Monday, January 29, 2007

01/28/07, Sermon

Don’t look for God the way you look for your checkbook. That’s my best advice. God isn’t hiding like your car keys, or your reading glasses. God isn’t tucked away in a hard-to-get-to location like Alamo Rental Car Return in Las Vegas. You don’t get to God by asking someone, “Do you know where God is?” Or, “Can you tell me how to find God?” Or, “Can you give me directions to God?” Getting to God isn’t like “hide and seek” or “lost and found,” because God isn’t like a “thing” that is hidden or lost, even an “invisible thing.”

Think of God as a frame of mind. As a quality, or way, of being. As “godliness,” or “god-like-ness.” As an orientation of heart and soul. As the transforming attitude, or spirit, of existence. “God” is the way we see which grounds, guides and directs the way we live and the way we are. “God” is the foundational perspective which governs our lives. We do not “see God.” We “see as God.” And, in so doing, we “become as God,” and then we “see God in us, and all things.” At that point, we are as close to God as we are going to get, and “at one,” you might say, with all that is.

The task is not “to find God,” but “to cultivate Godliness.” To see with the eyes of God. To live as those who are “of God” in the world. One of the 10,000 spiritual laws states: “The way to God is the way of God.” If you want to know God, the way is simple. There is nothing to it. You have to live in godly ways. God comes to life in those who are living godly lives. But, that is asking a lot of us. More than we can manage, it seems. Certainly, more than we can manage on our own.

In order to “be as God is,” we have to set aside our personal agenda, personal ambition, the idea of personal gain and personal advantage. The problem is that we don’t know how to live without an eye on what’s in it for us. The profit motive keeps us going. You could call it “sin,” if you liked. Sin is the profit motive, the “What’s in it for me?” orientation. Sin is being wrong about what is important. That’s what separates us from God.

We cannot be as God is and think about what is in this for us. God is not in this for what God can get out of it. We think of God as an invisible entity, a being apart, a personal, separate, self with a plan, a will, flipping switches, pushing buttons, pulling strings to make happen what God wants to happen and have everything work together and turn out exactly as God has in mind. “God is working his (sic) purpose out,” you know, as the old hymn goes, “as year succeeds to year.” We think God is all wrapped up in the results and does everything with the outcome in mind, because we know that doing the loving thing in the moment plays Whaley with the outcome.

But, with God, the outcome does not govern the moment. God does not live with one eye on the outcome. God is not determined by the outcome. God is who God is, how God is, no matter what. God is, “Compassion without purpose,” without agenda, without plan, without design. God doesn’t care about the outcome. About the payoff. About the results. About what happens next. God cares about being God. “God loves,” says Jacques Ellul, “because God is love, and not to get results.” God loves, because God is love, in spite of the results!

Of course, this makes quite a mess of things. When you live lovingly, no matter what, you live without an eye on what’s in it for you. You don’t take tactics, or strategy, or timing into account. You just respond to the needs of the moment out of your sense of what is called for. And, you violate protocol, shun proper procedures, transgress boundaries, and set in motion an unmanageable series of events that quickly create tsunamic destruction on an infinite scale just because we did the loving thing without thinking. You can’t do anything without thinking in this world. You have to go through channels in this world—the right channels in the right order—or else. You can’t just “be loving.” You have to “be smart” first. You have to “be smart with your love.” Because love unleashed from reason’s moorings is a wild, reckless, wasteful thing—a monster destroying the structures and systems of the world, and creating horrific messes wherever it goes.

And, yet, if people loved one another, loved their neighbor as themselves, loved their enemies, did unto others as they would be done unto… If compassion ruled, justice would be done, and the outcome would be livable for all concerned. Trying to arrange a propitious outcome sets compassion aside and makes the real mess—the mess that is the world of order, and reason, and carefully prescribed practices, and ways of getting things done.

The world as it is, is the mess God has to break into, and transform, and redeem with messy acts of love, or it is all over, and we lose our souls serving the systems that regiment our lives, keeping things carefully in place and the machinery running smoothly. You see the problem. We deal with the mess by making a mess of the mess. It makes no sense, but don’t leave until I’ve really muddled your mind.

It’s like this: You think people are searching for God, are seeking after God, want to find God? Try living as God in the land. I dare you. It will go much better for you if you talk about God, discuss God, debate with others the whole matter of God, read books on God, take pilgrimages to holy sites to see if God is still there. But do not practice being God. Everyone who has ever done that has come to a bad end. The world, it seems, does not cotton to God (And, if you don’t understand the term, you have not lived in the south long enough. Ask someone who has). God is not welcome in the world, all the money that is made in the “God business” notwithstanding. We pay a price for knowing God, for living in ways that bring God to life in the world.

That leaves us with knowing what the deal is and going forward with our eyes open. That leaves us with understanding the importance of being God without shock, surprise, and consternation when we are not well-received by those we come to deliver. The task is to be God, no matter where we are, no matter how things are, no matter what—without regard for the outcome, with no concern for what happens next.

Of course, to live like that is to die. Jesus was God all the way to the grave. The world is not a friendly place if you are God. And so, it takes us all. Together we create small pockets of God, small parcels of the promised land, small kingdoms of God here-and-there throughout the world. We create a space in which it is safe to practice being God together—loving one another, welcoming one another, creating an environment in which we all belong—in which we all may be received, accepted, heard, seen, understood, known, loved, touched, cared for, enjoyed, appreciated, relished, celebrated—in which we all have a place in one another’s lives. When we are able to do that, even in short segments of time, in the most inconspicuous of ways, we bring God to life in our lives, in the lives of one another, and in the life of the world.

There is some carry-over into the world. We cannot cultivate the gifts associated with being a part of the right kind of company, the right kind of community, without living somewhat differently in the world. We cannot see as God sees here, and not see as God sees there. When we see as God sees, everything changes.

We are never more than a slight shift in perspective away from seeing as God sees, from seeing God everywhere we look—from living godly lives, from being God in the world, from bringing God to life in the world. To be as God is, we only have to stop thinking about what’s in it for us or what we are going to get out of the deal, of what’s the advantage, of where’s the gain. The attitude of God is to not dwell on, or contemplate, or consider what’s good for God. “Whose good is served by the good we serve?” is the question. The attitude of God is to do what is good whether it does any good or not.

We cannot live like that for very long in this world. But, we can live like that from time to time. We can generate momentary flashes of God in the world. We can give the world a glimpse of God, a taste of God. We can shock people awake to the narrowness of their own self-interest and aspirations of personal gain. And, when they turn away, and go back to serving their own ends at the expense of someone else, we can shock them awake again.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Wake up. Be alive. Live with awareness. See into the heart of things. Understand how things are and how things also are. Know what’s important. Know the difference between a way that is open but requires persistence and perseverance and determination and dedication, and a way that is closed and must not be forced open. Hear what is being asked of you. See what the possibilities are, what your options are, what your choices are. See what can be done, and what cannot be done—what can happen, and what cannot happen—what can be changed and what cannot be changed—what you can have and what you cannot have, and what you have no business even wanting.

The “I” that wants, and the “I” that has to have are two different “I’s.” The “I” that wants knows what its preferences are and lives toward its own interests and enthusiasms within the perimeter of the possible. The “I” that has to have is driven by the obsession to possess the thing, or the way, that is desired; cannot take “No” for an answer, and is undone by opposition, resistance, objection and barricade. The “I” that has to have, wills what cannot be willed, and suffers for it. And, everyone suffers for it.

The spiritual journey is to the heart of who we are. The spiritual quest is to be true to ourselves within the constraints and limitations of our lives. The spiritual task is to come to terms with our lives as they are, to make our peace with life as it is, and to live toward the best we can imagine “anyway, nevertheless, even so.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

01/21/07, Sermon

The right kind of company gives you, you. Brings you to life. Doesn’t tamper with your controls. Listens you to a deeper level of understanding your own interests, and aptitudes, and desires, and knacks, and inclinations, and instincts, and perceptions, and perspective, and capacities, and capabilities. Connects you with your own gifts, your own genius. Encourages you to “do what’s you”—to find your own heart, and live your own life—in right relationship with those about you. Where do you go to be listened to the truth of your own self, your own soul? You need to go there more often.

The right kind of people are holy people. The overriding characteristic of holiness, whether in places or in people, is that, in its presence, we become whole. Wholeness is an indicator of holiness. And, wholeness does not mean perfection, but recognition and integration. Wholeness is a healing of the fragmentation within and without.

The path to wholeness, the way of integration, begins with the recognition and acceptance, with compassion and understanding, the contradictions and discrepancies within and without. We live on the boundary between yin and yang. We see with a kind of seeing that sees how things are and how things also are, with a deep-seated confidence in our ability to find our own way to our own heart over time. Holiness knows we don’t have to be whole on its, or any, time table. That the time it takes to become whole is the time it takes to become whole. That all paths eventually lead to the recognition, realization, reconciliation, and reunion of the self we are and the self, or selves, we also are. That “awake” is not a state of being, but a growing awareness of our lives and our place in them, of the moment and its antecedents and implications, of how things are and what we can do about them. That what is important to us is a function of where we have been and how we have responded to it and where we think we want to go from here—of what we like and don’t like—of what we want and don’t want, of how we see and evaluate what is seen.

What should be important? What should we like? What should we want? What should we care about? What should we serve? What should we think? What should we feel? What should we believe? What should we do? How should we live? Who should we be? Who is to say? How would we know if they know what they are talking about? What determines the operative “shoulds” that govern our lives?

I suggest that we think about these questions in terms of life or death. Does our life serve life or death? Whose life is served by the life we live? In what ways does our living bring life to life in ourselves and others? Who dies, who lives? Christianity’s contribution to the pot of religious stew is the recognition that in living we die, and in dying we live. Our challenge is to die the right kind of death, to die a death that produces life, not just to die. What is the nature of our dying? Of our sacrifice? What do we die for? What does our dying bring to life?

One of the 10,000 spiritual laws is that the gun is always to somebody’s head, the cross is always on somebody’s back. This means we have to give up “this” to get “that.” Somebody is always sacrificing herself, himself, for someone else. Parents sacrifice themselves for their children, children for parents, one spouse for the other spouse. We are always handing ourselves over to something, to someone. Soldiers sacrifice themselves for their country, or for their sense of honor and duty. Workers sacrifice themselves for their jobs. We are always giving ourselves up to something or other. And, if we don’t, we do.

If we refuse to sacrifice ourselves for anything, that, too is a sacrifice of sorts. We die by refusing to die. We become cold, and hard, and bitter, and rigid, and die even though we might continue to go through the motions of living, because we refuse to pay the price of right relationship by sacrificing ourselves for the sake of the relationship. We cannot be good company without sacrificing ourselves—without letting go of something that is important to us for the sake of something that is more important, namely, the company we offer to those about us. We cannot live without dying, and we cannot do all the dying—we cannot die all the time.

It would be easy enough if the rule were simple and straight-forward: You have to always sacrifice yourself for the sake of the relationship no matter what. But, the complicating factor is that there is no relationship if the others in relationship with you don’t care, and don’t reciprocate. There is no relationship if the others in relationship with you aren’t sacrificing themselves for the sake of the relationship. Then, you are dying for nothing. The relationship is not capable of life, and cannot sustain life, and will only drain you dry.

What do you then? Then, you wake up, and consider your options, and make what you think is your best choice among the choices available to you. “This is the way it is. And, this is what can be done about it. And, that’s that.” You may continue to die in the relationship that isn’t a relationship, for a number of reasons, but, now, you are dying for yourself and not for the relationship. And, the right kind of death has life-potential even in the most life-less of circumstances. Where is your best chance at life? When to stay is to die, and to leave is to die, where is your best chance at life?

We are here to live, not to die! But, we pay a price to be alive. In living, we die, and, in dying, we live—if it is the right kind of death! Ah, to die rightly, now that’s the problem! And, that’s the catch. Which ditch to die in? There are no answers to that one. We figure it out for ourselves, one ditch at a time.

Where do we draw the line? Frasier Snowden says “The only true philosophical question is, ‘Where do you draw the line?’” It’s philosophical because the answer isn’t “out there,” like, “What’s the phone number of the water department?” Or, “Where did you put the umbrella?” It is “in here,” like “What is worth doing with my life?” Or, “What does it mean to be alive?” Where do we draw the line? We make the call. For better or worse. And learn as we go.

Being good company and living in right relationship depend upon good line drawing. We have to know where we stand in relation to someone else, and where they stand in relation to us. We have to know where we stop and they start. We have to know what we will do and what we will not do for the sake of the relationship. I will not pay your car note or your house payment, for instance. And, I will not keep your dog, or let you borrow my camera. You’re on your own when it comes to a number of things you might like me to “die” and do for you. Sorry.

Not really. Our capacity for right relationship with one another hinges on two things, on our ability to say, “No,” and on our ability to take “No,” for an answer. Can we say, “No”? Can we take “No,” for an answer? Let me be more specific. When was the last time you said “No” about something that deeply mattered? When was the last time you took “No” for an answer about something that deeply mattered? Can you draw a line? Can you honor a line that is drawn? And maintain relationship?

If a relationship can tolerate lines, it is well on the way to being a “right relationship.” If we are always avoiding lines, acting as if there are no lines, refusing to draw lines—if we are never saying “No,” or taking “No” for an answer—we may be “making nice,” or we may be controlling or being controlled, but we aren’t in “right relationship.” Right relationship cares about us and cares about the relationship, but not at the expense of the relationship. We die for the relationship—all parties in the relationship die in various times, and places, and ways for each other—but the relationship does not die for the sake of the people in the relationship. If the relationship dies, it’s all over.

The relationship dies if one person does all the dying, or if no one ever dies, for the sake of the relationship. In right relationship, everyone gets to draw lines, and everyone gets to honor the lines the others draw. Everyone gets to say “No,” and everyone gets to take “No” for an answer. Everyone dies and everyone comes to life. When who does what is the merry dance of relationship.

And, in order to dance the dance, we all have to have the room we need to make the adjustments, and the accommodations, and the alterations that relationship requires us to make. Nothing is forced in right relationship. Everybody has room to work in right relationship. No one ever says anything on the order of, “If you love me you will like spinach right now!” If the spinach line needs to be drawn, it will be drawn differently. It will be drawn in ways that give others room to deal with spinach in their own ways. Maybe I don’t eat spinach in the others’ presence. Or in the house. We work it out with room to work. The room to work is essential. And, when everybody can’t get their way, somebody dies for the sake of the relationship. And, the same person can’t do all the dying. Or, the relationship is dead.

So, the relationship factors itself into our lives. We live in order to be alive, and we cannot be alive apart from our participation in right relationship, and right relationship requires us to understand the formula: in living we die, in dying we live, if it is the right kind of death. If it is the kind of death that serves life, and brings life to life. Which means, of course, that in right relationship, there is a sense in which all die when any die, and all are made alive when any live.
There are no winners and losers in right relationship; no one up and one down positions. All die, and all are made alive, when all care as deeply for the others as they care for themselves.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


The path leads to life. The way is the way of life. It comes down to being alive. How shall we live, is the question. What shall we do to bring life to life? How shall we live together in ways that enhance life among us all? What do we need from each other in order to truly live? What stands between us and life? These questions, and the ones they raise, are worthy of reflection, rumination, exploration.

Poking around in them, turning them over, smelling the interesting odors rising when they are stirred, stirs something within us. Wakes us up. Opens our eyes. Reorients us and sends us off in a new direction. Asking the questions engages us in The Quest. And, we are off, before we know it, seeking life.

It helps to know that it is life we seek. That it is living we are after. That we are looking for avenues into being alive. The adventure is life. LIFE. We are seeking to live before we die. What will it take? Eyes to see, don’t ‘cha know, ears to hear, a heart that understands. Loaded up with those babies, you can’t help but be alive.

Where do we get them? Do I have to do all your work for you? We get them by waking up, paying attention, being aware. Waking up to what? Paying attention to what? Being aware of what? Really. What do you people do with your time? What do you spend your days thinking about? Soap Operas and Sales?

Start with your body’s reaction to the events and circumstances of your days. What does your body feel in response to the choices and decisions you have to make? Start there. Get to know your body from the inside out. And your initial, intuitive, tendency toward one thing and away from another. Wake up, pay attention to, be aware of your body and your intuition. We spend our lives looking for guides, ignoring the guidance from within. Thinking somebody out there knows more than we do about living our lives. We seek the gurus and walk past the One Who Knows. What am I going to do with you?

Monday, January 15, 2007

01/14/07, Sermon

We can only see as much as we are able to see—as we are able to bear—in any moment. It all depends upon what we bring to the table. Joseph Campbell says, “Either you can take it, or you can’t.” Col. Nathan P. Jessup, in A Few Good Men, says, “You can’t handle the truth!” There you are. We can only see as much of the truth as we can as we can “handle,” as we can “take,” If we are going to see more than we see, we are going to have to enlarge our capacity to bear what we are seeing.

The spiritual task is to increase our ability to “handle,” to “take,” the truth. The spiritual task is to “bear the pain” of the truth of our lives, and of life itself. We will never be able to see things as they are until we can make our peace with things as they are. Jim’s Fail Proof Formula for making our peace with our lives is simple: “This is the way it is, and this is what I can do about it, and that’s that.” For some reason, we don’t seem to be able to do it. The one thing that remains true about us, across the ages, as individuals and as a species, is that we cannot look our lives in the eye without blinking. Really, without looking quickly away. Really, without running away. And hiding out, in any of the escapes and addictions that happen to be at hand.

We cannot deal with the disparity between how things are and how we wish they were—between the world we can imagine and the world we live in. We cannot face the truth of the life we wake up to every day. “Here it is again,” the world seems to say. “Can you take it today, and tomorrow, and the day after that? Can you take it and go on taking it? Can you take it, and take it, and take it?” And, the answer through the centuries, through the ages, over the long expanse of time that the question has been asked, has always been, “Not by ourselves we can’t!” Not alone, we can’t. Not cut off from, detached from, excluded from, isolated from the right kind of company.

We can’t take it, we cannot handle the truth, alone. We make it together in this world, or not at all. On our own, we are at the mercy of the cold winds of hopelessness, and helplessness, and fear, howling up from the depths of the Void. But, together, we serve as buffers for one another, protecting each other by the warmth of caring presence from the spirit-crushing pressure of despair and desolation. It only takes two or three of the right kind of people to comprise the right kind of company, to mediate the presence of God, to enable us to take it, and keep us going. But, it takes two or three. We are not built to live well alone.

The spiritual journey is not a solitary enterprise. We cannot undertake it alone. We hold one another up. We encourage one another. We exist for one another as reminders of more than meets the eye, and, of more than words can say. It is easy for us to wake up each morning and slip over into weariness and despondency. It is easy for us to succumb to the deadly quartet: “So what? Who cares? Why try? What difference does it make?” On our own, we do not have what it takes to, in Paul’s words, “Fight the good fight, keep the faith, finish the agonae.” Or, to “run with perseverance the agonae that is set before us.” This life is the agony, the agonae, that weighs heavily upon us. It takes us all to have a chance.

Here’s the deal, as truthfully spoken as it has ever been laid out before you: We nurture, and nourish, the spirit of the other. We keep the spark of life alive in the eyes of one another. We bring hope and heart to life. All of you feel better in the company of the right kind of people. All of you live better in the company of the right kind of people. If you are going to give me anything, give me the right kind of company! And, don’t give me anything you wouldn’t give yourselves!

It is our work together to create a place together that is a good place to be. It is our work to be good company. It is our work to master the art of right relationship, and to offer to each other the kind of communal spirit that regenerates spirits, and restores souls, and resurrects life, and transforms the world—by reminding each other of, and living together as evidence of, the “more than meets the eye”—by living in the midst of what is true as those who know, and exhibit, what is also true. It is our work to care for one another. In so doing, we off-set the impact of the uncaring, impersonal, nature of the universe, and bring something new to life in the world, and in each other. The “something new” is the very essence of life, the heart of life itself.

Human beings have always speculated about the existence of life beyond life, a spirit world beyond this world of normal, apparent reality. Eternal life. Abundant life. Life everlasting. We have, as a species, yearned for a world where we can be fully, completely, wholly alive without the limitations and restrictions of this “vale of tears.” We live in a world where living takes the life right out of us. We all understand the difference between going through the motions of life and being fully, vibrantly, joyfully alive. Because this world seems to be more about death than life, we look to the world beyond death as the place of life, and light, and peace. The “new thing” is the work to create enclaves of that world in the midst of this world. We carry out that work by caring about one another.

In this world, we are taught to care about the wrong things. That’s what this world will do to you. This world will tell you the wrong things are important. Like money, for instance. But, not just money, lots of it. Wealth! Prosperity! This world would have us believe that wealth and prosperity are essential, that life depends on them, that we cannot “really live” until we have “taken care of business,” and become wealthy, and prosperous.

Wealth is a problem. We don’t need people to be less poor so much as we need people to be less wealthy. But, try selling that idea. Nobody’s buying that. Everybody will tell you the way out of poverty is into wealth. Everybody thinks wealth is the answer to poverty. But, money is the barrier. Less money means fewer barriers. It means more connection. More community. Fewer walls. More caring. Less poverty. But, it is a strategy that will never be tried. The world has done a good job of convincing us that wealth is important. That’s what the world does. It destroys our perspective and undermines our ability to know the good when we see it. In this world, we care about the wrong things.

The hope of the world are eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand. But, don’t think that the world will rush to be saved. Right seeing, right hearing, and right understanding are threats to the world’s very being. It will kill those who threaten its life, even though it is only an artificial, life-less, existence it calls “life.” The world will not die in order to live. It will kill to keep from dying.

Do you begin to understand the nature of the cross? And the Communion Table? Do you see what these things represent for us, who dare to talk about seeing, hearing, and understanding? These babies are ever-present reminders of what we are up against, of the price we will pay for being alive. But, don’t take my word for it. Just begin to live together in ways that bring life to life in the world. In order to live, we die; in dying we live. That realization is Christianity’s fundamental gift to the world. It means our work is cut out for us.

Our work is the work of bringing life to life in the world. We do that by bringing life to life in our own lives and in the lives of one another. We cannot do it alone, remember. It takes us all.
The work of bringing life to life is carried out on three fronts. The first has to do with coming to terms with how things are. “This is the way it is, this is what can be done about it, and that’s that.” We have to make our peace with “the facts of life,” with our lot in life, with who we are and how it is with us. The second has to do with the world’s approach to solving the problem of the way things are, which is, basically, denial, escape, and addiction, on the one hand, and despair on the other. In the world, if you aren’t depressed you’re in denial.

The third front is the boundary between the first two. We live between the way things are and the world’s response to the way things are, as those who have more to say about both. Eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand perceive more to life and living than meets the eye. We know very clearly how things are and how things also are. We live between what happens in the world and how the world responds to what happens there, and we bring something new to life.

We bring life to life. We bring compassion and hope to life. We care about one another. We live beautiful lives in the midst of the worst that life can do. We create the Promised Land on the boundary between the world and the way the world responds to the world. We build there the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God. We live there as those who look life in the eye, without flinching, but seeing past “the facts of life,” to “more than meets the eye,” and living lovingly, compassionately, in light of that vision, so that all might see, and be glad.

Our work is the work of resurrection, and restoration, and new life. Our work is to be alive in the moment of our living. Our work is to care about one another in ways that break through the desolation of isolation, and offer each other the wonder of the right kind of company, and save the world. Of course, the world doesn’t want to be saved, but that’s another sermon.

Monday, January 08, 2007

01/07/07, Sermon

How do we do it? No recipes allowed! We do it by faithfully refusing to faithfully take instruction or follow directions, including this directive to not follow directions. “Listen to me,” he said, saying, “Don’t listen to me!” Or, anyone else! Don’t take anyone’s word for it! Figure it out for yourself. Make it up as you go along.

Somebody else’s path is somebody else’s path. It isn’t your path. How can you be true to yourself and walk their path? How can you find your way by walking their way? Where do you think the ways, the paths, lead, anyway? They lead to YOUR heart, that’s where. They lead to YOUR “beam,” to the life that is YOUR’s to live. To the life with YOUR name on it. What good is a way that leads you to somebody else’s life? You should be searching for a way that leads to YOU.

We keep hearing, and perhaps, repeating, the phrase, “There are many ways up the mountain, but there is ONE mountain.” The implication is that God is THE mountain, that all paths lead to God, that God is THE core, or center, or ground, which draws all people to God. No matter how many ways there are of representing God, or expressing God, or understanding God, or saying who and how God is, and isn’t, and not matter how different, or even, mutually exclusive those ways are, there is, nevertheless, ONE God referenced by all of these various ways.

We might believe that one approach is as good as another, and that all approaches work equally well in leading us to God and connecting us with God. Or, we might believe that some approaches are better than others, and that some are downright stupid, and others are dangerously harmful, not only to one’s search for God, but also to one’s spiritual, and emotional, and perhaps even, physical wellbeing. But, we like to believe that, in the end, no matter what, we are all working toward the same goal, just taking different routes to the same destination, and that we will all wind up “in God,” “at God,” “with God” sooner or later. Well phooey on all that!

Listen carefully now. I don’t want you to miss this. God is the PROCESS, not the goal, not the outcome, not the destination. God is not the end, the center, the core, the mountain. God is the manner in which we conduct ourselves as we wander around searching for God. God is the HOW, not the WHO or the WHAT! If we want to find God, we have to live in Godly ways. If we want to be “in God,” or “with God,” we have to “be as God is” starting right now.

Of course, there is a catch. Two catches, actually. The first catch has to do with our search for the path that leads to ourselves, for the life that is ours to live. We cannot find the way alone. The other catch has to do with how we conduct the search. We have to look for the path as God would look for the path. But, we cannot practice godliness alone. We need one another to find ourselves. And, we need one another to practice being God in the world.

It takes all of us. That’s one of the 10,000 spiritual laws. It takes all of us to ground us, center us, focus us, keep us going, and keep us from “flying off the handle,” and “chasing wild geese,” and “following red herrings,” and “going nowhere fast.” It takes all of us to wake us up and enable us to be aware and alive. The rest of us force discipline upon us and require accountability of us. We cannot live any old way at all and be true to ourselves, and be as God is.

We pay a price for being true to ourselves, and, for being as God is, and without the rest of us around, we wouldn’t have what it takes to hand over the fare. We pay a price for being who we are, who God is. Jesus went to the cross for being who he was, for being who God is. There you are. Crosses of some variety wait for us all. The burden of being who we are, and who God is, within the context and circumstances of our lives is the cross we bear. How are you going to be you, and being who God is, doing what you do, living the life that is truly yours to live, the way God would do it, live it, within the context and circumstances of your life? It takes all of us to help you answer that one. You cannot do it alone. Do not even try.

It is the hardest thing you will ever do, paying the price to be who you are, to be as God is. Without the rest of us with you, you would quit immediately. “What’s in this for me?”, you would ask. “What am I getting out of all this? When is it going to be my turn?” You need us around to remind you that what we get out of it is that we get to be ourselves. We get to be as God is. We get to be who we are, as God is, within the context and circumstances of our lives. That’s what we get.

The catch is that we can only become who we are, as God is, in the company of the right kind of people. The company of the right kind of people is God to us. And, they enable us to be as God is—to search for the way to be who we are as God would do it. We incarnate God in the search for ourselves.

But, all of this hinges on two things: 1) Will we submit to the discernment and wisdom of, call it “the Body of Christ”? And, 2) as the Body of Christ, will we, conscientiously and consciously, make every effort to be discerning and wise, not using our power for manipulation and control? We have to be good for one another. We help one another toward discernment and wisdom, toward awakening and awareness, toward understanding and peace, toward compassion and right living. Everything hangs on our finding, and being the right kind of company.

I suggest that we look for, and work to create, the following in our search to find and be the right kind of company. I suggest that we look for an orientation, a spirit, that acknowledges and affirms us, our lives, and life itself. That does not attempt to separate us from ourselves, or from our lives, or from life itself. That helps us see into the heart of things, and recognize how things are, and how things also are, and keeps us company as we decide what we will do in response to it, without telling us what to do. That listens. That answers our questions out of its own experience, out of its own heart. and not out of some storehouse of doctrines, or platitudes, or formulas. That recognizes itself as “a process of discernment and wisdom,” that is becoming increasingly discerning and wise, but does not, itself, have the answers, or, even, a clue about how it is supposed to be done, but loves the quest and delights in the dance, and walks with us joyfully along the way.

The right kind of company knows that we bring God to life in the way we look for God. It understands that if we want to know God we have to live as becomes God. It sees that if we are going to take up any spiritual practice it must be the practice of compassion, and justice, and kindness, and gentleness, and patience, and acceptance, and peace. It must be the practice of letting God come to life in us, and through us, in all our relationships, and into all the world. It must be the practice of being God in the way we live our lives.