NOTE: Again, I have to apologize that I am not consistent in writing for those who read my blog. I am in the midst of a move and things are very busy. You might want to consult one of my previous meditations in the mean time. I hope that you find what I write here helpful and uplifting to your spirit!
I so wish I was one of those people who are always able to walk with a sense of peace in the knowledge that they will be taken care of, that it will all work out. I confess to you that I am not. When something comes up, be it financial, a concern for a friend, work or the world, my first reaction is to get all upset. I oftentimes get down on myself for reacting this way. Come on, after all, I’m a person of faith ain’t I?? Would a person of faith react this way? Does anyone else feel this way?
I hope one day to grow into being one of those people who always walk with a sense of peace and trust. It must be a wonderful way to live. In the mean time though, I have to realize that it’s a process. These times are good practice for me to grow into being that person. I am given lessons, again and again, to trust when matters are out of my control – and it’s precisely this “practice” that will lead me to a greater sense of trust and freedom.
So, if you’re like me and get down on yourself for not reacting in a better way, give yourself a break. It’s a process. The fact is, after a few days of fretting about this or that, I usually do surrender to trust and regain a sense of equilibrium. Sometimes it just takes a while.
I question myself more and more as to whether God really cares about religious structures and institutions at all. Does God really care about all these humanly created laws? Does God really care about how this or that Worship Service or Liturgy is done? Does God really care about what kind of music is used? Does God really care about restricting people from access to the Table? Does God really care about not eating meat on the Fridays of Lent? Does God really care whether food is kosher or not? Does God really care about proving whether one was “actually” married or not through an annulment before getting married again? Does God really care about barring gay people from marriage, anymore than God would care about eating shrimp (which nobody listens to in the first place, even though it’s listed in the “abominations” in Leviticus – not to mention a woman being put to death who cheats on her husband, conveniently with no mention as to what is to happen to the man!). Does God really care about ANY of this?
In the end, does any of this matter? Some I have met who are into enforcing religious law are among the most judgmental, mean spirited people I have ever met. Conversely, those who have had the law inflicted upon them and internalized it live with the most abject fear of their acceptability in the eyes of God that I have seen. Indeed, isn’t it “sinful” to have instilled such fear in the hearts of these good people? What is of greater importance? Living the letter of religious law, or building people up by being a loving, self giving person?
Yesterday in my church, we heard the story of the man born blind from John’s Gospel. In the end, who was really blind? Were the blind man and Jesus the “sinners,” as accused by the upright religious folk in the story; or was it the religious folk themselves, intent on the letter of the law? I can only imagine that the spirit of evil rejoices when people get all caught up in religious law! Ironic that those who are not caught up in it, those who do not abide by it, or those who question it are the very ones called “bad.”
What’s more important in life? I believe that sometimes religious law serves only to blind us to what is really important in being a person of God.
I think of various people in my life and the fear that they carry. I think of friends who are unemployed, dealing with family situations, fearing for their children’s future, trying to make ends meet, trying to support a partner who is depressed, a friend who battles panic disorder – somewhat brought on by the “fear of God” instilled in her as a child. I think of those in far distant lands who daily live in fear for their lives – people in Iraq, Darfur and Zimbabwe. I think too of the fear that I carry within me about my future and my job as a gay man in church ministry. There is a lot of fear out there and a lot of fear within. So how do we alleviate some of this fear?
Do you know one of those people who, despite life’s circumstances, continue to trust that God will indeed take care of them? I know of a man who has been unemployed for almost a year now, recently divorced, trying to care for his three children. He is one of the happiest, most peaceful, self giving people I know. I’m sure he has his moments, but in general he exudes a sense of peacefulness and trust. Wouldn’t that be a great way to go through life? After all, does all our worry make any difference at all?
If I am in fear, can I take a step in trust today and live a little more peacefully and positively, trusting that somehow things will work out? Can I see God as a loving, good parent who wants the best for His/Her children? Easier said than done I know. Some days it might be easier and other days more difficult. That’s ok. But just a small step in trust might help us get on with life and what we need to do. And really, wouldn’t that be a much better way to go through life?
My final judgment is still out on the novel The Shack. However, I continue to find these tidbits in it that are very intriguing. The author has an interesting spin on some traditional religious and biblical concepts. Take good and evil for example.
God, in the story, describes Adam and Eve’s “sin.” By eating the forbidden apple, they gain the knowledge of good and evil. God describes this event as humans taking on the judgment of what is good and evil, labeling things as either good or bad which ultimately brings on a lot of pain. They move from a state of bliss – not judging things as good or bad – and fully trusting to one of judgment and suspicion. But how do we know what is good and what is bad?
Think back. Haven’t there been seemingly “bad” things that have happened to you, but in the end they have turned out to be the very catalysts that have lead you to better things? When you think about it, we bring on ourselves much pain, worry and anxiety simply because we judge things as “good” or “bad.”
What if we judged everything as “good?”
It’d certainly take away a lot of pain and a lot of worry and anxiety wouldn’t it? I find this something worth thinking about and having the potential of being one of those “repenting” (that is “re-thinking”) moments which might lead to a greater sense of freedom, trust and happiness in life. Eckhart Tolle, in his writings, also speaks about the pain caused by the judging mind that he calls the ego. Our true selves are “behind” our mind, at a deeper, still place where we don’t get caught up in judgments.
Think about it. If we stop labeling things that happen to us or in our world as good or bad we might come to a more peaceful, trusting place and find ourselves with a lot more energy. Could it be that it’s all good?
“No prophet gains acceptance in his native place.” (See Luke 4: 24)
Ain’t it true?
I know of a minister who voluntarily left a large church at which he served as Pastor for a number of years. He no longer could agree with the teachings of his church, especially regarding women, gay people, divorce and re-marriage and, in his case, mandatory celibacy as a requirement for ministry. He no longer could agree with official teaching on who was acceptable at the table and who was not, who was acceptable as a minister and who was not, who could get married and who could not, who could adopt and who could not. He left, and hearing the call of a number of people to continue his ministry, he started his own church. It is a small, fledgling church in a humble chapel, but one can calmly feel the presence of Spirit in that gathering of people. Unfortunately, this very minister, whose compassion and genuine interest in people is palatable, and whose desire is to someday be a good husband and father – in addition to being a minister – is being called a “sinner” and people are being warned of his “grave error.”
Prophets are indeed not accepted in their own place. I pray for this man and admire his courage in the face of religious officials who now shun him.
OK, let’s bring it home. It’s easy for me to admire someone who stands in agreement with my opinions. But let’s take someone in my life who has had the courage to lovingly, but firmly, challenge me to get back on the path and deal with an issue in my life. My first reaction usually isn’t that good. Those of you who have a partner (friend or other family member) know that sometimes your partner can challenge you – hopefully in love. And oftentimes our first reaction isn’t so loving in return. BUT, if we sit back and take the time to reflect on what they are saying – we just might find that instead of being rude, insensitive, arrogant jerks – they may have been speaking the truth out of love and concern. And maybe if I heed their call and make some changes, I just might be a happier, more fulfilled person.
Who are the prophets in your life? Instead of demonizing them, can I step back and hear the truth that they are speaking to me in love?
Don’t ya just love it when the house is all clean and everything is in place? I love the feeling that I get after I have spent some time cleaning and organizing things around the house or the office. It evokes a feeling of being centered and at peace. Some say that the state of one’s home is a reflection of their inner state. I tend to think that’s true, at least of me.
Sometimes we’ve got to clean house. And sometimes we’re forced into cleaning house.
At one time, Jesus cleaned house in a major way. He was quite PO’d at the way people had cluttered the Temple with things that hindered people’s connection with the Divine. He angrily drove out the merchants and money changers.
Sometimes we need to clear out interior clutter, behaviors that get in the way of our connection with God and one another. Sometimes we need to literally clean out the temple that is our body by removing toxic substances that can harm our health. Sometimes we need to “clear the air” in our relationships, take time to talk through issues so that we can begin to dance in step together again.
Sometimes we are forced into cleaning house. Life circumstances come upon us like a fire and we are forced to look within, to begin again. As I prayed yesterday morning, I read a meditation by Melody Beattie in her book of daily meditations entitled More Language of Letting Go. In this meditation she described the wildfires that yearly scorch parts of the earth. She described a particular fire one year that threatened some archeological sites in Colorado. They were able to contain the fire and save the sites, and, as a result of the undergrowth in another area being burned off, they discovered twelve other sites. She went on to say that sometimes Life throws a fire at us, but those fires have the possibility of pointing us in new directions and taking us to places of growth that otherwise we would not have imagined (see p.87-88). Wildfires are the very things that burn off the clutter of undergrowth and encourage new growth.
Is there some house cleaning that you need to do? Do it. It will lead to good things.
Note: For those who read these meditations, you’ve noticed that I’m not writing daily anymore. My goal is to provide meditations on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I hope that you find these a source of help along your journey!
Would He Be Recognized Today?
If Jesus walked among us today, would he be recognized? And, if he was, I wonder who would recognize him? I suspect that those who would recognize him wouldn’t be the usual suspects.
Look at Mattew 21: 33-43, 45-46. In Jesus’ day, who were the ones who didn’t recognize him? Many times in the Gospels it was the established religious leaders who didn’t recognize him – the ones supposedly in charge of the vineyard. Curious hugh? Is the same true today?
Those who did recognize Jesus were most often those you would least suspect: the uneducated, the poor, the sick, those rejected by their religion, women, those known to be sinners, those on the fringe. These are the people who recognized him.
It can really be a pain sometimes to be on the fringe of religion or society. It’s difficult. If you find yourself on the fringe, take heart. You just might be in the best place to recognize the truth and depth of his message – even though the powers that be may tell you otherwise.