Explorations Category


More What If . . .

More What If . . .

A beloved friend wrote the following in response to my “What If” post from several months ago.  I often ask him for his thoughts, advice, and editing on my posts because he helps me see more clearly and often articulates that which I sense but cannot express myself . . .

. . . so “What If” unpacked . . .

If light is the absence of darkness and life is the absence of death, what if loving-kindness is the absence of wrath?

And if we accept that God Who is Love is Light is Truth is Beauty is also All there is, ever was, ever can be, omnipotent omnipresent omniscient, or as Jesus indicated “I Am before Abraham was,” prior to and beyond all concepts of time, space, matter and relativity, yet containing and permeating all of time, space, matter and relativity, and if nothing “apart” from God Who is All can ever be real…

…Then what if darkness, death and wrath are made up, illusions, dreams, projections of the Child or Extension of God who is not different or apart from God and therefore can choose even to imagine into apparent and substantial existence a whole world based on separation, in other words on death and fear and wrath and darkness, a world apart from God, his own tiny little kingdom to rule as a demigod, a world deeply conflicted by his own imaginings, not just can but has, and who is now so very lost in his projections, believing they are real, he is apart, and it is God who is merely imagined…

And yet in his heart of hearts, all the while as he seems to be very afraid and alone and guilty, somehow still in that deepest of all places that he also IS, he knows, without realizing that he knows, that what he has imagined into existence as something apart is not real… And that God wants him to extend as the very Creation this truth the Child of God also truly IS, which is all this very same love and light and beauty that IS and OF God…

And stop making up (believing) into apparent and imagined separation a world of fear and pain, wrath and loneliness…

Yet here he is, still imagining himself as this world we have together made up out of all our images (idols) of separation, all of us vehemently persisting in looking and projecting through fear and guilt, darkness and wrath…  Ever deeper into our imaginings in other words, as we try so hard to imagine, through all this fear and pain and guilt, for a “way” out… Which of course, only results in adding ever more foolishness on top of foolishness, fear on top of fear, pain on top of pain…

ALL of it merely belief… But because he believes all this separation and pain, fear and darkness is also what he is, he believes he cannot let it go… He believes he will die if he lets go of hell…

Yet in truth he will live… For the first time… Consciously….

The world he believes is his life are the illusions of death, and what he fears to be death, a cessation of the illusions of death he believes he also is, is the truth of life, love, God, which he actually and eternally also IS, and has never not been…

What he believes is darkness is his own closed eyes to (or a turning away from, into his own imaginings) the light of all of existence, sometimes called consciousness, awareness, presence, God… That we also are…

What he fears is wrath is actually the callings of Freedom to recognize that freedom is also what he is…

Isn’t all this what Jesus’s whole life was about showing, revealing, pointing to…?

All this child of God need do in truth is stop imagining all the foolishness, simply (not easy, at least in the beginnings, but it is simple) stop believing it, and realize that all he seems to see as “other” is himself, his projections…  Fearful or loving, his choice, always, see through fear or see through love… There is no guilt in Truth, God neither judges nor blames, it was always and all merely a mistaken belief…

Simply recognize it as a mistake, and then begin to choose again – Differently…  Over and over, until all the myriad ways our one basic mistake is hiding from us are revealed, recognized, and seen through…

In seeing with and through love, what we fear slowly (and occasionally instantly and radically) becomes love, always in its own time and ways, neither different nor apart from God that we also are… 

Like clouds that the light of the sun shines through, dissolving them into the empty sky they are also made of, with This emptiness being the Emptiness of God, out of which all of manifest existence arises…

This and That

This and That

This and that . . .

. . . I was once told by a beloved that my stretch marks were ugly. This remark, most likely spoken out of pain and anger, did hurt at the time. Yet, after living with these beautiful scars for some 30 plus years now, I find them to be a remarkable reminder of the privilege and honor given to me in birthing three engaging and winsome souls into this world.

. . . I do not make New Year’s resolutions, since no tomorrow is ever promised to us; we only have today, the ever present Now. Yet, I recognize that there are those for whom this rite of passage has distinct significance. While journaling, part of my early morning routine, I wrote the following (without thought to correct grammar or punctuation):

As the new year approaches, I’m thinking about resolutions I’d make; qualities that I want my life to shine in, with and through—
–gratitude—I don’t want to complain anymore. I want to be settled in and live through gratefulness.
–not being angry—peaceful—no matter what comes my way, I desire my approach to be peace and calm—yes, anger may be justified (righteous indignation), yet at peace as the struggle flows through me.
–joyful—overall to be joyful, not happy because happiness depends on our circumstance, but joyful. Joyful encapsulates both gratitude and peace, I think.

. . . and that was my experience.

. . . A beloved with whom I volunteer at the food pantry, asked about my Thanksgiving. I said it went well and I listed the food I had prepared, the dessert being a Peach Pie. “Peach Pie? You continue to be a revolutionary.” He had read my homepage on this site. This is not the first time I have been recognized as a rebel. In fact, Rebel, is a nickname given to me by another treasured person in my life . . . and so it is.

. . . Much like Mister Rogers, I have a list of people—friends, family, and acquaintances—that I pray for every day by name. Only God knows their true circumstances, so I pray for Him to “bless them.” I read somewhere that when we use the term “God bless you,” what we are really saying is “May God’s good plans for you come to pass.” To those of you who took the time to read this, God bless you!

. . . At choir practice last night, I felt a sense of relief. I did not know at that moment for what I was relieved until a dear one explained that her brother’s divorce was finally finalized (apparently it had been quite a contentious and lengthy ordeal up to that point) and he felt deeply relieved with the equanimity of the final encounter. His was a name on my prayer list. Thank you, Mister Rogers, for reminding us of our unity and interdependent Oneness.

. . . “Ryder’s Grandma! I love you.” I do not know if there is a more pure and sacred moment then when a child hugs you in sweet loving innocence—that was my experience today after reading aloud to my grandson’s Kindergarten class.

. . . Not all moments of time have been as special as those above . . . like the self-checkout at Martins–that dang machine kept telling me to do what I was already doing. Oy! Or the dude that pulled out in traffic blocking all three lanes so that the lane I was in could not turn right until the light turned green and then sat there on his phone. He got an earful—probably just as well that he did not hear me.

. . . A verse from Isaiah seems to unify these bits of piecemeal together . . . Chapter 30 verse 21 . . .

With your ears you will hear a word from behind you:
“This is the way; stay on it,
whether you go to the right or the left.”

. . . Or perhaps, this . . .

“Subtlety is a beautiful journey of the dissolving away of “objective” existence… The importance of this journey and of the growing awareness of subtlety is not in the ever more subtle qualities themselves so much as in what is beginning to appear to itself, as beliefs that what is True is other than itself become fainter and fainter and our attention upon our beliefs becomes less and less demanding…”

May all the nuances of your journey carry you forward in Grace and Peace.

Breathe

Breathe

Every now and then some little something will grab my attention and spark a bit of creative energy. Each wee tidbit, however, does not have enough substance on its own for a full post. Yet, when all these small sound-bites, sightings, feelings, happenings, etc. combine, they become a journey of sacred moments.

Today was a day chock full of holy occurrences.

As my five-year-old grandson’s Kindergarten class was settling, preparing for me to read aloud, one little girl said: “I like your hair, it’s changing color. Some of it is white.” Precious! Then after picking up my grandchildren from the bus, there was a brief respite where the three of us were languidly lounging in a huge, purple beanbag chair with a sleepy puppy. Heaven! A friend called to see if I would be interested in being a judge for some school projects—I wasn’t, but thanked her for thinking of me. To which she responded, “I think of you a lot.” Loved!

Or yesterday . . .

Wednesday is the day I volunteer at the food pantry. There were quite a few boxes to be broken down before they could be recycled, which I did with great enthusiasm.  I was thrilled that manual labor brought me such purpose and pleasure.  Exhilarating!

Even though I did not feel like it, I went to choir practice—it was dark and cold and I just wanted to stay home where it was warm and cozy. Afterward, though, I felt refreshingly enervated and woke up the next morning with my spirit singing. Joyful!

The day before that . . .

. . . was a day with absolutely nothing to do and I enjoyed doing it! I sat in my recliner rocking away, watching the birds and feeling so profoundly grateful for a cousin who would give me the gift of this website. My heart felt like it was bursting with pleasure in the silent solitude. Thankful!

By now you may be thinking, “But what about those days when life is not rosy and lovely?”

I get it. Sometimes it seems as if days can turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years of one hardship after another. This crazy world is filled with overwhelming unfair and undue pain, grief and suffering.

And yet gratefulness, here we breathe . . .

My mind wanders back in time to when I was in labor with my sons, and was told to breathe. Seemingly I am still giving attention to the intentional breathing practices I learned in childbirth class.

. . . just breathe.

My yoga instructor ended our session today by having us concentrate on our breath, the “divine energy that sustains life.”

Could this be what Paul meant when he said “pray without ceasing” in I Thessalonians 5:17? Some translations say “pray regularly,” “pray constantly,” “pray continuously,” or “never stop praying.”

Breathe . . . in . . . out . . . regularly, constantly, continuously . . . in . . . out . . .

. . . sometimes that is all we can do; and maybe it is all we need do . . . each breath–this very here and now sacred, eternal moment.

Visit the link below for a treatise on the connection between prayer and breath.

www.chaimbentorah.com/2019/04/hebrew-word-study-breath/

Terror

Terror

“Jesus’s primary intent is to produce in sinners a terror of eternal hell—a fear that would drive them toward repentance and faith in the gospel. Knowledge of that fear should motivate believers as well.” John MacArthur

WHAT? People don’t really believe that, do they?

I wrote a HUGE, emphatic NO with multiple exclamation marks in the margin.

I could not believe I was reading this in a book written by a well-respected Christian author on the parables of Jesus, that I am using to teach a Sunday School class at the church I attend.

The author uses the following from 1 Corinthians 5:11 King James Version to support his thesis: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”

Then, after finishing Sunday morning breakfast with my father at our usual diner, a local pastor was conversing to anyone who would listen about his upcoming sermon on Leviticus 19 and having good morals. His opinions continued to the effect that people are just not afraid of God and this lack of fear is what is wrong with our society.

In our culture this misinformed and harmful belief is fundamental to why so many people are traumatized through abusive relationships, and why so many have a difficult time believing that God is Love.

The fear these pastors are perpetuating does not motivate or move anyone toward lasting, loving and trusting relationships with beloveds, much less with God. Their brand of fire and brimstone fear is instead a means of controlling behavior by manipulating the mind and emotions. The fact that people continue to propagate this devastating lie is in many ways central to what is wrong with our culture.

Here is the truth . . . the word “terror,” or “fear” in some translations of the above verse and elsewhere in the Bible means “divine or reverential awe.”

Being awestruck . . . the end of separation, Creator and created as One . . .

. . . like when you view a rapturously colored sunrise or sunset . . . or listen to a moving piece of music that envelopes your soul . . . or are mesmerized by artwork that captivates your senses . . . or the fresh scents of a long walk in the woods . . . or experiencing the miraculous birth of a child . . .

. . . this is how we are to be motivated to trust that God is Love and that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

There is much more lack of knowing in the quote that begins this essay than can be explored here with these few words, but it is the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of what has been translated as fear that ignites my ire.

I don’t know where I read this next, so can’t give rightful credit for it:

“You hear a text from your own level of development and consciousness. Punitive people love punitive texts; loving people hear in the same text calls to discernment, clarity, choice, and decision.”

Or as Marianne Williamson says,

“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.”

To this I say, Amen.

Justice

Justice

In no other experience have I grown more in my spiritual journey than in and through my interactions with clients at the food pantry; which is why these encounters are a frequent topic of this site . . .

. . . as it is with this entry.

Homeless, diabetic, confined to a wheelchair due to the loss of a leg below the knee, missing teeth, hygiene issues and a food pantry regular. This 26-year-old man who had been a student at the middle school where I once taught died recently.

In school I did not have any direct contact with him because he was in the BD (Behavior Disorder) classroom, but I knew of him. He lived a difficult life, more challenging than I could ever imagine on my worst day.

We had absolutely nothing in common and yet I am very grateful for his life!

I learned so much from him. Justice taught me what it really means to not judge someone. I do not know and cannot see what is in a person’s heart. Neither do I know the rest of his or her life’s story, nor do I need to know—God knows and that is enough.

In serving Justice, I got to serve Jesus and learn the real value and fullness of love. Matthew 25:40 says . . 

The King will say to them, ‘Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!’

Loving one person is loving all people and loving all is loving One.

And . . . I thought I was a compassionate person—not even close! Thanks to Justice, I learned compassion like that of the good Samaritan . . .

But a man from Shomron (Samaria) who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. So, he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two days’ wages, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend more than this, I’ll pay you back when I return.’ Luke 10:33-35

Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other. Their ancient enmity grew out of favoritism, abandonment, deception and wars. Prior to the Samaritan stopping to care for the Jewish man, two others—a priest and Levite, both Jews and both well versed in Jewish law—intentionally crossed to the other side of the road to avoid helping the victim of a horrendous crime. The man had been beaten, robbed, stripped and left for dead. This is one of the reasons the actions of the Good Samaritan are so remarkable.

Recognizing the suffering of others is not enough, one must take action. Actions that can be financially costly and possibly time consuming; not to mention inconvenient and maybe uncomfortable. Actions that are sacrificial. Actions that are more concerned for the welfare of another, than for oneself. Actions that look beyond the labels of race, religion, sexuality, politics–any ideas that serves to separate and divide. Actions that recognize suffering as universally endured.

One need not believe in God to practice this kind of empathy, kindness and mercy. We are all neighbors while we share this time and space on planet Earth.

Justice called this out in me and I hope you hear him calling it out in you too.

Agape

Agape

There is no way of getting around it, this post may offend you; particularly if you are a white man or more to the point an old, white man. But before you get your panties in a twist, I hope you will hear me out.

At the end of the last school year, my then third-grade granddaughter came home from school excitedly telling me about the women in history her class had been studying in Social Studies. She herself was reading two books—one about Rosa Parks and the other about Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist.

My granddaughter’s genuine dismay was evident as she quizzically yet eagerly said, “Women couldn’t do everything then that they can do now.” This led to a brief, age-appropriate conversation about how women are still working towards equal rights; at which point she said, “I’m not sure I want to be President because some people wouldn’t like the decisions I made.” (All the more reason for her to run, I would say.)

I told her about the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, that is dedicated to, in their words, “Showcasing great women . . . Inspiring all!”

Since I had been wanting to go there and since this seemed like a golden opportunity, I asked her if she would like to go with me to which she responded with an enthusiastic “yes!”

On the drive there, we talked about some of the women who were enshrined in the Hall of Fame like Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Amelia Earhart—to name just a few—and their contributions and accomplishments. As we rode, we further considered what these women had in common. I am quite pleased to say my oldest grandchild surmised that these women all saw a need or problem and were willing to unselfishly and with great endurance put their energy into its solution.

Then she asked “THE” question: why have women had such a difficult time getting equal rights?

To be honest, I was surprised (which I should not have been) she comprehended enough to ask such an astute question. My mind scrambled to decide how to express the unimaginable years of oppression into suitable language.

Unfortunately, the words “white men” popped out of my mouth.

“Unfortunately” because it is not all white men (or men for that matter) and “unfortunately” because it is an overly simplistic generalization and stereotype for a very complicated issue.

Then this happened . . .

Since my mother died, it has become my habit to go to breakfast with my father before church at an establishment he and my mother frequented before her passing. This Sunday morning, I was one of two women among the other eight or so old, white male patrons. The two servers were women as well.

Towards the end of our meal, one gentleman upon leaving asked another gentleman, “What’s your sermon on today?” to which he responded, “ornery women.” I reacted by saying out loud with a disdain-filled voice “that’s hilarious.” My response went unnoticed, save my father, as another gentleman joined in the raucous discourse with “There are two times men don’t understand women—before marriage and after marriage.” My emphatic “men don’t understand us” was drowned out by uproarious laughter. Regrettably my comeback was not as clever as it could have been; perhaps “and whose fault is that?” Instead, my anger and frustration at this “boys will be boys” one upmanship mentality overwhelmed me.

That’s it, isn’t it?

That unenlightened, unawakened, uninformed, ignorant mindset has kept all manner of God’s children oppressed, exploited, bullied and browbeaten.

So, what is the answer? What is the antidote to hardened hearts such as these?

Speak up . . .!

. . . like 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish student who is calling for “immediate action to combat climate change” . . .

. . . or 19-year-old Emma Gonzalez, Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and gun control activist . . .

. . . or 5-year-old Sophie Cruz, immigration rights activist . . .

. . . or 13-year-old Marley Dias, founder of #1000blackgirlbooks.

These future Women Hall of Famers and so many others are pointing towards what Thomas Aquinas so eloquently and succinctly spoke of . . .

“To will the good for the other.”

. . . to love others as if our very own life depended upon their survival . . . which it does!

This kind of love is not always pretty, and it can be quite messy, but it is absolutely and unequivocally necessary!