Explorations Category


Fertile Soil

Fertile Soil

“Mommy, I think my arm is broken.”

In my early thirties, I was single parenting three boys ages three, six and seven. We had just finished dinner, I may have had a load of laundry in the washer and one in the dryer, and I was washing dishes while my sons were playing on the slide in the side yard. After I finished the dishes, under “normal” conditions, the boys would have come in for baths while I folded laundry and prepped for bedtime. We might have played a video game or watched TV, then to bed with possibly a bedtime story, definitely prayers, followed by hugs and kisses and me singing the chorus of “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight” by The Spaniels.

I ran a tight ship in order to keep things running like clockwork between daycare, school, working full-time, and the day-to-day challenges of raising three beautiful souls.

There was no window in the kitchen to see what happened prior to my middle son entering it with the monkey-wrenching news.

How it happened and what happened next, reads like a well-loved book in the annals of our family story telling over the last 30 years. Even now there is still some warmhearted debate regarding whether Matthew fell off the slide on his own, “by accident,” or whether his older brother, Christopher, pushed him.

To this day, I don’t know for sure who did what to whom, all I know is my frazzled brain in those moments did not know how to respond.

My gray matter literally went dark. I had nothing. Blank. Zilch. Nada.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally said, “well, just sit still on the couch for a minute …”

After that lackluster response, I went into the kitchen to evaluate just how much dinner mess was left on the table and take stock of the dishes remaining in the sink (I did not have an automatic dishwasher).

My mind is still not clear on what or how I got all three little boys into the van heading for the hospital. Nor do I remember the drive or going through the intake process in the emergency room with three little munchkins by my side.

The next detail I do recall is standing with the physician looking at the x-ray of Matthew’s arm—it was either the radius or the ulna which had a hairline fracture. While the doctor was in the middle of explaining his diagnosis and treatment, an extremely loud and obnoxious alarm sounded throughout the entire emergency room. Every. Single. Person. Heard it.

I frantically looked around for my other two sons. I think, but I am not entirely certain, that my oldest son was standing next to me but definitely not my youngest. Panic-stricken, I began searching for Michael. My outward appearance, while worried looking, did not convey the hair-on-fire, wildly-freaking-out, crazy bug-eyed mother on the inside.

I found him. In the bathroom. Door wide open. For everyone to see. One hand on his penis. The other hand on the emergency call string. He looked at me with a pouting lower lip and innocent three-year-old eyes and said, “I didn’t know what it was for Mommy.”

Was I patient with him? Did I scold him? Did I have him wash his hands? Did Matthew get a soft cast on his arm? Did we leave the ER casually or in a flurry? What was Christopher doing during all of this?

As the only driver’s-licensed person in our merry quartet, I know I must have driven home. Did they take baths? Did I finish washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen? Did the laundry get folded? Did I sing to them? Did I reassure Matthew that he would be fine? I have not the foggiest idea or remembrance.

Somehow, life went on.

Recently at my grandson’s little league baseball game, Matthew and I were talking about what the future holds and he said, “if you don’t mind some gentle ribbing …” and he preceded to retell his broken arm narrative.

I hanged my head whilst shaking it backing and forth.

Both of us laughing and smiling, yet with me still awash in regret I said, “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Well, I want it on the record that I apologized.”

“So noted. You were a single mom with three boys.”

More laughing.

And later at home, happy tears.

What a beautiful moment for this loving son to sow seeds of redemptive healing into his mother’s heavy heart by truly seeing her in that instant all those years ago.

Days later I was telling all of this to my cousin, John. I told him that the only metaphor I can think to compare my single parenting experience to is being at bat staring down dozens of pitchers all throwing 100-mph fast balls at me at the same time and not knowing which pitch to hit first.

I feel this way now as I watch the Republican lawmakers and governors behaving like middle school children. Governors Abbott and DeSantis must have failed General Science in sixth grade and never caught up; this is the only explanation I can comprehend to explain the ridiculous legislation they propose and sign into law concerning mask mandates, vaccines and abortion. And I am absolutely certain that Mitch McConnell and the radicalized Republicans must have failed Social Studies and Civics. Otherwise, why would they be holding Uncle Sam hostage?

I taught Middle School for 16 years. I am very familiar with the chaotic and nonsensical behavior of tweens and teens desperately trying to come to terms with their identity. They can be very sweet, kind and generous. Other times, and sometimes more often than not, they are snotty-nosed brats that could care less about anybody else but themselves, with blindingly selfish and arrogant thoughts, words and deeds. Here is where Mitch and his cohorts remain stuck.

Mixed into the chaos of our current political conundrum is climate change, with our magnificent planet in what seems like its final death throes. Not to mention the pandemonium of the pandemic, the unbridled greed of pretentious billionaires, unscrupulous power-hungry world leaders such as Putin, FORMER President Trump, and Xi Jinping, and the immeasurable and incomprehensible grief, pain and loss everywhere …

… somehow life goes on.

Yes, indeed! I tell you that unless a grain of wheat that falls to the ground dies, it stays just a grain; but if it dies, it produces a big harvest. John 12:24

Is Jesus pointing only to his own death and resurrection in this verse, or could there be something deeper? Literally speaking, how does a single grain of wheat produce a big harvest?

If our hearts are like soil (think the parable of the sower/soils), then maybe we are all planting seeds by how we respond to our circumstances.

Emotions can be chaotic, particularly pain, loss, grief, mourning, freaking out, feeling overwhelmed, but those feelings are not the ‘end of the world’ if I use the energy inherent within the chaos in a seed-sowing way. That may mean asking myself ‘what am I believing’, or sitting with the emotions and allowing them to be, breathing through, and/or acting on them to help others. Whatever it is, it is my choice. Succumbing to the malevolence (getting stuck or caught) is simply missing the mark. Yet, even missing the mark can compost the soil which is the beauty of free will.

I do not know when or how my son came to the life-giving realization that he did, or how long the seed had been sown before our conversation, but the soil was fertile and the harvest was produced.

All the chaos and craziness? It is just a bunch of manure to nurture what comes next.

I know this sounds rather harsh, but as we come closer to the end, or rather the beginning, the more resistant insanity and illusion will be to Truth.  This world will become even more lost and delusional.

“… For the present form of this world is passing away.”  1 Corinthians 7:31

Least of These

Least of These

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40

The verse above comes from Jesus’s final discourse in the book of Matthew seemingly about end times. The Son of Man, Jesus’s preferred reference to himself, has come in his glory to separate the sheep from the goats among all the nations. The qualifying factors for sheep appear to be:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25:35-36

To which the sheep respond, when did we do this? And Jesus answers when you did it to the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me. Apparently, the goats did not do these things and are separated to go away to eternal punishment.

This parable or metaphor raises several questions for me and an observation.

Who are the members of his family? Aren’t we, as the human race, all members of his family? Am I even qualified to determine who is a member of his family? Are only the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and imprisoned members of his family? I am none of those things, wouldn’t that disqualify me? How can I possibly have faith in a god that claims to be Love yet would damn beloveds to eternal punishment?

And the observation? In the end, it is the King who does the judging; not me and not you.

As a youngster when I would go downstairs for breakfast in the mornings, my mother always had the radio on in the kitchen tuned to a local AM news station. One of the broadcasts we listened to was Paul Harvey and his ‘The Rest of the Story’ segment. Thirteen years have passed since he was last on the air—he died in 2009—but I can still hear his distinct voice and cadence.

In this writing of Henri J.M. Nouwen I hear the voice of Paul Harvey say:

“If you would ask the Desert Fathers why solitude gives birth to compassion, they would say, ‘Because it makes us die to our neighbor.’ At first this answer seems quite disturbing to a modern mind. But when we give it a closer look, we can see that in order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, that prevents us from really being with the other.” The Way of the Heart

Doesn’t this seem like a more reasonable conclusion to the meaning of the parable in question, especially considering Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself?

Therein lies the problem. We are unwilling to die to our neighbor. Thus, we become unwilling to bake a birthday cake for a transgendered person. We refuse voting rights to people of color; we mock and terrorize LGBTQIA+ beloveds. We judge people based on a label rather than connecting to their hearts.

I can’t think of any eternal punishment worse than the delusional belief that I could be separate from Eternal Love.

According to treehugger.com the main difference between sheep and goats “is how they forage. Sheep are grazers; they ramble slowly eating short plants close to the ground. Goats are browsers; they look for leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs.”

… close to the ground …

The parable of the sheep and goats is a call to humility.

At the last supper with his twelve apostles, Jesus took off his robe, tied a towel around his waist and washed the feet of his friends.

Humility keeps us close to the ground where we can wash the feet of our neighbors.

May we follow his example.

Comma

Comma

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

English/Language Arts was always my least favorite subject in school. When I was given the choice to teach it or Science as a new sixth-grade middle school teacher, I chose Science—which I loved. Towards the end of my career, feeling like I needed a change, I jumped on the opportunity to teach sixth-grade Social Studies and English/Language Arts.

I eagerly integrated the two subjects with high student satisfaction and enthusiasm.

One of the more mundane aspects of English/Language Arts is punctuation. In hindsight, I think I would have creatively used Music and/or singing to teach punctuation–at least for comma usage, anyway. Like reading aloud, when you are singing, the comma is where you take a breath between phrases creating a sound of unison between the choral members.

I have recited, prayed and meditated on the above creed many times during my life. Still, it was only several months ago that a particular comma caught my attention. Different variations of the creed sometimes have a period or a semi-colon in the one spot that has sparked my curiosity.

The unique interval, to which I am referring, lies between ‘born of the Virgin Mary’ and ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate.’

Within that short breathing space, Jesus lived his life!

Feeding the poor, healing the sick, ministering to the disenfranchised, befriending disciples, training apostles, teaching–and that’s just what’s recorded in the Gospels, much of which focuses on the last three years of his life!

John 21:25 says:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

The Creed in and of itself is a monumental undertaking to summarize one’s faith; it hardly seems fair to honor all that Jesus did with just a comma.

But maybe that’s the point.

It’s not so much about what we believe to be true, but how we Live. James 2:19 says: You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

The Greek word for shudder means to “tremble convulsively, as from fear or excitement; an almost pleasurable sensation of fright.” A ‘pleasurable sensation of fright’ seems to point to perverted believing. The most perverted belief I can ever imagine is believing that I am or could ever be somehow separate from God. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s just not true!

I have lived nearly twice as long as Jesus lived and yet I hardly doubt that the deeds of my life would fill one book much less enough books to fill “the whole world.” However, giving attention to that grace space when I recite the Apostles Creed helps me see and live differently.

I have come to love that comma.

That comma is where I can have my doubts which are “the essential ingredient in the evolution of (my) faith from “orthodoxy” or right belief to “orthopraxy” or right way of life.” (Brian McLaren/Richard Rohr)

That comma, that pause, that space reminds me that “I am precious in God’s sight and that He loves me” (Isaiah 43:4); that “THIS is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24); that I can’t change other people, but I can change how I respond to them because “I love my neighbor as myself” (Matthew 22:36-40); that “nothing can separate me from the love of God” (Romans 8:28); that God “so loved the world” (John 3:16).

That comma is where we are to “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). That comma is the Christ—all Truth, Beauty, and Love–For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! (Zechariah 9:17)

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

Could the kingdom of heaven be like a comma?

I think so.

Heart

Heart

And Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?

Some translations call it the parable of the Sower and others the parable of the Sower and Soils. Whichever one you prefer Jesus is clearly saying it is the key parable; the one that unlocks all the parables.

The parable:

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain … Matthew 13: 3-8

Jesus’s explanation:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit …. Matthew 13: 18-23

“How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13)

What is most important to Jesus? Salvation? The poor? Tithing? Sin? End times? Grace? Love? Personally, I think the most important thing to Jesus was and still is a person’s heart—whether it be a hardened heart, a fearful (rocky) heart, a distracted heart (a heart with thorns) or a good heart. Everything he said and did got to the heart of one’s heart.

Although not a parable, the story of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life is a primary example of what Jesus cared about the most. After finding out that the man had kept all the commandments, Jesus told him to sell all that he had, give to the poor and follow him. This made the young man quite unhappy because he was very wealthy.

Did Jesus really want him to sell all of his possessions?

I don’t think so.

I’m not a theologian, scholar or minister, yet it seems to me Jesus knew the soil content of the man’s heart. The rich young man had kept all the commandments, so his heart may not have been rocky. Yet the “deceitfulness of wealth” had choked the word of God for him, making the man’s thoughts, actions, and his attention to the commandments “unfruitful.” In other words, Jesus knew the wealthy fellow was trusting in an illusion—that of wealth—which could never help him remember.

Isn’t that what our purpose on this earth is? To help ourselves and others remember what is truly important, sometimes understood as our shared awareness of who and what we really are?

The truth of our shared awareness is most apparent in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20: 1-16.

The workers who were hired at the beginning of the day expected to be paid more than those hired towards the end of the day. “And when they received the same pay as those who were hired last, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’”

Can’t you hear them? Their voices are whining, “that’s not fair” while altogether missing the mark.

With this parable Jesus exposes the content of our hearts and it is the very reason he told parables in the first place: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” The laborers that were hired first and paid last simply did not get it. They totally bought into the beliefs of power, wealth, and hierarchical ideologies.

Did you notice what they said? “… you have made them equal to us …”.

Doesn’t that sound exactly like what is happening within the Republican party? GOP lawmakers might as well be saying, “our votes count more because we are white.” In essence that is exactly what they are saying when they enact their repugnant and restrictive voting laws.

Like coronary bypass surgery that redirects the flow of blood, Jesus pinpoints with laser beam accuracy the aberrations in one’s heart that obstructs the free-flowing energy of Truth, Beauty, Equality and Love.

What got me started on this exploration, though, was weeds.

One of my least favorite chores in the Spring is pulling weeds. They always seem to come back no matter how many times I dig them up. Most likely that is because I am not getting the roots. I would just as soon take the weed whacker to them and be done with it; that, however, is not always possible.

How do we decide what is a weed and what isn’t?

Bobvila.com defines a weed as “any plant that grows where it is unwanted.”

Now that is a broad definition! Sounds like even good soil can and does grow weeds. Within such a wide of scope, how does one decide which plant is which?

Following the parable of the sower and the seeds in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells a succession of parables the first of which is the parable of the wheat and tares.

The parable:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So, when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (24-30)

Jesus explains:

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! (36-43)

Is it a coincidence that the writer of Matthew places the parable of the wheat and tares directly following the parable that unlocks all the other parables?

I do not think so!

The parable of the sower is the ‘big picture’ while the parable of the wheat and tares is more personal. The field is my heart, your heart, our hearts, full of worries, concerns, and/or the desire to believe in the illusion of any number of false hopes. Interestingly enough, tares are “a type of weed that resemble wheat during early stages of growth” and its “pollen is used to make medicine while the weed can be used as pasture grass …” (wiki.diff). Is it any wonder we can’t always tell what is wheat and what is a tare within our own heart?

Jesus is saying if we don’t consistently ask ourselves, “who is remembering (or forgetting) what, who is putting the feelings, memories and felt contractions and sensations into words, and finally and most importantly what are at least some of the beliefs behind it, that are making it all seem/feel real? And then to take any answers that come up, and ask what are the beliefs behind that belief?,” then our hearts can become hard and nothing will grow. We just end up weeping and gnashing our teeth; burning in illusion, grinding our teeth because we have forgotten to remember.

The interplay between the children of the kingdom and the children of the evil one is God’s suffering heart as He watches his children believe they can be anything outside of simply Love and Light.

For those who accept Jesus’s explanation of the wheat and tares as strictly apocalyptic, I offer the following:

A quick etymology of the word will help: kaluptein is the Greek word for “to cover” and apo means “un,” so apokaluptein means to uncover or unveil. While we primarily use the word “apocalypse” to mean to destroy or threaten, in its original context, apocalypse simply meant to reveal something new. The key is that in order to reveal something new, we have to get the old out of the way. Richard Rohr

With each parable, metaphor, allegory and encounter, Jesus calls us to check the status of our heart and remember.

One day I will move on and no longer be in this current form. At that point the tares will be burned away and I will shine like the sun.

I won’t have to remember that I am already Light.

Golden Calf

Golden Calf

From the moment the golden Trump statue arrived at CPAC in Orlando, Florida, social media was inundated with its comparison to the golden calf that Aaron, brother of Moses, made in the desert on the Sinai Peninsula.

Moses had climbed Mount Sinai to receive the terms that would define the covenant relationship between God and God’s people. He was gone so long that the people of Israel feared he would not come back. In their supposed abandonment, they asked Aaron to make a god for them to worship.

Considering that the Israelites had watched God defeat the Egyptian gods with plague after plague, walked through the Red Sea on firm ground–walls of water on both sides, witnessed the Red Sea enclose their pursuers in a watery tomb, were being guided by supernatural fire by night and cloud by day, were supplied drinking water from a rock, it is difficult for me to believe they would choose to worship a golden calf.

But after a quick internet search on “oxen worship” I found cattle worship was fairly common in some ancient cultures, one of which was Egypt, the country where the once enslaved Hebrews were held captive for generations.

Another example of idolatry and perhaps a more appropriate juxtaposition to the golden Trump might be the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to worship the golden Nebuchadnezzar statue in Daniel chapter three verses 1 through 7.

King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. He set it up in a recessed area in the wall in the province of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar sent messengers to assemble the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials to dedicate the statue he had set up. Then the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials assembled to dedicate the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They stood in front of the statue.

The herald called out loudly, “People of every province, nation, and language! When you hear the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps playing at the same time with all other kinds of instruments, bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever doesn’t bow down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” As soon as they heard the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps with all other kinds of instruments, all the people from every province, nation, and language bowed down and worshiped the gold statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Because they declined to venerate Nebuchadnezzar’s golden monolith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace stoked “seven times hotter than usual” due to the King’s prideful rage.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

Since the book of Daniel combines “a prophecy of history with an eschatology (a portrayal of end times) both cosmic in scope and political in focus,” it could be easy for one to imagine—due to his pride, arrogance, avarice, self-indulgence, and insolence–the gleaming graven Trump image in this scenario. Just as easy to conceptualize is Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell, Franklin Graham, Lindsey Graham, et al. obsequiously genuflecting to the resplendent effigy of emptiness.

What has Trump and his cohorts failed to perceive? What did the faithful trio know that King Nebuchadnezzar and his advisors didn’t know? What did Moses and Joshua remember that Aaron and the Israelites forgot?

As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. Exodus 20:19-20

Did he really make them drink the gold-powdered water? The following link gives a thorough explanation of this figure of speech. Moses did not force them to do anything, he was merely asking them, what are you believing?

https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2018/10/hebrew-word-study-drinking-gold/

When you are worried, what are you believing? When you are facing trials and tribulations, what are you believing? When the world around you appears to be going to hell in a hand basket, what are you believing? A simple question, one that gently reminds us that we are not separate from our Creator; that we are only lost in some form of “ignorance, deception (or) illusion.”

I read the following in a recent Richard Rohr daily meditation:

“… we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. We see the things we want to see, the things that confirm our assumptions and our preferred way of looking at the world … People can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion.” —Brian McLaren

We see things the way we are believing.

He (King Nebuchadnezzar) said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Daniel 3:25-29

King Nebuchadnezzar’s mixed response demonstrates that asking oneself “what am I believing” is an on-going process; that we can still see something “other,” separate.

This is why when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he answered:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

There is nothing other than God. To revere any mere object or idol as a representation of what is everything is to remove one’s own very self from this knowing that is everything. ‘I Am’ is not anything or something other than what we and all seeming others always and already ARE. To fully grasp the first commandment is to make all the other commandments completely unnecessary. Until and as this knowing is fully embraced and integrated, the rest of the commandments are offered to God’s people as a temporary abode, refuge and/or pathway.

Rupert Spira puts it this way:

Nothing has its own existence, but rather everything borrows its apparent existence from God’s being, the only being there is. There is only one reality, and that reality stands alone, indivisible, indestructible, whole, perfect and complete.

This does not imply any disparagement of people or things. On the contrary, we are elevating people and things to their proper status. We are relieving the world of its status as an object to be exploited, and we are liberating people from the projection of ‘other’ to be oppressed, thus alleviating both from the inevitable consequences that attend such beliefs.

In other words, we are removing the filter of beliefs through which the universe has been fragmented into an apparent multiplicity of objects and others.

Solely by asking ourselves one question—what am I believing—and then waiting in apparent spaciousness for the revelation of God’s presence.

This is what Moses and Joshua knew. This was the awareness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Me? I am still working on it, walking in “trust, not by what (I) see.”

Agents of Healing Too

Agents of Healing Too

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.
Matthew 10:12-14

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.

Please also see Agents of Healing and Peacemaker, two essays posted here on this site.