doing with our lives. But, we’ll have none of it. We know what we want and we will have it or else. This makes the transition from the life that we want to live to the life that is truly ours to live like dying. It is a terrible thing to get to the point of saying along with Jesus, “Thy will, not mine be done.” We have to be at the end of our rope to say that, to hit bottom. We have to die to say that—not literally, but metaphorically. It is a handing over of ourselves, of all that we have thought was important. It is a surrender, a recognition that we aren’t all that smart after all and need help with our lives. It is at this point that our Invisible Twin provides us with exactly the help we need.

Who is this Invisible Twin? You could call him Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ within. Or you could call her Mary, the Mother of God. Or you could call this Twin the Holy Spirit that blows where it will. Or you could call our Twin, as Jesus did, “the Father.” Our Twin is as close to God as we can get, and is as much of God as we may be able to know. Our Invisible Twin stands ready to help us with all that we need to live the life that is our life to live, to do what needs to be done in serving what is truly important in each situation as it arises, all our life long. “In each of us there is another, whom we do not know.” And it is our responsibility to know her, to know him, to know what she knows, to know what he knows, and with her help, with his help, to find the life that is truly our life to live and live it.

Now, the life that is our life to live may have nothing to do with what we do to pay the bills. We may pay the bills with one life and live the life that is truly our life to live with another life. We pay the bills with our day job and do the work that is truly ours to do on the side, after hours, as we are able. We have to work it out, when to do what. Working it out involves integrating the opposites, reconciling the contradictions, managing our responsibilities, coming to terms with how things are and how they also are... This is not easy. This is the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest—not a soft stroll through the flowers of spring.

All of the epic hero stories are about this very thing. They are about us, the life that is our life to live, and the life we wish were ours to live. We stand between two lives, which do we choose? Whose side are we on? The struggle here is with ourselves. This is Jesus in the wilderness struggling with which life he is going to live, and again in Gethsemane, same struggle. Which life is it going to be? Joseph Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.” The Cyclops has many manifestations. Deciding which life we are going to live in the moment of our living is one manifestation of the Cyclops in our life. Struggling to live the life that is our life to live within the terms and conditions of our life is another manifestation of the Cyclops. We have no reason to expect it to be easy. Luke Skywalker against the Dark Side, Harry Potter against Voldemort, Frodo against Sauron, and you against all that is not easy about your life. This is how things are. Do not let it get you down.

You have all you need to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. You have an Invisible Twin who is quite able to help you in the work that is yours to do. You can rely upon her, upon him, entirely. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” And he said, “I will not abandon you or leave you desolate.” Jesus came to connect us with the life that is our life to live by living out before us the life that was his life to live, trusting us to get the idea. True life, abundant life, is found in living the life that needs us to live it, the life that we are built to live, born to live—the life that only we can live. Our work, the Hero’s Journey and the Spiritual Quest—all these are the same thing—is to find our life and live it. No other life will do.

Jesus does not offer us abundant life so that we can go our merry way doing the things that are important to us. Those who would be his disciples must pick up their cross daily and follow him—and their cross is the burden of living the life that is their life to live, not some other, better, brighter, shinier life. Our cross is bringing forth the life that needs us to live it within the terms and conditions of life as it is. The cross is a metaphor for how difficult it is to integrate the opposites and reconcile the contradictions and work it all out. The help that we get from the invisible world does not make things easy—it enables us to do what is hard.

Your parents divorce, or your job is outsourced to India, or the lab report confirms a malignancy. Makes you want to quit. Makes you want to take off your glove and slam it into the dust and say, “If you don’t stop hitting me these hard ground balls, I’m done with this game!” Look, this is heroic stuff that we are doing. Frodo felt the same way we feel. So did Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker and Jesus. But, when we put on the uniform, and pick up the glove, and step onto the field, we have to expect hard ground balls, and be ready for one right after another. When we get out of bed each morning and step into our lives, we have to expect it to not be easy. This is hero’s work we are doing. Of course, it will not be easy!

James Hollis says that his experience playing tackle on his high school football team taught him that no matter how badly he got run over by the opposing lineman on the last play, he had to get up and get ready for the next play. This is how our life is. This is the way things are. It isn’t fair and it isn’t fun much of the time, but this is it—we have to live the life that needs us to live it within this context and these circumstances. And do it every day for the rest of our lives. The good news is that we have all we need to do it IF we will believe that we do, and trust it to be so, and act like it is.

Joseph Campbell says, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off of it.” That’s all we need to know. When we are living the life that needs us to live it, we are on the beam. When we are doing what truly needs us to do it in each situation as it arises, we are on the beam. When we are on the beam we find what we need to live the life that only we can live. We may not find more than we need, but we will find what we need. This is the lesson of the manna in the wilderness, and of Jesus’ promise, “I will not leave you desolate.” It does not apply to us when we live any old way we want, only when we step on the beam and say from the heart, “Thy will, not mine, be done,” and live to align ourselves with what our Invisible Twin knows is the path with our name on it.

If you are going to believe in anything, believe in the beam, in the life that needs you to live it, in the path with your name on it, and in the “invisible means of support” that is always with us to assist us along the way. Trust that you will have all you need as you work to find your life and live it—to stay on the beam. Your life may not be easy, but the world will be transformed by your work, and your life will be interesting and meaningful all the way—which would never have been the case if you had lolled poolside the whole time, ordering fruit smoothies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ground Rules for A

Community of Innocence

Communities of Innocence are innocent in the sense that they have no interest, investment, or stake in their members—they do not seek to exploit us in any way. The community simply receives us well, listens to us attentively, asks us questions that enable us to say what we have to say, and tells us what it has learned through its experience that may be helpful in our situation. That's it. What we do with all of this is up to us. Progress along the path cannot be hurried. We proceed at our own pace, in our own time, waking up as we are able. The community of innocence does not try to hurry us along, but accompanies us kindly, with compassion, having nothing to gain and nothing to lose. We speak to hear what we have to say, not to tell others what they need to hear. We find the way together by listening one another to the truth of our lives.

Parker Palmer says, “There are ‘two key Quaker convictions’ upon which this approach is based: Our guidance comes not from external authority but from our Inner Teacher; and we need community to help us clarify and amplify the Inner Teacher’s voice. And Rumi says, “If you are not here with us in good faith, you are doing terrible damage.”

The Confidentiality Rule:

Everything Said Here Stays Here. Everything said here one week stays here that week. We won’t ask anyone to update us on something she, or he, has talked about in the past. If anyone wants to say more about something she, or he, said in a previous conversation, she, or he, can be trusted to do that without inquiry from others. And no one will take the reserve of the group as an indication of a lack of interest or concern.

The Don’t Fix-it Rule:

No Fixing

No Saving

No Advising

No Setting Anyone Straight

No Confronting

No Correcting

No Converting

No Condemning

No Excommunicating

No Telling Another What We Think He, or She, Needs To Hear

The Pass On Anything

At Any Time Rule:

No one has to say anything ever. You can pass on anything at any time. “I think I’ll pass on that,” is always an appropriate response.

The Comfort Rule:

The comfort rule always applies. Live to be appropriately comfortable at all times.