“The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. KJV
“We are about to go into a dark winter.” Joe Biden
I do not really like Caverns or caves which is surprising since I have visited Crystal Grottoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Cave, Indian Echo Caverns, Luray Caverns, and Smoke Hole Caverns. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty, I do. As a former Science teacher, I respect the chemical processes involved in the creation of stalagmites and stalactites. I just do not enjoy being under ground in a confined space—claustrophobic. I would not make a very good coal miner as evidenced by my squeamishness during a tour of the Beckley Coal Mine in Beckley, WV.
A defining moment during a visit to the Crystal Grottoes is when the guide turns off all the lights. Since I did not want to “see” the darkness, I closed my eyes. Eventually, I did open them and was enveloped in complete and utter darkness—a darkness that could be felt.
Darkness … the absence of light … or is it really?
Was I really experiencing darkness? Is there such a thing? Why do we believe in the contrasting ideals of light and dark? Is darkness really the absence of light or is light the absence of darkness?
Maybe another way to view the absence of light I experienced in the cave was as a shadow. The sun’s light simply could not penetrate the crust of the earth and therefore what I experienced as darkness was really the shadow of the earth.
Could it be that all the beliefs and conditionings we tend to imagine we are, when seen in the Light, cast shadows of judgement, anxiety, fear, and all manner of unbelief and mistrust?
When I was growing up, one game we use to play as kids was Shadow Tag. Instead of tagging each other, the one who was ‘It’ tags your shadow by stepping on it. Nobody that I played the game with ever thought to stand in the shadow of a tree or building so as not to be tagged. Where is the fun in that?
Or perhaps you have made shadow puppets with your hands. Using a flashlight as your backdrop, you form your hand or hands into varying configurations—dog, cat, bird—the shadow of which is cast on some sort of canvas be it a wall or sheet. These examples seem to suggest that as children, we inherently know there is nothing to fear with shadows.
Curious about shadows, I did a little research and found the following. “The main reason why (a) flame has no shadow is because the flame itself is a source of light. A shadow is the surface area which is less bright than its surroundings because something is blocking light partially or fully from that area. Therefore, a shadow is nothing but a darker area with the absence of light”. (beingindian.com)
One of the first Bible passages I memorized as a child was the King James Version of the 23rd Psalm. Notice how David does not say the valley of death, but the valley of the shadow of death. Other translations use darkest valley or death-dark ravine.
The valley of the shadow of death …
Truth and illusion, love and fear, light and dark, life and death, health and sickness, each denies the other, yet only one is real… Remembering here that only what is of the Source of everything – God, Goddess, Truth, Love – whatever term we might use to point towards what cannot be named as something apart or other, is actually and truly real…
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14 … spoken from a burning bush, a flame, which cannot cast a shadow.
All seeming else is what we who are also Goddess’s child have made up… Making and Creation being totally different orders altogether… One real, the other not.. All belief, all shadow, all that is made up comes and goes, but what is real never comes, never goes, always is…
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8 … who spoke, and there was Light.
Our collective (made up) beliefs in separation, (which all belief ultimately is) is what is casting all these shadowy illusions of fear, death, sickness, separation, greed, scarcity, power-over, ‘them’ and ‘us,’ and all the rest of this believed-in divisiveness we are calling the world…
Altogether it is a great shadow we have collectively cast (projected) through all our conflicted and conflicting beliefs upon creation, earth, nature, the universe, existence… Yet none of this shadowy world can ever actually be real because what casts shadows cannot ever be real… Nothing in Truth can cast a shadow upon what is Everything…
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
All these beliefs are arising from one simple mistaken belief we all of us humans continue to mostly unconsciously agree upon, no matter how far apart all our other beliefs may seem to be, the meta belief that we could be separate from what is the Source of everything, and therefor separate from and independent of each other, life, earth, existence…
And yet all this belief, without exception, when brought into the Light of consciousness is, by the very nature of what is Everything, transformed, transfigured even, now become able to serve, reflect and reveal creation in all of the Ways Goddess intended it to be, and it never was not… JF
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming, neither powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which comes to us through the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
… that which separates us is only a shadow.
I am working on a project as a Christmas gift for my sons. I asked them to send me questions they would like me to answer about myself, my life, and my childhood. Among the four that my oldest son asked was this: What would you say about you if you were speaking at your funeral?
In part, here is my answer …
She was a life-long learner. Although she did a lot of reading on a wide variety of topics—philosophy, theology, history, science, psychology—most of her learning came, for good or bad, through making mistakes. She spent a lifetime learning that she was a bra-burning feminist, a conservative-liberal Democrat, a typical Myers-Briggs INFJ personality type, and quintessential Taurus.
While all of that mattered to her, at the same time none of it mattered to her unless she held those labels and beliefs in the Light of the Holy Spirit to see what shadows those beliefs cast. When she did so, God’s unfathomable Love enveloped her in the Light of Truth, Beauty and Love. In the end, that made all the difference.
I love my dad! He is the finest man I have ever known. His youthful looks, young-at-heart disposition, and keen intellect defy his 92 years of living. No one person, other than my mother, has had as much impact on who I am, for which I am truly grateful.
A tradition we have tried to maintain since my mother’s passing is eating breakfast together on Sunday mornings before church. The meal usually consists of Creamed Sliced Beef on Toast (or SOS for those of you who served in the Navy, like my father) or Sausage Gravy on a pancake—both of which I just recently learned to cook. Over coffee (for him) and tea (for me), we discuss family, faith, feminism, politics, economics, current events, and more. An active reader and life-long learner, he is quite knowledgeable with a fair and just perspective.
Our breakfast ritual is also a sacred space for me to share my mistakes, flaws, and concerns in a safe and loving atmosphere.
This morning was no exception.
In my anger and frustration over Mr. Mick Mulvaney’s comment “this isn’t what I signed up for” regarding Mr. Trump and the riot, I wrote a scathing, profanity laced letter and posted it on FB. My father was the first to give me a thumbs up. The majority of comments from those who know me were supportive. Courageous, a way with words, perfect, and God-loving were among the observations and responses.
Yet, the latter remark, God-loving, drew a negative statement. “How could someone who would write a letter like this be called God-loving?”
To be honest, this one comment was so disturbing to me that it shook me to my core.
When I write, I try to invite my readers to walk with me into the real world as God intended and intends for all of life; one which we can only discover as much as we discover it together. If people do not understand, it could be easy for them to believe I am inviting them into my world.
This time, it seems, my invitation was less than appealing and down-right offensive to some.
I answered my critic’s accusation with:
What do you find objectionable? My use of swear words? My characterizations of Republicans? The fact that I am a Democrat? That fact that I am deeply moved and saddened by the events at the Capitol? … I am not bitter. I am just really tired of it all.
My detractor’s allegation that my political ideologies determined my love of God or lack thereof, literally immobilized me for the rest of the day. I spent most of the day in and out of tears, stuck in a quagmire of unrelenting confusion.
What is she believing? What am I believing? Is the reconciliation of polarized viewpoints even possible? When did political affiliations negate or promote faith? Have I led her and others to believe I think all Republicans are like Mulvaney? (I know they are not.) I have heavily criticized evangelicals in other posts, perhaps that is the origin of her offendedness. Question after question. Doubt after doubt.
Finally, I called two individuals whom I trust to hold me accountable. I asked them to be honest with me and they were. With their intuitive insights, they adeptly challenged some of my more unconscious beliefs and contractions, even as they also simultaneously reassured the truth of me.
Both broached my use of curse words albeit from different perspectives. John pointed to the patriarchal double standard regarding women cussing. He said my use of expletives was my way of continuing to break free of conditioned beliefs. Deep, long held and until recently mostly unconscious beliefs that have repressed, enchained and influenced my interactions with the world for most of my life.
Millie, on the other hand, said I could lose readers because they may be turned off by the use of foul language. She was quite adamant that I not use them.
Because they know and love me, neither called into question my love of God.
And with that, the storm within me began to subside.
However, it wasn’t until this morning at breakfast when discussing the whole episode with my dad, that I finally felt absolved and redeemed. That is what unconditional love does for you, it sets you aright, it reflects your inherit God-belovedness.
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20
P.S. My dad says (tongue in cheek) that prior to my Mr. Mulvaney letter, circumstances had not yet arisen that required such a punctuated application of profanity. Nevertheless, conditions surfaced that warranted their appropriate use, and that I am now returning to my pre-profanity status.
Dear Reverend Graham,
Your continued support of Mr. Trump is ungodly, immoral, unholy, dishonorable and corrupt; not to mention just plain inexcusable!
What is wrong with you? Do you really not see the truth of who and what Mr. Trump really is? He has absolutely no sincere interest in defending the free expression of religious faith or safeguarding the rights of unborn children, whatsoever! You are of no consequence to him. He is and has been using you and the faith you profess to gain and maintain corrupt power and unscrupulous control.
You keep defending a man who has committed multiple crimes against women, treason and sedition against the federal government of the United States and genocide against the American people and the world. To say nothing of money laundering, fraud, tax evasion, and who knows what other heinous crimes he has performed.
Mr. Trump is one of the most morally bankrupt individuals in all of history. If I believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible, I would say you are the false prophet touting the wonders and accomplishments of the antichrist.
In a recent Newsweek article, you claim:
… the U.S. is entering a “dark winter” not just because of COVID-19, but because God is “turn[ing] his back” on a country with deteriorating morals.
If that is the case, you certainly share in the blame, considering your apparently unswerving subservience to a pathological liar and what appears to be a willful misunderstanding of biblical teachings as well as God.
How could God who is everything ever turn His back on Himself? It is simply not possible. Jesus maintained as such:
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mark 3:24-25
Jesus never turned his back on anyone, not even the pharisees, sadducees, or teachers of the law. He reserved his harshest words of criticism for them (see the book of Matthew, chapter 23) because, like you, they were all about appearances, pride, and hellfire judgement. Yet his interactions were always Truthful and Loving, all the while he reminded everyone to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” with God.
Literally speaking, who turned who’s back on whom in the Garden of Eden? Didn’t Adam and Eve turn their back on God? What was God’s response to their betrayal?
Genesis 3: 8-9 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Where are you is a far cry from what you propose about God’s behavior. Yes, there were consequences to their choices. However, even after God sent the pair out of the garden, He spent the remainder of the Torah and Christian Old Testament wooing mankind into relationship with Himself. Over and over again God is met with resistance and duplicity.
Every sincere and thoughtful examination of the Bible reveals God as lovingly seeking shared awareness with Her creation. Always!
For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved. John 3:16-17
Where is the back turning?
Are we here to help people? Or are we here to heal people? Or are helping and healing one and the same? If not, how are they different? Do all people want to be helped or healed? Are there some people that are beyond both helping and healing?
“May we never applaud someone’s suffering, never weaponize our religion to do harm, never grow comfortable with hearts that are only capable of anger.” John Pavlovitz
This quote was posted on a Facebook page I follow. I “liked” it and thought it was pretty self-explanatory. Apparently, someone did not share my understanding and responded in the comment section with, “Not sure what this statement means? Further discussion would be interesting.”
What is to understand? Is it ever appropriate to celebrate anyone’s hurt and pain? If you know any US or World history at all, you know how religion has been used as a weapon in a broad spectrum of ways to justify shaming, displacement, mutilation, torture and killing. Wars have been and are still being fought in the name of religious beliefs with all participants believing God was and is on their side. How is that not obvious to the commentator mentioned above? A heart only capable of anger is one that Jesus warned against time and time again. In parable after parable, Jesus alerted his followers to the hazards of a hardened heart.
Seems like a very straightforward and sincere awareness to me. Notice how this person said further discussion would be “interesting,” not helpful, not insightful, not healing—but “interesting.” This suggests that this person just wants to argue the beliefs with which he or she is identified. Arguing from the perspective of an identity in the beliefs of separation is counter-intuitive and counter-productive.
Several friends who saw this person’s comment wondered how one would approach an individual with this mindset. One friend said, “I want to help people like (this person) but I wonder what the word “help” even means as I say it? To change (this person)? To persuade (this person) to think as I think? Am I making crazy assumptions by using the word “help”?
To which I wrote, “Maybe the word you are looking for is heal. You want to be an agent of healing, which is really our purpose here on earth.”
Perhaps there are different ways of looking at “helping.” Some people want to help others so the others can be like them, think like them, act like them, believe like them. But what about the example of the Good Samaritan who helped the man on the side of the road because it was the right thing to do, without asking anything in return. In that case, helping is healing because the Samaritan walked alongside the hurt man, joining and being present with him upon his journey to wholeness.
In Matthew chapter ten, before sending his disciples out on a particular mission, Jesus gave them instructions which included the following:
When you enter someone’s household, say, ‘Shalom aleikhem!’ (Peace be unto you). If the home deserves it, let your shalom rest on it; if not, let your shalom return to you.
The peace to which Jesus is referring “is more than just the absence of conflict or a state of rest. It means completeness or wholeness, and it points to the presence of something else.” (wordsoffaithhopelove.com) Shalom encompasses not only peace but also tranquility, innate safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness and integrity.
If the home deserves it simply means, are the people within the home so identified with their beliefs in separation that their hearts cannot be open to Life, Light and healing? Basically, Jesus is saying, If they are itching for a fight, get the hell out of there and take your peace with you.
His words in verse 14:
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
Sometimes the best response to someone with such a heart is silence. By not engaging, we extend Grace and the person is forced to look inward to meet God.
In discussing a similar circumstance where my responding to a zinger would have meant re-entanglement in the situation, my cousin replied:
This person, not consciously but instinctively, the instincts of separation so to speak, knows how to try to entangle people into a continuation of some of his or her past drama they are still attached to (identified with). Our lack of response is a clear no, a no that leaves them nowhere to turn except back into their self … And that is where Goddess waits for them… When there is nowhere left for them to go except inward (because they have finally used up all outward options), they will, if they are truly willing, begin to realize (make real) their own journey with Goddess… This world of outward appearances we humans share in the beliefs of separation offers a lot of distractions, so this sort of spiritual “turning” we are speaking of now may not be for them to realize in this lifetime… No knowing…
People cannot see, cannot hear, we don’t know why they cannot see, cannot hear, and so we are disappointed… It will keep coming up for all of us who walk these paths, our many unique journeys being sort of like all the many threads of Goddess’s yarn on Goddess’s loom, that is in a sense weaving all of us who were never really apart back together in some wholly new ways…
Our disappointment in those who cannot hear, cannot see, shows us deeper into our own expectations and beliefs, around all the ways we still don’t accept and therefore still judge how things are not other than they simply are… What is, is…
Jesus spoke to those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear… He did not try to speak to those whose eyes and ears are so covered by dreams and beliefs and fears it is as if they are blind and deaf and do not even consciously know what it means to see and hear… He trusted that all was well, and that everybody awakens out of dreams and beliefs in their own time and ways, in relationship with God… This lifetime, next lifetime, some lifetime…
Nothing is, nor ever can be, left out of eternity… In the end ALL must return to Goddess… For after all, it was only ever an illusion believed, that anyone (or thing) was ever apart from what is everything…
Shalom aleikhem … or not.