Spirituality

Evolutionary Morning

I've felt unsettled for awhile.  Certainly some of that is related to the political landscape here in the U.S. and also to worldwide environmental changes, including my battle with the non-native Japanese beetles eating my rose bushes.

But the discomfort I'm experiencing is also about my own life, where I am professionally, and how I live within the circle of family, friends, and the ever enlarging society that I am a part of. 

So how am I coping? Not always wonderfully, that's for sure but I am learning what is helpful.

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I used to walk daily but I got out of the habit so I've taken up walking again, trying for 5 out of 7 days, 30 minutes minimum at least.

I read Ed Heilman's facebook page yesterday about learning to live deeper and having an opportunity to dive deeper into life. 

I believe I do not solve my problems at the same level I used to create them. So for me, getting quiet, still, and inward, is letting a deeper reality transform my normal conscious reality.

I was also inspired by this article by Rev. Lawrence Richardson, a writing and clergy colleague's church journey to Kenya, to the Daylight Center and School, and the way this is now shaping his approach toward church life and how we build community. 

This morning, I also grabbed my book, Prayers to an Evolutionary God by William Cleary, to read and savor someone else's words:

Boundless Sea of Love and Energy, our future and our God, may all your dreams for us come true: your steady motherlike imaginings, and your fatherly hopes, your creative purposes evident everywhere in the world. Guide us to our truest selves, co-creators with you of this environment.

It is such a joy to be part of this world. It's amazing how putting out a birdbath and having a garden gone a bit wild, will attract birds. I want to create habits that cultivate a positive attitude, so that I may have courage and fortitude to go out and be in the world as I am called to be. 

How do you nurture your self when the world or your life rattle your patterns?  

Not wired

A couple weeks ago, I took a workshop in my town: Diversity and Inclusivity.  If you've read my About Me page, you know that I am copastor with an African American pastor for a church that is roughly 50/50 white and black people. 

The area I live in, which used to be composed of all (or mostly all) white people, is gradually having more and more people of color move into it. The mayor wished to be proactive and a series of workshops and presentations has been put together for townspeople to participate in, if they so wish. 

About 100-150 of us gathered the second night in the high school's common area.

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Not Wired to Perceive Unknown

What did we learn that night? The brain is not wired to perceive the unknown.

Imagine an iceberg.  Above water, we see is human behavior.  Under the water are the structures, systems, thoughts, paradigms, ideas, images, and beliefs that show up by way of behavior.

Researchers used to believe that we could not unlearn the implicit "education" we received in childhood because we are unaware of those influences. 

But recent research suggests we can reshape our unconscious attitudes and beliefs.

How might this work? 

Four Stage Movement to Awareness

There is a four stage movement: 

  1. unconscious incompetence                          4. unconscious competence
  2. conscious incompetence                              3.  conscious competence

During the couple of hours were we together, we were given several different exercises to do. After each exercise we were encourage to find people at different tables, people we didn't know to talk briefly about the exercises with one another.  

What are some of the important take-aways to becoming a more diverse and inclusive community? 

  • stress exacerbates biases
  • are we motivated to learn new information and change
  • are we willing to see others, who are different from us, as individuals (rather than as a uniform group to hate and use as scapegoats)
  • do we work with diverse people as equal members in pursuit of a common goal
  • do we see leaders work with diverse people as equal members
People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And the final question we were left with for the evening:

What will I commit to do to manage my own unconscious bias?

A Blessed Good Friday and Easter morn

Among Christians, this is a week when we recognize the profound dislocation and disorientation that happens when we follow the life of Jesus and dig deep and deeper still into our faith. 

On Palm Sunday, we use the symbols of palm leaves to point us to the Scripture story where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey accompanied by palm branches and people shouting hosanna. People who wish to crown him king. And if we research the context of that day, on the other side of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, rides in on a horse accompanied by banners and armored soldiers.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shares the Jewish Passover Festival with his friends, aware of how much he has upset the powers that be, yet he continues to live as God calls him. Taking on the role of servant, Jesus washes their feet, and commands them to love one another.  

Today, Good Friday, there are churches that have a Service of Tenebrae (shadows). On the Isle of Iona, Scotland, we would have the Stations of the Cross (on this date--Friday, March 30--you will need to scroll down the page a bit to find the Stations with pictures attached) at various outdoor areas that led us ever onward to the Abbey. 

On Easter morn, we recognize that God's great love and laughter cannot be snuffed out. The sting of death is taken away. In the grand scheme of the cosmos, after death and violence, there is always new life. Always.

St. John's Cross, Iona Abbey

St. John's Cross, Iona Abbey

Fear or Hope

Whenever the news is discouraging, as in another school shooting or another black man is killed, my spirit shudders and wants to shut out what I see, what I read. 

Small Kindnesses and Building Relationships

Yet I find so much hope in our world. Whether it's the small things I do through kindnesses throughout the day or serving a biracial church that is building relationships of trust and compassion or whether it's the actions of other people: the young people speaking out against school shootings or black people and allies speaking out against the killing of innocent black men.

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I am fortunate to have thoughtful colleagues, pastors, in real life and on facebook, who give voice to their thoughts, who ground their thoughts in their theology, in their faith in God. 

Faith Traditions

Each faith tradition seeks goodness of the whole. If it does not, it is a cult.

Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs move toward light, toward goodness along the path that each person has been given. Compassion is the heart, the center of many if not all of these traditions.

Where hatred exists, there is fear. Fear of that which lies beyond our understanding. Or fear of being unlovable. Or fear that God is, indeed, a God who seeks justice. 

Tucking God in a box

I speak from the Christian tradition, as a woman who has served as pastor. Too many times, we attempt to box God up, domesticate Jesus, pin the Eternal Spirit down. When it's convenient, we take God out of the box. Evil, via the urge to control, the urge to dominate, killed Jesus.   

But you know the story from the Bible, right? God will not remain in our human-made boxes. God is like that flower that breaks through the concrete. Jesus laughed and broke free of the concrete. 

  • God is the earth that shifts and shakes beneath us.
  • God is the sun that shines upon us.
  • God is the wind that breathes upon us.
  • God is the rain that nurtures our dryness, our hollowness. 

We can argue with and fight against this unrestrained God all we want but God brings beauty forth from suffering, from violence.

God does not cause the violence or the suffering but God is with us in the form of Shekinah, She who dwells among us, the radiance who flashes forth in our wilderness times. 

An Active Faith

 What does an active faith look like today?

  • Some of us will read, offer prayer, teach/preach, raise awareness, inspire hope for the incoming of God's dream for our world.  
  • Some of us will support the women and youth, the men and children who march for a world that will be respectful of all people.
  • Some of us will organize in our own towns, cities, villages to bring about awareness and justice for people who struggle against racial and/or economic injustice.
  • Some of us will donate money to organizations that support our dream for a better world. 
  • Some of us will volunteer or apply for a paying job or create a consulting job for agencies that will bring about a more just world that shows compassion regardless of our gender, our skin color, our physical, emotional, or cognitive abilities.  

There is much work to be done. There is much dismantling that is happening. There is much building to do. 

Finding a faith community, where trust, education, encouragement, awareness, can be so helpful as we go about the work God has called us to do.  

on death

Does the title sound depressing? 

Its inspiration came from some wonderful mind-meanders as I read Quinn Caldwell's daily devotional from the United Church of Christ website.

United Church of Christ logo

United Church of Christ logo

At the beginning of each daily devotional is a Scripture reading.

the prophets: Ezekiel vs Jonah

Caldwell's use of Ezekiel 33:14-15 reminded me of Ezekiel's hospitality towards people who repent, in direct contrast to Jonah's pinching at people who actually did repent. 

Now I'm not putting this up as one is better than the other. We need the diversity of the prophets.

  • Ezekiel speaks to Jewish people who are in need of encouragement and sustenance. They are living in exile and having a difficult time. The inclusion of Ezekiel shows us that even during difficult times, even when we live in exile in a foreign land or find ourselves in a foreign place, God is there with us. Always.  
  • Jonah speaks to the Israelite's northern neighbors, the Ninevites. He doesn't want to share God's mercy with them. The inclusion of Jonah in the canon of the Bible shows us that God does not belong to any of us. We are all children of God, who come to God by way of many paths. 

death itself

Have you ever had thoughts that you just didn't share with other people because you wondered if you were being a bit too radical for people to understand? 

Death is actually absolutely necessary in our world. Without it, there is no way for nutrients, for minerals, for energy to cycle through the system.
Quinn G. Caldwell

Isn't that quote an amazing thought? Or perhaps you do find it depressing. Caldwell has a lot more in-depth to say about this subject, how we think that death entered the world through sin, when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

That recycling or cycling through death, that's what also makes us children of the dust of long dead stars! Caldwell also wrote that we do not own our bodies but are merely borrowing the bodies we live in. 

The Cross and The Empty Tomb

I've often wondered too, why the symbol of Christianity is a cross. It's a symbol of torture. Too often it was used as a disguise for a sword or a knife. Why the cross, which focuses us upon death? Why not the empty tomb? 

What does the empty tomb symbolize? Just a few thoughts...

  • New life that springs from violence, from death. 
  • God, through Jesus, reigns over death
  • Easter
  • God's love and laughter overcomes the bonds of human sin, human weakness, human pride

Could we wear this symbol as a necklace? The letter "t" symbolizes the cross. The letter "O" could symbolize the empty tomb. An upside-down "U" could also.   

What do you think? 

Scents of Another's Presence...

Today, I went to Mom's home. This past week, she and my sister took her elderly cat to the veterinarian. Bessie had lost fur along her spine, was eating more sporadically, and sleeping longer. At the vet's office, they discovered Bessie had lost four pounds and would require two shots of insulin each day. 

She invited me to come over and help her clean, get cat fur and dust out of her bedroom.

We lost Dad last year after he'd been dealing with his illness for the past three years. And now she's lost Bessie.

We took down curtains to wash. We took down blinds to wipe off. Mom had already stripped the bed and had her quilt ready for the laundromat after Bessie had spit up on it. Her wash machine was too small for it. And we carried out the boxes from under the bed and the dresser that sat next to the bed.

Their bedroom is small and the head of the bed is up on blocks but we stood the mattress and the box spring against the wall. Then we could move the bedframe. I vacuumed while Mom dusted and wiped items off out in the kitchen and living room. 

And as I detached the hose so that I could vacuum the edge of the carpet along the wall at the head of the bed, all of a sudden I could smell Dad's cologne. 

It was a strong and it made me happy to smell it again. 

When we took a break, I mentioned it to Mom. She has not smelled his cologne in their bedroom. We teased one another, saying that he was being nosy and checking out what we were doing.

Later, after we had put the bed back together, I worked on the closet, pulling everything out so I could give it a good vacuum. And then again, as I worked with the vacuum hose to clean the carpet right next to the wall, I could smell Dad's cologne. 

As I drove home today, I thought about it. The smell of dust should have been stronger than Dad's scent. 

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But last week, I had thought, wouldn't it be lovely if we could visit with Dad for a day. Just to visit. Just to let him know how much we love him, how much we miss him, and it's good to see him again. 

Bless.