Category Archives: Spirituality Vss. Religion

I DON’T WANNA!

I have so NOT been into my zazen sitting/meditation practice lately! The sweetness has disappeared and sometimes it takes everything for me to stay with the meditation and not bolt! I simply don’t want to do it! I’m not feeling anything. It doesn’t seem like I’m getting anything out of it.

It’s precisely during times like these when I should stay with it.

Developing any kind of disciplined practice is countercultural. We live in a culture which basically says: when ya stop feeling it – move on to something else. That’s why we live in a “throw away” society, where we see much brokenness in relationships.

Whether it is in my job, my writing, my meditation practice, my relationship/s, my music practice – it’s precisely when the going gets tough, boring or unfulfilling that I should stick with it. Just because I’m not “feeling” it doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening. Just become I’m not “feeling” it doesn’t mean I should stop my practice or acts of love toward another. Something magical actually happens when we stick with it.

In the book Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of St. Benedict Norman Fisher, a Zen priest, married man and co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center for five years says this: “After going through a time when you don’t enjoy your practice (add here job, relationship, exercise etc), you learn that the tough time is always where the reward comes in.” Somehow in the process of sticking with something or someone a greater depth, fulfillment and freedom is developed within us.

So, even though I don’t wanna, . . .can I keep trudging along and discover the reward that exists on the other side of boredom?

Advertisements

THE CHURCH IS A BULLY!

OK, I don’t want to get into church bashing, because many churches do wonderful things, and, gratefully, some are growing in their acceptance of gays and lesbians, just as they are. However, the messages sent by many churches which directly say or which make gays and lesbians feel fundamentally flawed, if not evil add to or are themselves directly responsible for bullying that goes on, which sometimes ends in death. Can you imagine the pressure a gay child or adolescent must feel if they are constantly absorbing messages from their churches and their families that they are flawed, deviant, an abomination? At the minimum, life is an uphill battle for them.

What about the other side of that equation? Such messages only provide fuel and fan the flames of righteousness within those who do unimaginable verbal and physical harm to gay and lesbian people. How justified their actions must feel in the light of God’s condemnation!

That’s one of the reasons I began these writings. . . To add my voice to sane religious and spiritual voices who speak the truth of God‘s love, and who know it in their hearts. No matter what anyone else says, I know in my heart. All else that I have done in my life would pale in comparison to saving just one person’s life or spirit because they found here a voice which spoke to them of Divine love, instead of Divine retribution. A place where instead of feeling like trash, they can feel whole, loved and spoken into being – just as they are by God.

So what’s the good news?

Despite loud voices which bellow messages of abomination I recently read an article which surveyed young Evangelicals/Fundamentalists. The NUMBER ONE complaint or point of disagreement they had with their churches was their church’s negative stance on homosexuality. The NUMBER ONE point of disagreement! Can you imagine? That’s great news! Somehow, despite loud voices, young evangelicals are simply not buying it! Thank God!

But let’s not be so naïve as to think that people are not suffering. This year again, we heard of young gay people being bullied to the point of taking their own lives or being killed. And so, I write.

If you are one such person who has been swallowing the poison of religious messages, I pray that you are lead here or to the growing number of churches and religious voices who embrace you in love.


Setting The Table

Visions of days past loom like distant memories
When I would gather them

Songs of passion, dreams of a different shore – a way for us to be – that seemed within reach

A heart that beat with affect and hope, open and seeking – dashed – yet like the phoenix,
Rising from the ashes
Flying again into your heart.

The gravity of ashes now speak: “lay here”
Rebirth – a distant belief
Voices of sunrise silenced
Visions of setting the last table become the heart’s
company

Visions. Songs. Dreams. Heart.
Has the Song found it’s end? Is the table to be
set?

The Vision still has its time. Here . . . A spark.


Does God Really Care About Religion?

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. 


Learning to Fly

Last night I was reading the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Shack:  Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by Wm. Paul Young.  The jury is still out on what I think of the novel, but I find parts of it intriguing so far.  If you read it, I recommend getting through the first third of the book.  After that it begins to get intriguing and plays with questions of images of God, religious assumptions, suffering, relationships and new life.

One line from the book struck me.  As the main character and God are conversing about various things, God says:  “This isn’t Sunday School.  This is a flying lesson” (p.98).  What an image!  What if we could view all religion, all spirituality, all relationships from the point of view of this metaphor?  They’re all about flying!  They’re all about being lifted up beyond the pain that sometimes befalls us in life and learning to fly again.  Our relationship with God is NOT about following this or that rule it’s about learning to fly!  It’s about learning to live well!  Of course, any pilot will tell you that there are things you have to learn and do if you are to fly.  But that is not about rigid adherence to rules.  It’s about learning to live well, making good choices so that I feel as if I take flight.  It is about calling on the power of God within and trusting it, trusting that it is with us and will carry us through anything.  Now, we’re not going to “feel” it all the time, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t there.

Some of my friends know that I have gone through a bit of a difficult time the past couple of years.  I have struggled much.  A few weeks ago, I sat down and tried to meditate, having “felt” no connection with God, or others for that matter, in quite a while.  I felt that this was such a waste of time.  I didn’t feel any better.  But I kept going back to meditation anyway, if even sporadically.  One day, wondering about the pain and difficulty of the past couple of years, wondering why I was even doing this and if there was any Power out there to help, I softly heard these words:  “It was then that I carried you.”  I look back now . . . and indeed I see only one set of footprints in the sand.  Indeed, I was still flying, still being lifted up, even though I didn’t feel it.

What strikes me is this:  if I had not meditated, if even sporadically, I never would have heard those gentle words, which were the catalyst which is giving me some thrust, some wind, as it were, as I slowly stretch out my wings again and learn to fly.

In the book, God says to the main character who has been deeply wounded:  “Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly. . . .And if left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place” (p.97).

I pray that we all know that we were created to fly; that we have the courage to slowly spread our wings again.  And even when life is difficult may we know that “it was then that I carried you.”


Building Temples

In Catholic circles the dedication of a church building is celebrated today – the dedication of the Cathedral church of Rome – St. John Lateran.

Such a feast strikes me as very bizarre!  Why have a feast celebrating a building?  After all, buildings will crumble, buildings come and go.  Yet on the other hand, there is something to be said for “sacred space.”  That space could be within a building for some, and in the Cathedrals of forests and mountains for others.  The fact is, in the noisy, frenzied society in which we live, the need for sacred space becomes paramount.  We all need a place to go where we can be silent, renewed and refreshed, whether that be within the walls of a building, our homes or in nature.

What’s curious to me in this feast is that the readings suggested don’t so much point to the building of a temple.  In the end, does God really care about all these temples and monuments built to Her/His name??  I don’t think so.  The Scripture readings speak of the temple that you and I are and the importance of caring for that temple and building up the body that we are as humans.  It is about building bridges of forgiveness and love between peoples and nations.  It is about caring for our own body temples and our minds.  It is about building up one other in love, reaching beyond our comfort zones at times to care for the lonely, the lost, the hurting.  This is what it means to building a temple pleasing to God.

So, how well am I caring for the temple that is my body?  How am I contributing to the building up of those who are in need?


Uncut = Unsaved??

Why is it that religion inevitably has lead to the creation of various hoops through which one must jump in order to be assured salvation? For the Jews, one of the hoops was circumcision. For Christians, it’s explicit belief in the name of Jesus – and no one else! I don’t know that the God of Abraham and Sarah would have meant to create such hoops. I don’t know that Jesus would have condemned any who did not explicitly put their faith in him! For Jesus, it wasn’t so much a matter of religious adherence as it was loving action. In this, one expressed and worked out their “salvation.”
“In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself through love.” (See Galatians 5: 1-6)

I still meet people who fear for their salvation due to strict and scrupulous upbringing. They, like I, were formed from early childhood with an image of God as a severe judge and the necessity of holding strictly to religious practice. Religious practice is meant to facilitate one’s life in God and in loving action toward others. Unfortunately what it turned into was a god itself. Instead of guiding one’s life in good ways, strict adherence to the practice became the focus. Instead of focusing on loving action toward others and justice in the world, one’s favor in the eyes of God was relegated to the fulfillment of various religious practices! The pain of those who live under the weight of this scrupulosity is palatable. Did God ever intend this? I don’t think so.

“You Pharisees! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but within you are filled with grasping, clinging greed!” (See Luke11: 37-41)

What’s really more important, cutting off your foreskin, or being a giving, loving person? It’s almost laughable when we see it this way; but what religious practices are you still a slave to? “Christ freed us for liberty. So stand firm, and do not take on yourselves the yoke of slavery a second time!” (See Galatians 5: 1-6)