Remember to Play

Since my divorce a few years ago, my kids have spent almost every weekend with their dad. As he lives out-of-town, that’s the only time he can see them. It’s just the way it is. But they will be with me this coming weekend and it will be a full weekend of soccer games, friends, the apple orchard and the corn maze. A whole weekend of play! And I’m totally looking forward to it!

Playing feeds my soul in a way that nothing else does. I’m not sure who developed the notion that spirituality and religion should only be quiet, contemplative, structured, peaceful and serene. Do I have the Puritans to blame for that? Or the monastics? In any case, that is just one way to know God, it’s not the only way.

Playing gets us out of our sometimes suffocating adult selves with our schedules and rules and proper behavior. Playing helps us to laugh, act silly and discard all of those adult things that cover up our beautiful child within. It’s next to impossible to remain in a bad mood when you really let yourself play. Bad moods are typically caused by adult stressors – work, chores, family, the house, and all the responsibilities that can weigh us down. Playing makes our souls lighter, we take the other stuff less seriously, we remember to laugh at ourselves and at life a little more.

I’ve rediscovered coloring lately. No, I’m not aspiring at a career change. But I’ve really been enjoying drawing and experimenting and playing with colors. It takes my mind off of everything else for just a little bit and taps into the creative side of me. And that creative side is where God dwells, so I tap into the creative force of the universe and we play. There is no judgment, no right or wrong, no good or bad… I’m just playing.

So, why don’t we play more? Because we get stuck in our responsible adult ruts. Playing seems like cheating. “I could be doing something productive,” we say to ourselves. But who wants to get to the end of their lives and say “I wish I’d played more and been less serious”? I’d rather my obituary said that I knew how to play and enjoy life and have fun… even (or perhaps especially) in church.

Plan a way to play this weekend, guilt-free!

Kaye

 

Who was/is Jesus?

Have you ever asked yourself this question: what do I have to believe about Jesus to be Christian? Do I have to believe that he was consubstantially fully human and fully divine? Do I have to believe in all the healing stories and the miracle stories? Do I have to believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead? Do I have to believe that he died for my sins? Do I have to accept him as my personal Lord and Savior? Do I have to believe that he was sinless?

There was a time when I wondered if I could actually be Christian because I had all of these questions running through my head. And I’m sure that the more rigid, conservative or fundamentalist Christians would say, “Yes, you absolutely have to believe these things or you aren’t a real Christian.” In some people’s minds I’m sure I will never be a “real” Christian. And that’s ok. In my mind I am.

There are so many things we really don’t know about Jesus, but the one thing that seems certain is that he was an immensely influential individual who offered an alternative and expanded vision of God and that he spiritually uplifted and changed people’s lives. Because of this, we reason that the divine must have been present in Jesus in a very powerful way and we’ve spent centuries trying to figure out who exactly he was and how he got that way.

Just the debate about whether he was fully human, fully divine, or both, has raged from the beginning. It was those church fathers who wrote the Nicene Creed in the 4th century who eventually nailed down the doctrine that said he was both. But if we actually look at the scripture in a chronological order, we see how the divine aspect of Jesus elevated as the years went on.

About 28 years after Jesus’ death, Paul was writing to the Romans explaining how Jesus was “designated” the “Son of God” by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). For Paul, Jesus was fully human until his resurrection which bestowed divinity, Son of Godship, upon him. Now, if we look at the earliest gospel, Mark, written about 40 years after Jesus’ death, we see that Jesus was proclaimed the “Son of God” at his baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon him and a voice came from the clouds saying “You are my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Moving to the Gospel of Matthew, written 5-55 years after Jesus death, we find that Matthew had the Spirit descend upon Mary, hence Jesus is the Son of God from his conception. And if we go one final step, the Gospel of John, written in the last decade of the first century, we find that the Word or Logos (aka Jesus) was with God from the beginning of time: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Fascinating, isn’t it?

Frankly, we could go around in circles debating the different aspects of Jesus, and we could find substantiating scripture for each argument. Personally, I don’t really care if he physically healed people or not, I don’t care if he was bodily resurrected or not, I don’t care if he was fully human and fully divine… none of those things affect my faith in what I understand God to be, and none of the answers to those things would make me stop following Jesus. Heck, they could find Jesus’ bones tomorrow and I would still preach about him.

In Philip Gulley’s new book, The Evolution of Faith, he describes Jesus as theotokos, a Greek word meaning God-bearer. Theotokos is usually ascribed to Mother Mary who “bore the son of God”. But what if we use the word to describe Jesus? What if we understand cut through all the endless debates about what exactly we need to believe about Jesus (because we really don’t have the answers anyway) and simply know Jesus as a God-bearer? He was one of those people (for there have been many) who bear the wisdom and experience of the divine to the people. They challenge the systems of oppression, stand for equality, work for justice. They are the prophets, the spiritual pioneers, the ones who give us an expanded vision of God.

All of us are called to be God-bearers (even Jesus said, “you can all be greater than I am”). We are all encouraged to get out of ourselves, to put our egos aside, to live with love and compassion, to live simply and not be so attached to things of this world, to be quick to listen and slow to anger, to be generous, to cultivate that peace inside that passes all understanding. It can take a lifetime to do this even when we’re working on it. But then there are those people who seems to have said “yes” more fully and easily to the divine presence within than the rest of us. They live in this time and space, but seem to also experience a spiritual realm that we only catch in glimpses.

Let me close with a quote by Philip Gulley:

“Who was Jesus? One whose awareness of the Divine Presence within him was so keen, and his response to the Divine Presence so full, that he was empowered to live and love so powerfully that those who encountered him were often made whole themselves and more fully equipped to say yes to that same Divine Presence that was also in them.”

Peace ~ Kaye

 

Preaching to the Privileged

Years ago when I would bemoan the fact that I chose to go into parish ministry rather than the Peace Corps, a close friend would to say to me, “But Kaye, middle-class suburbanites probably need to hear what you have to say more than anyone else. They just don’t know it.”

I guess it seemed to me that folks like me didn’t need me as much as perhaps starving children in Ethiopia. Some of the folks in my churches were more concerned with the most ridiculous things like who put the utensils back in the wrong spot in the kitchen, or harping on how people shouldn’t drink coffee during worship, or insisting that shaking hands during worship was disruptive.  Sigh. Did they know I was dealing with people who were dying, depressed, lost, lonely and scared? Did I care if we moved the furniture in the Friendship Room and didn’t put it back and now people could see the sofa marks in the carpeting? No. I just wanted to make a real difference in the world. Heck, I probably wanted to “save” the world (please take that metaphorically, this was not about saving anyone from some eternally burning pit of fire). Driven by some bizarre inner force, I continued to try and share God’s unconditional love, deep abiding peace and all-encompassing compassion with everyone.

But I got my friend’s point. I was preaching to the privileged who were often more concerned with things and outside appearances than stuff of the soul. The privileged tend to have most of their basic needs met and often don’t even consider that a true, deep, interior spiritual life might exist or even be beneficial.  Church was a social club, a status symbol, a beloved building. How does one possibly get past that and move people to think and question and grow?

Truly, I am blessed to now be preaching to this group of rebels and misfits who call themselves Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community. Here is an intelligent group of suburbanites who have not fallen prey to privilegitis (my new word). Growing spiritually and finding their authentic selves truly means something to these folks. I applaud their desire to learn, their passion for the journey and their compassion for those near and far. Every week I am lifted up by their enthusiasm, their joy, and their hopefulness when things are rough. I may hold the title as their Spiritual Leader, but I am merely one of the many spiritual leaders in this community.

We are each given a set of gifts to use to spread love. The Peace Corps would have been an amazing experience, but in the words of Mordecai (Esther 4:14), perhaps I have been brought to this place “for just such a time as this.”

Peace ~ Kaye

The invisible becomes visible

After grumbling and whining about going out to walk before 7 a.m. this morning, I came home excited, renewed and refreshed. It was one of the most magical walks I’ve ever taken. It rained last night and, with the humidity as high as it is, nothing was dry. Sparkling in the rising sunlight, the grasses and trees appeared to be draped in millions of tiny crystals. But most amazing of all were the spider webs, dusted in water their intricate designs shone in the light, hanging suspended between the grasses and plants. Please understand, I walk here almost every day and have never seen them, yet suddenly there they were – everywhere!  Hundreds of them! A whole invisible world had miraculously become visible. I felt like I’d just walked into a fairy wonderland. I tried to capture it with my phone camera to share with you, but it doesn’t do justice to the wonder I experienced.

In a split second, the walk that began grudgingly, transformed into a very spiritual walk. Those spider webs reminded me of the mysterious presence of the divine, that love energy, that invisible force that I believe permeates all things. Some people believe it is there, some people don’t. But sometimes, usually when we least expect it, and if we’re paying attention, we can catch a glimpse of that presence. There were some bikers and joggers out this morning who were moving too fast and looked way too focused (or in pain) to take notice of this amazing thing happening right under their noses.

As the sun began to dry up the land, I watched as slowly, but surely, the spider webs disappeared from sight once again. Perhaps if I look closer from now on, I’ll be more able to see what is normally unseen. But even if I can’t see them, I know with unflinching certainty that they are there… just like God.