Pastor Kaye's Blog

Gifts of Uncertainty

The Sufi mystic Rumi was once asked by a disciple, “What is fear?” He replied, “Non-acceptance of uncertainty is our fear. If we accept that uncertainty it becomes adventure!”

(For the full audio, click here.)

Human beings don’t like uncertainty. Uncertainty causes us hours of worry, concern and fear. We’re uncertain about the economy, our relationships, our God, our jobs, our futures, our health… you name it, there is an element of uncertainty in it. So, what do we do? We strive to take the uncertainty out of everything by planning and organizing and scheduling. But the truth is that we can never completely remove the uncertainty of life.

Our option is to accept the uncertainty in life. We call this all sorts of things… go with the flow, relax, chill out, roll with it, be flexible, be spontaneous. With this acceptance come gifts we may not have imagined. Eckert Tolle has said,

“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change. The Roman philosopher Tacitus rightly observed that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into aliveness, alertness and creativity.”

I think there are at least three gifts of uncertainty.

GIFT ONE… life becomes an adventure. When we allow ourselves to be surprised, to giftofuncertainty-750x350enjoy the unexpected twists and turns, to live for the moment instead of worrying overly much about the future or the past, everything becomes a wonderful adventure.

Sometimes my wife, Julie, and I will hop on her Harley and ride just to explore. Sometimes we find the coolest stuff when we just go and see where we end up! Instead we have a tendency to go to the same restaurants, the same vacation spots, and the same church (though, that’s ok). We hang with the same people, listen to the same music, make the same food, and play the same games. I understand that we’re creatures of habit. We like easy and comfortable and secure. However, I think we make it harder for the universe to surprise us, to move us, and to use us when we insist on the certainty of how we spend our days.

Deepak Chopra explains, “In our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”

GIFT TWOuncertainty creates excitement for seeking and learning.

If we were certain of everything and had the answers to everything, life would be boring. Because we don’t know everything,and aren’t certain about everything, we are excited to explore, to step forward, to theorize and risk and search.

This is true of all things… including God! Sadly, the great religions of the world have done people a disservice by insisting on the certainty of religion. Eric Elnes has said that,

“Religion does us a disservice when it seeks to remove uncertainty from life. Have you ever noticed how the more certainty a religion claims to deliver, the more frenzied and hysterical are its adherents? The fact of the matter is that life is messy and no amount of doctrine or dogma changes this. Faith built upon certainty is a house of cards that falls apart when the “unshakable foundation” shifts even slightly.”

Without uncertainty there is no faith and no creative exploration of life, the universe, God and everything.

GIFT THREE… we learn to fly

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”  ― C. JoyBell C.

Accepting uncertainty means we are willing to risk. Risk stretches us to discover ourselves and what we are truly capable of. If we don’t risk, if we don’t step into the unknown, we don’t give ourselves a chance to solve challenges creatively, to spread our wings and realize that we can fly and the spirit will carry us.

THE KEY: Trust is the key to living with uncertainty, and realizing the gifts of uncertainty in our lives. Trust in oneself and trust in the Divine, and the inherent goodness of the universe.

In Luke 12: 22-26, Jesus tells the people not to worry about life or what they are going to eat. His reasoning? Not that there is going to be a good crop or that Rome will stop oppressing the people. In fact, Jesus doesn’t really give any answers, or offer any security for life.  The answer Jesus offers is simply to trust in God.

But how do we do that when most days even God doesn’t feel certain. And if God has some sort of plan, God’s not sharing. So we decide we’ll just take care of things ourselves, thank you very much. Yet, I do find when I relax into trust, even if something doesn’t turn out the way I want, it’s easier to handle.

Trust takes us out of our self-created prison of fear. Trust opens our hearts and minds to the creative power of the universe, to the infinite possibilities that exist. Trust opens us to risk, to step out of the small worlds we create in our heads and lives and broaden them, excited, not scared, about the possibilities of what we might find. With trust, our uncertainty becomes adventure, aliveness, alertness and creativity.

Love & Light!

Kaye

Prophetic Ministry

Congratulations Sacred Journeys on five years of sharing, caring, drawing in and reaching out. You are an amazing, intelligent, eclectic, fun group of people who have made five years of ministry a joy for me. And I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say that again.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

We began as a rag-tag group of folks who believed that “church” could be something more than it was. We knew it wouldn’t always be easy, or comfortable, but we were determined. The goal was not to form another institution that then had to be preserved. The goal was to create a Christian spiritual community unlike any we could find in this area. A community based on inclusiveness, openness, questioning, social justice, learning and growing in our unique sacred journeys.

In my somewhat warped mind Star Trek music begins playing and I hear: “Spirituality: the final frontier… these have been the voyages of Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

We didn’t know if we’d last one week, one month, or one year… we hardly dared to dream 5 years down the road. And yet here we are… from 7 people around a dining room table to a community of over 120 who consider SJSC to be their home.

These five years have been a time of healing, of exploring, of building our identity, of wandering some in the wilderness trying to find our way. And, as we look back, it has been a great 5 years. We have worshiped, studied, learned, danced, prayed, sung, had fun, done tons of outreach and donated over $45,000 back to the community. But that doesn’t begin to speak to the relationships that have formed, the support and love that has been offered, the personal and spiritual growth that so many of us (myself included) have experienced.

We have entered the counter-culture these last 5 years. It doesn’t always seem like it because we have become comfortable in our community doing things our way. But when I step out of our community, I see how far we’ve come. The conference on progressive Christianity that I attended in May helped me to see that we are at the forefront of this movement, we are the newness in the dry desert of a Christianity that is no longer relevant, but refuses to die.

But we haven’t (in my humble opinion) gone nearly as far as we could have in our movement. We’ve mostly tried to ease ourselves into newness by having one foot in a more traditional model of religion (worship structure, Sunday School) and one foot clawing its way forward with a lack of doctrine and dogma to adhere to, a broader range of music that we consider sacred, using non-biblical readings and alternative Lord’s prayers, and not being tied to a building.

We’ve expanded the Christian box, but I want to keep pushing the walls out. In the coming year I want to take a few more steps forward, I want to look out new windows and see what we can see. I want to explore spiritual topics that we don’t generally hear about in a Christian context. Things like creativity, beauty, art, the four elements, modern-day mystics, and things I’d love to add to Christianity from other religions (if I could).

Personally, I see us as an evolving community that continues to seek, question and keep redefining a spiritual space for ourselves. This is an explorative space. A spiritual lab. So, let’s step forward boldly, expanding our horizons, our understanding of ourselves and the Divine. Let’s release our fears and, with excitement, push the walls of our spiritual boxes farther than we ever thought possible.

Love & Light!

Kaye

Theology Colored Glasses

glassesHenry N. Wieman once insisted, the issue is not, Does God exist? but, Which of the various realities one encounters functions as God? It is this orienting sensitivity which produces, universally and necessarily, the texture of the unique theological World which each individual inhabits. Selfhood is the process of owning, with conscious commitment, this World which functions as a construct of “convictions which one sees through like a pair of glasses.” These glasses are honed by root metaphors that function together as paradigm, so operating as to “author and authorize the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate, and the way we judge.                                             (“Theological Worlds,” by W. Paul Jones)

It would be nice if, when people are developing their theologies, they would do so in a neutral, abstract manner, evaluating their beliefs by their fidelity to scripture, context, tradition and internal consistency. However, the truth of the matter is that when theologies live in the minds of people, there are other criteria – how we were raised, what we were taught/conditioned to believe, our baggage, our fears, our culture, and so on.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

So, the pressing questions become:

  • How do our theologies function?
  • What do they keep us from seeing and what do they make us consider?
  • What inner attitudes do they validate or invalidate?
  • What outer behaviors do they encourage or discourage?

Professor, author and theologian W. Paul Jones ran a 10 year study that discovered five clusters of theological worlds each of which orients around a fundamental life posture. Each world is like a different colored pair of glasses through which people perceive and project alternative meaning into common-day experiences.

The worlds themselves seem to flow from an interaction between what Jones’ calls the obsessio and the epiphania. The obsessio is described as one’s defining life question. What is it that one continues to question about oneself or about life? What has so wounded one’s heart and soul that one continues to seek the answer? Everyone has an obsessio, and it is easy to pinpoint as it seems to stem from an early memory that brings back an acute sense of embarrassment. And, we may feel that it is crazy for our very selves to be twisted up in knots by something that may objectively seem like we should be over it. But there you have it. As Jones states, our obsessios seem, in the bright light of day, to be not so much our inner demons, but “mice with megaphones.” An obsession is never forgotten, but invisibly weighs other answers and life experiences into either substantiation for the question, or alternatives for resolution.

The epiphania is described as those moments of epiphany that may illuminate new possibilities for heal for our obsessio. At the very least, it keeps our souls hopeful, searching and even energized by the sense that our question might be worth pursuing for a lifetime.

The five worlds shake out to look like this:

  1. Separation and Reunion
  2. Conflict and Vindication
  3. Emptiness and Fulfillment
  4. Condemnation and Forgiveness
  5. Suffering and Endurance

(Depending on how self-aware you are, you may be able to look at these worlds and know pretty well where you fit. But there is a 60 question inventory that one can take to know for sure. If you’d like to see a brief summary of these worlds, and the inventory, click here.)

As an example, the obsessio for world one briefly looks like this:

  • Sense of abandonment
  • Feel isolated, small, lonely, misfit
  • Life is a quest to understand the mystery of this Whole
  • Long to find our way “home”
  • Yearn for a harmony to all things

Jones tells the story of a woman who shared her obsessio story: “When my mother left me in Sunday school, I always asked to wear her locket. She thought I like the locket. That wasn’t it at all. I knew I wasn’t worth coming back for, but I knew she would come back for her locket.” She was less sure about her epiphania, but her stories had echoes of Jesus’ parable of the lost coin.

This rhythm, this pendulum swing between obsessio and epiphania – whether conscious or not – becomes the set of lenses through which we see God, ourselves and the world.

Part of our spiritual journey, our personal healing, our path to wholeness, is recognizing or remembering that we see things subjectively, not objectively. We see all things, including ourselves and God, through colored lenses. Even if this model of theological worlds eludes you… the key is to become more self-aware, and also to remember that others come from a different place, different experiences and different teachings.

Shalom,

Kaye

A price tag for happiness?

This last week we read the parable of the rich farmer (Luke 12:13-21) who has a wonderfully abundant crop and doesn’t know what to do with it (clearly giving it away doesn’t even cross his mind). He eventually decides to and tear down his grain bins to build bigger ones so that he can sit back and relax for a few years. But God says to the farmer: ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. To whom will all your accumulated wealth go?’ Jesus goes on to say, “This is the way it works with people who accumulate riches for themselves, but are not rich in God.”

It was almost as if the farmer thought there was a price tag he had just met for being happy, secure and comfortable. He’d just won the lottery. Life was good! And then… psych! All gone!

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Now, we remember that this is a parable, a story Jesus told to make a point. So, what’s the point? Clearly it isn’t that as soon as you’re too greedy with your wealth that God will take you out of the game, or we wouldn’t have so many million and billionaires around! Jesus is clear in verse 15 that we should “Avoid greed in all its forms. Yes, ALL its forms. People are not just greedy with money, but with time, love, themselves and stuff.

Why should we avoid greed? Jesus doesn’t spell it out, but here are a few things I’d suggest: an attitude of greed keeps us from ever being satisfied or happy (there is really no price tag for happiness), it keeps us from living and enjoying the moment, and it is contractive, not expansive for our souls. An attitude of greed buys into a belief in scarcity rather than abundance.

In the book, An Other Kingdom, the authors talk about believing in abundance in the face of uncertainty. But they readily admit that this thinking is a “stretch of the imagination.” We see and hear all around us of people who don’t have enough, the poor, the homeless, the folks of Louisiana who’ve lost their homes in flooding, the folks in California who’ve lost their homes in the wildfires.

Our culture and our commerce has capitalized on the fear of not having enough, the fear of scarcity. In our advertising and our TV shows, in the push to compete with the Joneses, to be the best and have the most. There are time-saving devices, ways to buy love and keep love and find love, ways to live forever, look younger, and nip and tuck until we are beautiful. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that if we don’t have more we fail, we lose. We’re told we should be afraid of running out.

But what if… WHAT IF the fear of running out is not a reality, but a perspective? I know this may be hard to grasp because it feels like a reality. But WHAT IF whether we see our lives as rich and full is a perspective? What if this “reality” of scarcity isn’t really reality, but is simply one point of view, one mindset, one perspective? And we get to choose.

There was a 92-year-old petite, well-poised and proud woman, who was fully dressed each morning by 8 a.m. with her hair fashionable coiffed and makeup perfectly applied (even though she was legally blind). Her husband of 70 years had recently passed away making it necessary for her to move to a nursing home. (Most older people I know rail against this with a huge fear of the future and a huge loss of their independence and home and life as they knew it.)

Well, the day had come and after many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, the aide provided her with a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.

“I love it!” she stated with the enthusiasm of having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room… just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged… it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it… it’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away just for this time in my life.”

Many people only see lack and loss in these situations. They see and therefore experience scarcity and the fear that comes with that. But then there are those special people who live with a different perspective and bring light, hope and joy to others.

Being rich in God means living with an attitude of abundance, not scarcity, in whatever situation you may be in. When we have that close relationship with God, a trust in the basic benevolence of the universe, and knowledge that there is so much more than meets the eye, we look at wealth, stuff, love, time and even beauty in a different way. Being “rich” means something completely different when one comes from a deep connection with the Divine.

Love & Light!

Kaye

 

Who am I?

In the call story of the prophet Jeremiah, there are two amazing lines:

Before I formed you in the womb, I chose you.
Before you were born I dedicated you.
                                                         (Jeremiah 1:5)

In Jewish, Christian and other religious traditions, the essence of who we are is with the Divine long before we are born. Eternal life is not, as we have been led to believe, about life after death. Eternal life with God has always been and will always be. The very core of our beings has always been and will always be.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Yet if someone were to ask you, “Who are you?” or “Tell me about yourself?” how would you respond? Would you say, “I have been with the Divine from before I was born, I am part of the Divine now, and shall always be even after I die. I am stardust and moonbeams, dirt and ashes, water and fire. I am love and compassion. I am a piece of the whole. In the deepest part of me I am known and I know and it has always been so.”

Um, no. In describing ourselves we’re mostly likely to tell people about our roles, relationships, work, skills, hobbies, character traits, illnesses or even addictions. But we are so much more!

There is a Buddhist meditation called “Who am I?” that is designed to get people past all of these superficial definitions of Self and help us remember that we are more than. The gist of the meditation is to ask yourself over and over again “Who am I?” until you get past all the transitory pieces and begin to recognize our true selves which are connected to the Divine and everything else in creation. Rabbi Rami Shapiro describes it in a beautiful way when he says, “You arise from God the way sunlight arises from the sun, the way a wave arises int he ocean. The “I” that is your true Self and the true Self of all predates time and creation like an acorn predates an oak…”

James Hillman’s acorn theory suggests that just as the acorn has within it the “map” of its destiny to become the oak tree, so does each human have encoded within him/herself an identity – call it the soul – as part of the primordial instant of all creation. Hillman states that “each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived.” At birth we forget who we are and our life’s assignment is to remember ourselves and who we were created to be. If we will listen, our souls work to teach us and guide us through our life experiences to become who we were created to be.

Sue Monk Kidd tells a story about being a novice gardener and, not knowing any better, planting her tulip bulbs a foot deep. A gardener friend eventually informed her that a few inches would have been sufficient! Yet, they managed to push through all that dirt to grow and bloom. Kidd draws the connection between the bulb and the true Self. She says, “The Self is already within us, an imprint of our wholeness and divinity.” Seeking realization, our true Selves must push through the dark layers of our false selves to come into the light. Our false selves take many shapes including, the need to please, perfectionism, fear of commitment, emotional distance, anger, negativity, addiction, fear of risk and failure, and the need to be in the spotlight.

Our true Selves, as an emanation of the Divine, manifest as light, joy, peace, compassion, justice, non-judgment, hope and love. The world will try to make us who we aren’t, but our true Selves, the seed planted deep within us, will continue to nudge, annoy and frustrate us to be who we are. Listen!

Blessings,

Kaye

 

God, could you speak up?

It feels like the world is just getting louder and louder. So, seriously, when I want “a word from the Lord,” I want it loud and clear. The story of Elijah reminds us that what we want and what we’re going to get may very well be two different things.

(For the full audio, click here.)

In 1 Kings 19:1-15a, the people have turned to pagan idols, most of the prophets of Yahweh have been killed, Elijah has royally pissed off Queen Jezebel, and he is fleeing for his life. Next,we find Elijah hiding in a cave on Mt. Horeb (where the prophets always encounter God), and personally, I think Elijah is ready to turn in his resignation and retire. Then God tells him (my paraphrase) “Hey, Elijah, go stand on the mountain because I’m about to pass by!” And just as he’s about to step out of the cave a whirlwind hits, then an earthquake and then fire. Is God just showing off? Thankfully Elijah hadn’t made it outside yet!  Well, after all the commotion dies down, Elijah hears God whisper, “Go back the way you came.” Sigh.

The whole story is a little too far-fetched to take literally, so, what’s the metaphor? What’s the message?  And, by the way, how did Elijah know that God wasn’t in the whirlwind, the earthquake or the fire?

Here’s my take on it… perhaps the world is like the whirlwind and the earthquake and the fire. Perhaps the typical state of affairs in life is chaos and confusion, loud noise and distraction, fires to put out and crises to avoid. God doesn’t even try to compete with all of these things by being louder, and Elijah seems to know deep within what is God and what isn’t. As a prophet, I suppose, Elijah has trained his heart to know when the Divine has a message. Instead of rushing out into the chaos, Elijah waits in anticipation and listens intently for the voice God, and so the faint whisper isn’t lost to him. But how many times is it lost to us?

Many people have become very uncomfortable in silence, uncomfortable stopping and waiting and listening. Noise and bequietandlistenbusyness cover up our emotions and our fears, they distract us from ourselves and that still small voice that emanates from within. We use our own personal whirlwinds, and those of society, to drown out our honest thoughts, mask our true feelings and obscure the voice of God. And we don’t even know we’re doing it.

At times we may be worrying about situations in our lives, so we decide to spend more time in prayer. But our prayer tends to be us talking, and talking, and talking. We’re apt to only listen to those things that will confirm what we already think. We don’t want to be surprised by God.

If we really want the connection with God, if we are willing to take direction from the universe, then we need to cultivate a listening heart… one that quiets down and pays attention.

Rabbi Karyn Kedar, in her poem Messages from God, basically says there are two ways to approach this: either you believe that the universe has messages for you and guides you, or you don’t. If you don’t believe it, then we are each alone in the world without input from the Divine in any way, shape or form. The world and the universe are mute.

If you do believe the universe sends you messages, then going through life can be as exciting as a treasure hunt and we will keep our eyes and ears open for those messages, coincidences and synchronicity.

Stitch

Stitch (formerly Cherry)

Let me use getting our puppy as an example… watch and see how easily this flowed. We’d been looking online and sort of convinced ourselves that the right puppy would find us. Julie and I were out walking one night and a woman on a bike stopped and asked us what happened to our last dog (oddly enough neither of us ever remember seeing her before). We explained that Rosie had congenital kidney problems and we had to put her down, and she asked if we were looking for another dog. We said, yes, we’d been looking at rescue sites online and made a few inquiries. Then she suggested that we try Lucky Mutts and gave them a glowing review. So, we got home, checked out the dogs at Lucky Mutts and found three puppies that seemed to fit our requirements due to arrive in Milwaukee in 5 days. We filled out the application, got a call the next day for a woman to come do a home visit. She brought her daughter (who happened to know my daughter) we had a good conversation, and were approved by the next day with one of the dogs (Cherry) on hold for us.

In the meantime, we had filled out an application with another rescue and the foster mom of the puppies we had applied for called me. She said she’d seen I was a pastor and had just been on our website! She was very excited and very persuasive about the puppy, Peep, she was fostering. We decided to go see both Peep and Cherry and then make a decision.

We met Peep first, and she was very cute and sweet, albeit a bit distracted and almost disinterested in us. We told Peep’s foster mom that we just didn’t know and still had to meet the other puppy. She said, you’re a pastor, you know to let the spirit lead you and you’ll feel which one is the right fit. (Apparently I need someone to remind me of this.) Well, we left and oddly none of us really felt like Peep was “it,” though there was no specific reason why.

When we got up to Milwaukee, they brought Cherry out to us and as we sat down in the grass to meet her. She immediately jumped up on each of us and gave us hugs and puppy kisses. The choice was obvious and instantaneous. Isn’t it amazing how all of that came together! I would have loved a big bold sign pointing to the right dog – THIS ONE! But when we were all called to pay attention, and we did, we knew.

Linda Douty says, “The task is to house our own portable sanctuary in the hallowed center of who we arethat place where we become so familiar with the sound of that still small voice that we can hear it in the MIDST of the whirlwind, in the very ebb and flow of our daily lives.”

How do we know when the still, small voice is talking? Well, what moves you? What brings tears to your eyes (in a good way)? What calls you to action? What excites you? What do you have a passion for? What stops you in your tracks? What makes you lost track of time? When these things happen, it may very well be the voice of God, and it behooves us to stop and listen carefully to what is being whispered in our hearts.

Rabbi Kedar says, “The world of the spirit speaks to you in a hundred voices. Listen with the heartbeat of your soul.”

Love & Light!

Kaye

Doing Good… it’s complicated…

In Galatians, Paul says, “Never grow tired of doing good.”do good

Seems pretty cut and dried, pretty obvious, doesn’t it? There is almost no commentary to such a simple, common sense point… except that doing good appears to have become a very complicated prospect.

Why? Well, here’s the list we came up with yesterday morning in worship:

  • We don’t trust people
  • We want to do good for people who deserve it
  • We make judgments about the people we would do a good thing for
  • We don’t have the time
  • We don’t have the energy
  • We don’t think it will be appreciated
  • We don’t think it will make any difference
  • We don’t want to be taken advantage of
  • We don’t want to spend the money
  • We’re not even considering anyone else because we’re so focused on ourselves
  • We don’t want to be called a “do-gooder”
  • We worry about what people with think about us
  • We analyze the situation to death before doing anything and so sometimes manage to do nothing

I wish I could say that I’m better than this, but the reality is that I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another. Hey, acceptance is the first step toward recovery, right?

(For the full audio version, click here.)

One of the things that Mother Teresa was good at reminding the rest of us is that we get so caught up in judging others that we don’t try to understand. We get so caught up in our fear of others, that we forget that they are one of us.

Truly, it doesn’t take much to do good, and it may even brighten another’s day, or put a smile on someone’s face. It may even restore someone’s faith in humanity for a moment. Or it may have no visible effect… it really doesn’t matter because the real change is within ourselves. Doing good, even for a brief instant changes the way we perceive the world, the way we live, and the way we think of ourselves and the Divine.

When John Wesley first began to form societies of Methodists in 1739, those early folks decided they needed some rules (I’m not sure what they were thinking, but there you have it). Not bad rules, and not too many rules, but a few good rules.  He came up with what Bishop Reuben Job has called Three Simple Rules:

Do No Harm

Do Good

Stay in Love with God. (That’s a paraphrase by Bishop Job because no one really understands what “Attend all of the Ordinances of God” means).

In fact, John Wesley’s most famous quote is, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can.  At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

So, I invite you to try this challenge for a week… try to live the injunction to “never grow tired of doing good.” Watch for the opportunities, don’t shoot them down in your head, pay attention to when you make judgments or excuses that keep you from doing good, and then let yourself do good without expectation. Remember it isn’t about others, it’s about us.

Shalom,

Kaye

 

 

 

Liminal Space

We returned from Italy late Thursday night, and as you can imagine we visited a LOT of churches. It was also very crowded. Often we were with a local guide, walked the towns, got the history lecture as we went, spent 5-10 minutes inside a church to look around and take pictures that could never do justice to the enormity and beauty of these sanctuaries. This is the way it goes on a study tour in the height of tourist season. Now, it’s possible that I’m just weird, but I could’ve spent an hour or more in each place, not necessarily looking at statues and relics and paintings, but soaking in the spiritual energy accumulated over centuries of people worshiping and praying there.IMG_5416

(For the full audio version, click here.)

We had one exception to this rule… St. Paul’s Basilica, the second largest church in Italy, built on the site where his remains were buried. Perhaps because it was outside the city walls explained why it wasn’t very crowded at all – maybe two dozen people. And we actually were given 40 minutes in the church without having to be attached to an ear piece with someone explaining the history and art in the place! I wandered briefly and then just sat down, overwhelmed, and finally able to take the time to think, to absorb, to feel, to question, and to connect with the Divine.

I sat downIMG_5424 in the last row of chairs in front of the main altar, and tried to simply be and to process and understand all the conflicting thoughts and feelings that flooded into me. Basically, I’m not a fan of spending tons of money on church buildings when people are hungry, homeless and struggling on the outside of the walls. And, I think Paul, Peter, Jesus and Mary would be appalled at the riches poured into these buildings when worship wasn’t at all close to their main message. However, as I opened myself up to the energy of the space, I could understand why places like this were so important to the people. I felt like I’d entered another world. The “real” world of worries, work, family, struggle, taxes, politics and fear felt so far away.

This space was a liminal space, a thin space (as the Celtics would say) between the ordinary and the Divine. It is a threshold where you are no longer in the place you were, but are not in the place you are going either. It is a place of transformation, transcendence, and change. The experience brought me back around to my center, and I’ve been holding it close ever since.

Paul and I seem to be getting very close, which is a bit unnerving because I still disagree with a whole bunch of his theology. But he seems to sum up my struggle with his line from Galatians 6:15:

“It means nothing whether one bothers with the externals of religion or not. All that matters is that one is created anew.”

A church space, wherever it is, is meant to be a liminal space, a boundary where the ordinary and the holy meet. A place where people can be transformed, given hope, given perspective as they touch something more. But instead of being asked to focus on this feeling, this light, thIMG_5422is internal change and connection, people have been ingrained with the obligation to go to church, to behave certain ways and believe certain things.

Coming into this space should constantly remind us that we are not alone, that we are loved, that the core of our beings is light and love… and so is everyone else. We’ve just forgotten. And when we leave this space, we should carry just a bit of that with us so that we change the way we respond in the world and so slowly change the world.

When we make snap judgments against others, our liminal experience should help us to take a step back and say, “hang on, they are just like us deep inside… they can’t help the color of their skin, the religion they grew up with, their sexual orientation. What would it be like to be in their shoes with their experiences?”

When we jump to a place of frustration and impatience, remembering again the feeling, energy, and peace of the liminal sanctuary space can draw us back to a place of objectivity. The “real” world is not all there is.

When we find ourselves stuck in a rut, the liminal experience can give us courage to take the risks leading toward healing and wholeness.

When we beat ourselves up with guilt, regret and shame, this in-between place reminds us that we are MORE than that. It can help us to face our pasts, our brokenness and our baggage.

When we get caught up in complaining and negativity, remembering the feelings of the liminal space draws us back toward the positive, back toward hope, back toward loving oneself and others.

When we see injustice, the power of the liminal experience gives us the strength to stand up for others, to work for positive change.

The key to the liminal experience is that it helps create us anew. I know it is slow. I know we don’t necessarily trust it once we’re back in the “real” world… it feels too far away and maybe too magical to be true. But what if that liminal experience is more real and more true than what we think we perceive in our everyday lives? What if?

So, when you enter those liminal spaces, open your hands and feel the energy. Hug one another and feel the love. Let loose of your tight hold on the hurt that you think defines you and feel healing. Open your mouths in song and feel the oneness of voices blended in music and harmony. Expand your love to those around you and feel compassion expand your heart.

Be changed. Be made more whole. Be more loving, forgiving and compassionate. Be more joyful, hopeful and peaceful. Be who you were created to be… the beautiful, unique you. That’s what matters.

Kaye

Freedom in Christ

Today is Independence Day, the Fourth of July, a day when freedom is celebrated freedom-in-christ1from sea to shining sea. It’s a different kind of freedom than the Apostle Paul talks about. Paul’s wasn’t talking about the freedom to own guns, or marry someone of the same sex, or get an abortion, or vote, or drive without a seat belt… it was about the freedom of our hearts and souls.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

My guess is that this understanding of freedom was as foreign to people in Paul’s time as it is to people today.

You see, Paul found a surprising thing happened to him after his mystical encounter with Jesus. All the laws he had upheld all those years as a devout Jew didn’t mean much of anything to him anymore. In Jesus, Paul found a unique expression of the Divine, and through that encounter with light and love he experienced healing, wholeness, and a transcendence of the loneliness, separation and emptiness our souls feel when we are disconnected from our Source. Paul had no idea life in the Spirit of God could be like this. He felt free.

Paul completely changed his tune. Now instead of enforcing the 613 laws of Judaism, he taught that life in the law leads to death. Not physical death, but the death of our souls and separation from God. When we focus too much then on trying to do all the right things and believe all the right things that we actually lose sight of God.

Richard Rohr calls this the “performance principle” and says, “Almost all of us start with a performance principle of some kind: “I’m good because I obey this commandment, because I do this kind of work, or because I belong to this group.” That’s the calculus the ego understands… but that game has to fall apart. It has to, or it will kill you.”

Sadly Paul’s assertion that the law leads to death has had little, if any, impact on Christianity. Most Christians today are enslaved by the laws created over the centuries by the churches… not by Jesus! We have lost the message of freedom in God that Jesus preached.

Some Christians will agreed that “good works” won’t get you into heaven. But then they’ll tell you that what gets you in is “faith.” Um, hello, that’s just another condition. I suppose it is easy to see how Paul could have led them to that conclusion. Paul emphasized over and over again that people just needed to have faith in Jesus to experience freedom. But for Paul that faith was an abolition of requirements because it involved a radically new way of seeing and being. It involved seeing all things as one with God, and being an expression of God’s love for all.

For Paul, freedom in Christ meant that people were free from having to measure up, freedom from trying to earn God’s love. And in turn we are free to love others without conditions, with judgments, without unhealthy attachments. And they were free from beating themselves up with guilt and shame. We seem to have forgotten this… or maybe never got it in the first place.

There is a Hasidic story, told by Megan McKenna in her book Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, of Rabbi Naftali…

It was the rabbi’s custom every evening after the sun went down to go walking through the town and then into the outskirts. It provided him with time to reflect and kept him up on anything that was happening, the comings and goings of his own neighbors. It was also the custom of the wealthy landowners to hire watchmen to watch the perimeters of their property at night, whether they were home or not, as a security measure. One evening after dark, the rabbi met one of these watchers and asked him whom he worked for and was given an answer… And the watcher assumed that the rabbi too was working for someone and asked him who his employer was.

The rabbi stopped in his tracks, for the question hit him squarely in his heart. Whom did he work for? Was it obvious that he served the Master of the Universe? He wasn’t sure, and so he didn’t answer right away. Instead he walked along with the man as he watched and walked the grounds of the rich man’s estate. Then the rabbi spoke: “I’m not sure that I really work for anyone, I’m sorry to say. I am a rabbi in this town.” After a long, silent walk, the rabbi asked the watcher, “Will you come and work for me?”

“Of course, I’d be delighted to, Rabbi,” the man responded. “What would my duties entail?”

“Oh, there would just be one thing you would always do,” the rabbi answered. “Remind me whom I work for, whose employ I’m in, and why I’m here – that’s all. Remind me!”

Perhaps that is why we form spiritual communities, to remind each other who God is in our lives and what freedom that gives us. Freedom to love and work for justice. Freedom to share peace and hope and joy. A freedom that is life-giving, because it is dependent upon no one else, nor on what people might do and say in our lives.

Happy Independence Day!

Kaye

 

 

Soil of the Soul

You know, Jesus was pretty savvy with his parables, but we too often take them at face value or dismiss them as cute little stories. And unfortunately, sometimes scripture decides to explain the parables for us, so we don’t think too deeply about it. Take the parable of the good soil, for example (Luke 8:4-15), it is an amazing metaphor explaining the state of our souls and what it takes to respond to the Divine in our lives and to grow spiritually.

Side note: Jesus seminar scholars believe that, while the actual parable was probably authentic to Jesus, the explanation most likely was not because “Such a distinction between “us” and “them” contravenes much of Jesus’ fundamental teaching.”(The Five Gospels, by Funk, Hoover and the Jesus Seminar, p. 307)

This familiar parable goes something like this… A sower went out to sow some seed, and as he sowed some of the seeds fell on the footpath, some in the rocks, some in the thorns and some in the good soil.

Clearly, the sower is God. The seed can be interpreted as many things such as the word of God, the nudgings of the Divine, our potential, and the love of God.

The seeds lands in four different places which represent the soil, or receptivity, of our souls to the Divine. Depending on our life circumstances, the people we associate, what we’ve experienced and whether we are part of a nurturing spiritual community, our soil may be many different compositions of the four types.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

FOOTPATH – If our soul resembles a footpath we imagine hard-packed, well-traveled ground. If the seeds of our potential, or the nudgings of the Divine, or the pull toward spiritual growth, all fall on the hardened surface of our souls, what does that mean? Maybe we’re too stuck in our ways, or too likely to listen to what others have always told us to be open to something new. Maybe we prefer to follow the path more traveled because it is the path of least resistance, we don’t want to question or risk trying a different way. Perhaps we’re creatures of habit, unwilling to divert from our usual path… just like we take the same route to the grocery store ever time.

ROCKS – If our souls resemble rocky ground the seed of God will have a difficult time taking root. And if it does, the roots are liable to be shallow and the plants will be at the mercy of the elements. Tough times come along and those fragile plants wither in the sun, are washed away in big rains or are uprooted easily in the wind. Rocks that keep us from having depth, substance and self-awareness may be things like bitterness, anger, hurt, shame, guilt, selfishness, ego, fear, or even very little desire for personal growth.

THORNS – The nudgings of the Divine can grow up in the thorns of our souls, but will most likely be choked out before they get too big. There is no room for them to grow, nor is it a priority to help them grow. Thorns may be the multitude of worries and concerns we have. We would prefer to let our minds dwell on these things than on things of the spirit. Thorns may look like excessive business… we claim we have no time for the Divine (except maybe for Sunday mornings). Thorns may be the ego wanting its own way, its own agenda or may be co-dependence on others and unhealthy attachments to things, ideas, needs.

GOOD SOIL – If you are a serious gardener, you know that to grow healthy plants you need to good soil 1prepare good soil to put them in. Typically this means tilling the soil, adding nutrients and fertilizers, rotating crops, having the right pH balance and the right mixture of sand clay, silt and organic material for what you’re planting. It’s a lot of work to make good soil! Metaphorically, I believe this means first and foremost that our spiritual growth is a priority in our lives. We need to cultivate within ourselves the ability to be open-minded, flexible, and curious. We need to truly listen to and process the wisdom those in our lives we consider our spiritual mentors. A variety of spiritual practices may be important, plus new ideas, new experiences and new places to expand our minds and our understandings of life. And we need to attend to the rocks and thorns in our lives!

Think about it: How would you describe the ‘soil’ of your heart and soul at this time in your life?

I think, by and large, we expect the seeds of God to grow in whatever soil we give to God without any thought of preparing our souls to be receptive. Our society and our culture moves so fast these days that we haven’t cultivated what it takes to plant outside gardens and care for them, much less worry about how fertile the ground of our own beings are. It is a commitment, yes. But to reap the benefits – a harvest of peace, joy, perseverance, patience, kindness, generosity – we have to give the seeds a good place to grow.

Love & Light!

Kaye