Category: emotional and spiritual health


If you read my blog, you know I can be a bit on the “churchy” side. ūüôā ¬†I a Continue reading

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Last night we were watching a new show on PBS called “A Path¬† Appears”. The topic was sex trafficking in the US. It was horribly sad¬† although many good folks are working tirelessly to help rescue these women, men, and children.¬† The vast majority are NOT consenting adults. It was so sad to these woman (primarily) who society has deemed to be quite worthless, when they are the truest victims. This along with all the tragedies in the world grieves my heart so and makes me wonder….

How Long?

How long, O Lord, will your children be used as objects?

How long. O Lord, will self-interest rule the day?

How long, O Lord, will parents be able to abuse their children?

How long, O Lord, will money be our master?

How long, O Lord, will those who are insecure continue to murder in your name?

How long, O Lord, will the use of force be seen as greater than love?

How long, O Lord, will I be blind to my own complicity?

How long, O Lord, will the poor be left to fend for themselves in this world of plenty?

How long, O Lord, will the Good News of your unconditional love be the negative news of fear of hell?

How long, O Lord, will your Church sit in judgement rather than extend love without agenda?

How long, O Lord, will vengeance be seen as justice?

How long, O Lord, will the pain of life be numbed by drug, work, sex, religious addiction rather than healed by love?

How long, O Lord, will the sick suffer alone?

How long, O Lord, will our eyes be blind to see ourselves (and you) in every person we see?

How long, O Lord, will we listen to fear over love?

How long, O Lord, will it be before our personal nationality deems us more worthy than the rest of our human family?

How long, O Lord, till all your creatures are not seen as expendable?

How long, O Lord, will the earth we live on be seen as something to exploit rather than care for?

How long, O Lord, will mental illness have stigma?

How long, O Lord, will personal gratification and freedom be more important than the love of many?

How long, O Lord, will the ability to kill be seen as a fundamental right?

How long, O Lord, till your Kingdom comes fully, on earth as it is in heaven?

How long, O Lord, till the Prince of Peace softens all hearts?

How long, O Lord, how long?

Nevertheless, I have seen  and experienced your love in action Lord, I do not hope for you to destroy. I hope for your universal love to flow like a mighty river through all and in all. As you have shown me, love never fails.

This past week¬† my wife’s beloved Grandma, Mid, passed away. In November, I will have been an “official” member of this family for 15 years!¬† So, I had the privilege and honor to know and love this lady through her later years. She was 94, almost 95.¬† She taught me that a person can enjoy a happy hour without it becoming a drunk fest! She loved very well and it was evident at her funeral.

It is a shame that so often if a person is older when they engage in the next aspect of the journey that the pain is somehow dismissed. The death of a child or young person is truly tragic and can be very difficult to come to terms with but this doesn’t mean it is easy to come to terms with the death of an older person. The difficulty either way is the result of love.

A hard reality of life is that love equals pain because life carries as much loss as gain. Love gives us a sense of ownership to that which can never be truly owned.¬† I love my wife, my kids, my family and my friends. They are mine and I am theirs, yet we are all our own person. This is love.¬† If we allow ourselves to succumb to the true power of love the sadness is incredibly deep and hard. When we love deeply, we truly suffer when those we love are suffering. This is the great gamble. Only the deck is rigged. A great lie that is pervasive is that the pain is not worth it. Such bullshit!¬† It can be a subconscious lie that can cause us to detach and avoid. This is result of self-preservation gone wrong. When we seek to save our own perspectives more than reality we lose sight of the ability to allow love to have its way with us. When love has its way, you can lose all dignity. The ego doesn’t like this but its love is more self-serving which is an oxymoron.¬† The ego persistently communicates we are alone in all of this, yet Love whispers that we are not and have never been alone.

I believe this speaks to a way the Church has failed us all at times. When we suffer and love the rules are of no importance. The theology of in/out has no place. Spirituality is not about knowledge or praying a certain way or even understanding God in a way that can be taught rather than experienced. God is close to the brokenhearted and deep down that is known.¬† The gift to be shared is that God grieves with us! It is not a great plan of platitudes! Love is NOT a platitude. It is the actual reality when we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Love is overwhelmingly worth it! The hope I carry is that this is “Goodbye for now”.¬† The joy of the Love of Mid continues and will always be there until we see her smiling face.¬† This is faith, hope and love.¬† No certainty, no control, no knowledge. Faith, Hope and Love and that is enough.

 

A poem for those who believe in absolutes and blanket statements. Stereotyping is the use of blanket statements or beliefs, of which, we have all been guilty. Once a person adheres to an absolute on any of these they cease to see people as people but rather one of “them” . May we continually learn about the logs in our own eyes.

Not All But Some….

Not all Americans are arrogant but some….

Not all Capitalists are greedy but some….

Not all Socialists are against freedom but some….

Not all Republicans are heartless but some….

Not all Democrats are elitists but some…..

Not all Libertarians are selfish but some….

Not all Green Party are against economic growth but some….

Not all in the Tea Party are xenophobic but some…..

Not all Muslims hate Israel but some…..

Not all Buddhists are godless but some…..

Not all Hindus follow the caste system but some….

Not all Jews hate the Palestinians but some….

Not all Atheists are immoral but some….

Not all Christians are judgmental but some….

Not all Spiritual people are not religious but some…..

Not all addicts knew what they were getting into but some….

Not all Police are on power trips but some….

Not all urban youth are up to no good but some….

Not all recipients of help/charity/welfare become dependent but some…..

Not all people repeat negative family cycles but some….

Not all divorces were avoidable but some…..

Not all rednecks are racists but some….

Not all immigrants can do it legally but some….

Not all gun owners are cowboy wannabes but some….

Not all LGBT are promiscuous activists but some….

Not all children are loved and cared for but some….

Not all abortions were careless but some….

Not all law-breakers deserve imprisonment but some….

Not all boss’ are jerks but some….

Not all the poor are lazy but some….

Not all the 1% are predatory but some….

Not all patriots are idolaters but some….

Not all soldiers want to kill but some….

Not all vegans/vegetarians are smug but some….

Not all politicians are scumbags but some….

Not all religious people are weak-minded but some….

Not all social activists really care but some….

Not all Americans are spoiled but some….

Not all problems in life are self-induced but some….

Not all who disagree with you are right but some….

 

 

And of the “some” mercy, grace and love covers all of the above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend I finally went on a quiet retreat! In recent years I have come to the place of appreciation for the contemplative and mystic aspects of my Christian faith but it has all been abstract and romanticized in my mind.¬† I have never really unplugged. Ever. I have gotten away from it all in community at retreats and seminars that have truly been life altering.¬†¬† Community is absolutely essential in the journey of healing.¬†The solitude is a new thing for me, I like it.¬† I am coming to see the solitude and quieting is also essential.¬† To settle in on how loved I am and connected to all things is beautiful to pause and recognize. To stop talking and listen….

A friend and I went to stay for a a little over 24 hours at a Catholic Retreat (you do not have to be Catholic to stay at one of these places, Christ’s Peace House of Prayer Easton, KS) in the country. I had very little expectations for this experience so as to actually experience it. I was thankful that I had a buddy with me for this introduction to a quiet retreat. It was nice to see a recognizable face. We each had our own¬† simple, comfortable cabin. We went off on our own for the majority of the time.¬† Food was provided, it was simple and good. The director was very hospitable and kind.

I hiked a bit and sat at different shrines and relaxed in the moment. I discovered on my hikes that fear robs me of experiencing the moment. Be it a rustle in the forest, wasps, or ticks! It would snap me to self-preservation and draw me away.¬† The truth is; it is unlikely any of those things will result in my demise. Thankfully this was an awareness so I could respond¬† and not live in the fear reaction.¬† I returned to my cabin showered away the ticks and chiggers and relaxed a bit. Having little or no expectations allowed me to just be.¬† I read some and journaled a little. Mostly, I didn’t want to busy my mind. My focus was Jesus.

The director had a cool insight he shared when we arrived. The idea that contemplative prayer is not about spoken (thought) worded prayer but rather it is experiencing the feelings of praying.¬† The feelings that arise with the simple thought of Jesus. To allow the feelings to arise within at the contemplation of His wonderful name.¬† This is weird, I get it, but I don’t care. This insight is precious to me and allowed me to be present moment by moment to my experience. Did I get bored and restless? Not as much as I was afraid I would.¬† I imagine the challenge of boredom and restlessness would be more a challenge during a longer retreat.

Jesus is amazing to me. To become human and identify with humanity and the creation is beyond words.  For God to experience true suffering and identify with every aspect of human abuse and injustice is so beyond comprehension. The Vindicated Forgiving Victim who vindicates us all. The God who weeps.  The One who shows us what the Father is truly like.

This is the Jesus I love.

As I was spending my time alone I felt overwhelming peace.¬† I really was amazed by this peace. As my friend¬† would say “Shalom in da home”¬† I rested in it.¬† There was nothing artificial about it. Nothing worked towards.¬† Peace.

To recognize and feel peace

To recognize and feel love

To recognize and feel healing

To recognize and feel acceptance

To recognize and feel connection to everything

To recognize and feel Jesus…

The feelings of peace, love, healing, acceptance, and connection is the Love of the Father through Jesus being poured out by the Spirit.¬† Our minds can’t fathom it. It’s foolishness and I am glad. The fun of theology/philosophy can be adventures in the vanity of thinking about the God who is beyond thought.¬† To taste and see that I want more.

This was such a valuable appetizer and I am hopeful to engage in this practice for years to come. But in the everyday I want to choose more daily disconnection from technology and more connection to the real in all its forms.  May you disconnect and connect as well.

 

 

First quick point. Spiritual, religious or unaffiliated are already included by breathing air. Here we go!

I love some the cool pics that come across Facebook that normally give the glories of being spiritual and poke fun at being religious. Such as; Religion is for those afraid of Hell and Spirituality is for those who have already been there. Witty and rings true to me.How about you?

What does it mean to be spiritual?¬† What does it mean to be religious. It seems to be more a difference in perception and words than reality. What I think folks are saying when they say “spiritual” is that they long and communicate with God but want nothing to do with any belief system that excludes others. Today our understanding of religion seems more of a in/out mega clique. The Latin of the word speaks more to connecting with God which sounds very close to our modern concept of being spiritual.

These in/out mega clique have rules and expectations as well as exclusions. Do this, don’t do that. The spiritual life appears more of moving in the direction of your intuition and trusting how God is communicating with you.¬† There are few have-to things other than seeking. There is an understanding that all humanity and the very cosmos is connected. Being born is your initiation. This past Sunday we caught Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (pretty good show,BTW) and there were three panelists that were sharing about the spiritual hunger that is all around and how their various blogs and speaking schedules were being filled up.¬† I have been struck when I watch these programs that it appears as if there is an overwhelming acknowledgement that God is at work in the world.¬† Yet no one describes themselves as religious.

I believe this is because the religious framework has gotten so fixed there is no room for the Spirit to move freely in these institutions and the average seeker is able to see it fairly quickly. Some of us take a few years living spiritual in the religion box before seeing it for what it has become.

For what it is worth. Religion has had much spiritual movement as well and always will. Once you get down to relationships and away from the “rules” and the “clique” of it all. I identify myself¬† as a Christian and find what the religion has become most sad. The movement that saw the value of all people became a in/out mega clique.

Ultimately I want to suggest the spiritual movement IS the Gospel for those unable to hear it due to cultural trappings and our negative judgements on the history of religion. Let’s look at this and assume you (and everyone) is already in the club. I will be quoting some of the Bible to show what I believe was the original, holistic movement of God and how it compares with what I see as the spiritual movement today.

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh”¬† Acts 1:17 emphasis added

Pretty inclusive, right? Could this be when you are listening to your heart, that inner voice, your intuition. Could you be co-creating the life you want every step of the way with the Holy Spirit?

” He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers‚ÄĒall things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Col 1:15-20 emphasis added

Ever think everything is somehow connected?  Could it be that it is true? Everything is connected.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

“It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings” Hebrews 2:10

This is so cool, amazing, and mind-blowing. God learned to identify with us through suffering. What?!?!?! God learned something? Say what now? Yes, God really gets YOU! This is what the spiritual get and the religious often miss.

Our Father” Matt 6:9 emphasis added

When Jesus starts out teaching how to pray these are his first two words.

Just think about that. Really think about it. Who is left out or excluded?

As much as it pains me to think about it. Maybe it is good for religion to be in decline? Maybe that is what is needed for folks to live and believe the Gospel without even identifying with the “official” Gospel? It pains me that the damage appears done and that anything tagged “Christian” will not be received as well as time moves on. But then again is this all about God connecting with His creation or protecting my understanding of how He does it?¬† I want to stop placing God in a box. The spiritual life recognizes this and I pray so does the religious.

 

All I Can Do (Thank You) by MikesChair

I could write a love song
Tell You what I think You wanna hear
But it wouldn’t be good enough, no
Yea I could try so hard
To give it everything I’ve got
But I’m not ever gonna measure up
[Chorus]
All I can do is thank You
For this life I never deserved
Wanna thank You for the grace
I know I don’t have to earn
You love me, You love me
Your mercy is proof
All I can do is say thank You
All I can do is say thank YouIt would have been easy
But I’m glad You never walked away
Cause Your love runs deep for me
And I see this beautiful world
And it brings tears in my eyes
And I think it’s beautiful to be free[Chorus](Thank You)
For hope, for love, for all the ways You move
(You)
For everything You do
(You)
What else can I say but thank You
Thank YouI could write a love song
Tell You what I think You wanna hear
But it wouldn’t be good enough

[Chorus]

All I can do, all I can do, all I can do
Is say thank You
All I can do, all I can do, all I can do
Is say thank You

I heard this song for the first time the other day and wanted to throw up. I know that they are trying to say that we don’t earn God’s love and to be grateful for that fact but come on, there is a lot of baggage in this song and it is worth looking at.
Why does the American Evangelical Church insist on saying, over and over again that we are worthless and will never be good enough? Why do we have to continue to live a groveling life?  Why is nothing we do ever enough. Why are our gifts worthless? Is God so uptight and picky that he has no use for what we bring Him?
I think we have become stuck in a thinking that if we act as if anything we do is good we are somehow trying to earn God’s love so we repeatedly have to tell God we know we are crap and not worth much. How well does this work? How close can you possibly feel to a God who thinks so critically of you?¬† The only thing you can do is say “thank you?” ?? Seriously,???!?!?! This is the governing philosophy of the american church?

I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children who are still young and nothing but a joy to me. My love for them is not dependent¬† on them at all. It is constant.¬† A few years ago my daughter wrote me a love song. This song was so precious to my heart. Did it earn her a better place in my heart? No. Was it “good enough”? Or did that¬† question even come to mind?

 

The Bible may call us “sinners” but it also calls us children, adopted, and heirs. Why does the church insist on making sure God knows¬† that we know how “unworthy” we are? What is the Gospel? Doesn’t God becoming flesh and blood say something about the worth of humanity in the eyes of God? But oh no, we have to walk around hating ourselves for not measuring up to some standard God isn’t even looking at. I think this adds to the stress of what it means to be a christian today.

Our false self is what is almost always insecure, uncomfortable and “unworthy” as it tries to measure up. The persona, the act, the masks. Acting out of these to earn the approval of God or people will inevitably be a losing game. But even if my kids are acting stupid and making poor choices would their hug, laughter or conversations not be “good enough”? To some extent yes, but only because their life is limited. Not my ability to love and appreciate them in the midst of the crap. I tend to believe God’s love is even a bit more tenacious than mine.

God sees your True self. The one made in His image. His child,His love, His precious one, Beloved.
When Christ became a human he identified with you and He is now (and forever) your brother! He is your family. You are the child the Father always wanted. Your gifts, drives and passions are Spirit and life that you are giving back to the source.
So, write a love song- it’s good enough.
Enjoy this life- you deserve it.
You are of intrinsic value and always have been.
Live from your heart and share it with God and others.
The world is waiting and longing for people to reveal who they really are.

I know so many of us subscribe to the idea of karma. Basically what comes around goes around, you reap what you sow, etc.. It is ,what seems, the way of the world today.¬† The whole idea is almost soothing to us. We get the feeling that our efforts will be rewarded when we work hard and punished when we fail or do wrong. I’ve heard it said forever that karma is a Bitch but I still think this idea is much more comfortable than another idea…..Grace.

I believe grace is entirely uncomfortable to our western (most likely all)¬† minds. What is it about when I screw up that makes me want to pay up? Even our modern idea’s of Christianity are basically a buying off a karmic minded god with blood and death. Is this really the ideal way to live? Waiting for the scales to balance. Making sure justice is executed in every case? What if grace is really the current that drives the universe?

 

Karma and the basic idea of it to me is insidious. It is religion.¬† It allows us to separate people and define them solely upon their actions. There is no seeking to understand. It keeps us on our high horse till we fall then we work hard to get back on it.¬† The next time you are tempted to glory in the “universal undeniable” truth of karma, think about it and compare it with grace. Allow what is uncomfortable about grace to seep into your heart deeply because it is the standard by which you are seen. Whether you know it or not.

Grace is unmerited favor, love and acceptance. It is not glossing over wrongdoing but looking into it and redeeming it. Grace is the counter message God has sent forth into the world in Jesus. Grace is so messy. It depends upon trust that we don’t really know the full story. Grace ,seemingly, lets the guilty off the hook. Grace is vulnerability with our weakness and our strength. It is not just some theological idea we sing about sometimes. Grace restores.¬† Grace doesn’t make sense but it is what I believe every soul cries for.¬† Grace is such Good News that Christianity has almost ruined the idea, yet that doesn’t change its transcending reality.

Rest and breathe in the grace that surrounds you.

 

I was having a conversation with a friend a few weeks back that has continued to be on my mind. He was saying that in their house that they do not let their kids say “I’m sorry.” but rather say “I apologize for ________ and ask your forgiveness”.¬† His point that a sorry can become flippant and without much feeling or understanding. This made some¬† sense to me.

There is another thing about this that got has gotten me thinking and I shared it with a group of friends the other day and it jived with them. Here it is; how often does the word sorry turn into a noun when you use it?

Years ago at a company meeting I got told “You say you’re sorry a lot”. Well, I was fairly new there and was doing my job very well so now looking back, I realize I was trying to maintain my image of being a good plumber and a “nice guy”. But what happens in your heart when you are always saying I’m sorry?

I am becoming convinced it eventually becomes your identity. The crappy part is that the mistake you are saying sorry for also can become your identity. It can become an internal script where you are sorry because you are a mistake. Make any sense?

This unintentional process also takes you out of the actual relationship where you are expressing your sorry-ness.¬† I can become so wrapped up in myself that I wonder how accurate my “sorry” actually is.

This has not worked in my life and as often as I hear sorry out there¬† I imagine I am not the only one. I am going to pick up the tool of “I apologize for ________ and ask your forgiveness” so I can actually experience the situation and get out of my mind and present to those I am sharing my heart with.

The truth is I am not sorry as my identity. I do act wrongly and selfishly at times. I make mistakes but I am not a mistake.  You are not sorry or a mistake either. One more time, YOU ARE NOT SORRY OR A MISTAKE.

Sorry No More

I want to take a look at the Greatest Commandment and maybe see if there is more there that what my mind and heart typically read. Here it is from Mark 12-29-30

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, `HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’
What does this say to you when you read it? I must confess most of the time for me it was akin to being asked to have an obsessive compulsive thought process where God had to be first in EVERYTHING.¬† Anyone else out there read it that way? I think that thinking is rooted out of the thought that God is more concerned with obedience to rules than relationship.¬† Jesus himself showed blatant disregard for the rules of his day and in turn sought out the ‘unclean’. This WAS against the Law of Moses, at least if he wanted to remain ‘clean’ in order to seek relationship.
One thing I think we have lost in the modern church of the west is the ability to think on our own. We simply want to be told the rules or formula and we will attempt to live out of someone else’s hard questions being answered to them not us. It is almost as if we don’t expect to have anything revealed to us that has not been officially approved (see Bible Answer Man, The Pope,your pastor/priest,). Even though Jesus asked people how they interpreted things. Hmmm.
What if it is a command to be a fully engaged human? What if by simply being a fully engaged human you fulfill  the Greatest Commandment?
What if to love the Lord with all your heart means to actually be in touch with your heart? To really feel? To dive into the things that put the hard shell around the tender beating underneath? What if by really knowing and trusting your heart you are loving God?
What if to love the Lord with all your soul means to not be afraid to engage with the spiritual side of life? To freely question? To know in your core you were created on purpose? To not push down or assume this is not a part of you because it is not easily understood or because of the woundedness of others representation of a god you don’t recognize as real? To actually engage with Father, Son and Spirit and trust they are engaged with your very soul right this minute? What if by engaging your soul you are loving God?
What if to love the Lord with all your mind means to give yourself the freedom to think? To think outside the box? To dive into learning all about the things you want to? To be able to embrace your analytical or logical thinking? What if by using your mind you are loving God?
What if by loving the Lord with all your strength is being engaged with your full physicality? By engaging your body with exercise? By engaging your sexuality so you can be naked and unafraid?  By paying attention to what you put in your body? What if by taking care of yourself you are loving God?
What if this command really is to be human? To be fully engaged in your entire person? What would it look like to live this way. To live holistically (not a particularly modern Christian way of thinking). To see your entire self being you is actually the ultimate act of love to God and those around you?
I believe until you are actually able to love yourself it is impossible to truly love others which would make the other Great commandment impossible.
Is it possible that Father wants His children to be fully engaged in living life? I think so. Don’t push down or squash any part of yourself. You are of infinite value! Choose to believe this and engage your entire self. You are so worth it!
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