Let me begin by saying this post is indeed political and may indeed seem polarizing, but it has nothing to do with political parties or the election per say. As part of my year of clarity, which is almost at an end by the way, I remain committed to see the world as Christ intended when he said blessed are those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Having come so far, I certainly am not going backward now. In many ways, this year has been a torturous stripping away of every illusion, every chain and old belief that I held onto as an appeasement to my fears, insecurities and those beliefs that limit my personal evolution. I never anticipated what asking for the eyes to see and ears to hear would do to my life. It was upended. Be careful what you pray for, I’ve heard. And as much as I had no idea how naive my request was, I remained stalwart through every point of this journey, sometimes to the detriment of my health and personal psyche. I also want to say, while not everyone is a Christian like I am, I hope you will appreciate the conclusions I’ve come to anyway. Today, I am Peter, when Jesus was walking on water:
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified, “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Even after all I’ve learned and how deep my faith has become having answered Jesus when he said “Come,” now that I am here standing amidst the turbulence, I am trying not to be afraid, trying not to sink into the depths. I have the benefit of hindsight that Peter didn’t. I already know Jesus response, “oh you of little faith, why did you doubt.” In this moment of such turbulence, I will not let fear falter my journey. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be afraid, I just simply reject the doubt so I don’t sink. I will walk on water regardless of my fear. I will respond to Jesus command when he says come. So what does that even look like? This may take a moment, so please bear with me until the end.
For that last few weeks, I have pondered, and worried a bit over Jesus words in Matthew 10 when he describes the world they, as disciples, would venture into:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’ Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more that me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his/her cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his/her life will lose it, and whoever loses her/his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he/she is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous person because she/he is righteous will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of theses little one’s to drink because he/she is a disciple-amen, I say to you, surely he/she will not lose their reward.
Life as a disciple is often life shattering. It is an ultimate test of loyalty and faith. If we succeed, we can walk on water. Call it whatever you will, a metaphor, a means to make the unfathomable, fathomable…I really don’t care. What I really care about is that regardless of the fear that holds many of us paralyzed right now, we must keep walking, we follow Jesus command to come. We refuse to doubt and be one of little faith. We do what seems at the moment to be the impossible. Because with God, all things are possible…right?
Now, here is where it gets tricky for me. As many of you know, I have friends who are democrat and republican. I embrace and accept that different ideologies exist. We’ve all walked different journeys and have embraced our own conclusions about what we’ve seen. I have friends who are religious and non-religious alike. So, my beef isn’t about that, hence the latter scripture that speaks about peace vs the sword. Here is my beef. Political ideologies, in essence, belong to Caesar (see last post), and we give to Caesar in our own way. How we express those ideologies most definitely leaks into giving to God what is Gods. So this is when the fear grips me most deeply. When you use an ideology to set others apart, to demean or demoralize them, to treat them disrespectfully you are not a being a disciple of Christ. When you cross the line in defaming your opposition, someone who doesn’t support the candidate you do, you are not being a disciple of Christ. That doesn’t mean the conversations about ideas won’t be difficult and painful. Where it became appalling to me in this election cycle was the deeply vicious and slanderous way people shared their opinions and almost never to anyone’s face. I always thought that to the people who know me, they know I’m a good person and so would listen to things from my perspective as well as their own and that they wouldn’t dismiss me or talk about me behind my back because I thought differently than they did, or get angry when I expected truth beyond salacious innuendo. I am not a bad person because I voted a certain way. Winning this election doesn’t give you God’s stamp of approval, God doesn’t give a shit about who won this election. But losing this election doesn’t give you the right to give up all hope or hate the other party either, God has clear opinions about those kinds of judgement too.
Being immersed in an environment that often is diametrically opposed to my most core beliefs has at times been difficult for me, but I’ve adapted because I’ve learned to see the deep goodness in the people who surround me. It has always been my prayer that others would offer me the same accord and it grieved me when that didn’t always happen. This year of clarity has given me freedom from that concern. I don’t care if you judge me, because my journey is sacred. I’ve said this before, that until you walk in another’s shoes you can never understand or judge their journey and I’ve worked hard to try and do that. So I implore people to listen to, and most importantly actually see those who are hurting right now and try and understand why. Sometimes seeing life through another’s eyes isn’t pretty, especially since it challenges our assumptions. There are people of color, sexual orientation, ethnicity, different levels of education and economics, who are devastated by the situation they are in today and the implications they may face come with deep feelings often times fear and rage. But when you take time to really see them and hear them, and break the confines of a limited perspective, fear diminishes and the walk gets easier, kind like gliding on water.
And yet to those who remain convinced that the problems we face are someone else’s fault, or that your “side” has the license on righteousness or God’s imprimatur, or that the answer lies in one person’s judgement against another, I choose to stand against you, whatever side of the aisle that puts you on. To refuse to recognize that we are all of us together, citizens who should all enjoy the the same self evident truths that are the cornerstone of this great country: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is simply unacceptable to me. So, as a Christian, my sword will be lovingly raised, and wielded in every moment the Spirit deems fit. Go ahead hate me, reject me, whatever. I choose to answer the call and walk on water.
There is an obscure rule in the law called, “The rule against perpetuities”, to which I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out in preparation for the bar exam, (even though my instructors almost guaranteed a question regarding it would certainly not appear on the bar exam…of course there was…they obviously didn’t know that when it comes to me and odds, I’m of the, “May the odds be ever in your favor, Hunger Games” ilk, and so I apologize to everyone else who took the test that day…) Sidebar concluded. Anyway, the rule against perpetuities basically placed a statutory limit as to how far a dead person will have control over the distribution of assets to future descendants. While I still may have trouble with the particulars of the rule, I always thinks it’s a good idea to limit the power one has to control the future of another.
But how often do we hold on to, in perpetuity, our own sins, the sins of others and even sins projected onto future descendants who remain tethered to those past injuries or judgements? It is takes so much energy to hold on to all that anger and is just as unfair to future generations who have to deal with the fallout. I think if more of us looked to see what collateral damage there is to holding onto grudges, judgements, and condemnation, perhaps then refusing forgiveness wouldn’t be as common. I think refusing forgiveness is the greatest weapon against the spread of the gospel. Think again if you feel immune, because you are not. All of us have baggage, and if you think that holding on to it has no effect on those around you, you are also mistaken.
The only thing that I am sure of lasting into perpetuity is the love of God, the sacrifice of his Son and the need for God in my life. That doesn’t mean that love’s affect can’t be blocked or inhibited. Continual forgiveness of oneself and others is the key that will keep the door to the kingdom open. God gave us the key, the choice to keep it locked or unlocked every day, as a matter of principle, is on us.
I often wonder if people actually read the same scripture that I do. SERIOUSLY, I really wonder that. I am conflicted and challenged every day by my weakness when I read the words of Jesus. I remember the day when my heart broke in a vision of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane extending his hand to me and saying it is for you that I will make this sacrifice and felt first, the horrible guilt and then an overwhelming love fill me up. It is because of that moment that I resist the impulse to lower myself to the level of those pretty little liars out there who would have you believe that 1.6 billion people are extensions of the devil, are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ, and that America is synonymous with the chosen people. I don’t want to be lectured by smug individuals who turn the challenge on its head and point to the atrocities that are befalling innocent people right now, and how we must destroy them. History has told us many a woeful tale of this same story. Christians destroyed by Rome, Jews destroyed by Christians (and yes, we had our crazy factions too), women being burned as witches, etc. the list goes on. And as the saying by Edmund Burke goes: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”
So, to those of you who are so confident that you know the mind of God and believe anyone who disagrees with you be damned…see how successfully you live and breathe these words:
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Wo to you when all speak well of you for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way. But I say to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you. Even sinners love those who love them” Luke 6:24-32
I am angry because these words convict me every day to be a greater person and have faith that Jesus knew what he was talking about, and yet I don’t see a lot of support for this notion right now. As hard as it is to look at the atrocities that are being perpetuated every day and have faith that the above formula is the greater course, it does revolve back to that great sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus had faith in me, so I must have faith in him…it is really as simple as that. When I face the banal every day workings of life, where I get to practice and master on an inane level the challenges listed above, I know that then and only then will my discipleship be honed and perfected. And deep in the simplicity of everyday life, my greatest fear is coming to pass…that those pretty little liars out there are corrupting the gospel, perverting it and twisting it to serve another master, one who Jesus warns us of…the one who can entice us, utilize our fears to their advantage and sway us away from the kind of love God first gave us. It is a master who would have us build a cocoon of our own self-righteousness, and prejudice, who will ply us with a twisted appreciation of what exactly grace will do which is to deny those we are commanded to love and give entry to only those who are deemed worthy, and condemn any who would disagree.
The central point of the gospel is that the invitation is extended to us all….including those 1.6 billion people out there who only see hateful rejection, persecution and judgement. The parable Jesus told of the great banquet in Luke 14:15-24 reminds us that those who find excuses not to come to his table will be shut out. Many have accepted the invitation in words, but let me remind you, Jesus never said that they will know you are my disciple by telling people that you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour; he said they will know you are my disciples by how you love one another, not judge, not condemn, not kill, not run in fear from…but how you love them, which means actually showing up at his table and not a facsimile of one you like better. So where do you put your faith; do you put your faith in the words above, or those words that perpetuate the rancor, that undermine leadership, that feed self-righteousness. that are smug in their conviction that only one ideology rings true. It is my prayer that all of us, during this Lenten season, ask this question: Do they know I am a follower of Jesus by how well I love others.
Being ready to charge forth is how I always want to portray myself…but I am more a compilation of pacing, hyperventilation, tears, ending in quiet resolve. I am aware of what I have to say, no less committed to continue on the path that I see so clearly, shaking but never wavering. It just isn’t easy for me. On that note, I am provoked by the faceless ugliness of social media and the fearful nature of information, convoluted to champion ideological superiority and then weaponizing it as a way to justify a belief and behavior that circumvents the gospel, and yes I did say circumvent…because Jesus could never, would never stand for it…the finger pointing and the blame, the violent solutions and polarization of the world and its people. In John 13:13, Jesus lays out the model of behavior he expects of his disciples:
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’ and rightly so for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and the teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you because of it.
He goes on to say in John 13:34,
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
There will be those who will pick through scripture to find ways around this to justify their hatred of those who are the momentary evil of day…whether it is a political party, or those who terrorize in the name of their superiority. We, as Christians, are not allowed that weakness. That is what Jesus meant when he said:
You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…
There are plenty of places to find what love looks like….which is where everyone should start. More importantly, we have to look at what drives us away from love, which drives us to propagate gossip and innuendo as fast as wild-fire. It is fear. It is fear. It is fear. It. Is. Fear. How can that be?, we who wear the gift of grace?, we who are promised that anything we ask for in prayer, with faith will be given, we who are commanded not to worry because if God clothes the world in such splendor, how much more does he have in store for us, so little in our faith? We fear because we have been lulled into the illusion that evil has the greater edge, that it can defeat us, and the greatest illusion of all, that the gates of hell haven’t already been shattered by Jesus death and resurrection. On the night he was betrayed he rebuked a disciple who burnished the sword:
Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? Then how would scripture be fulfilled which say this must come to pass in this way?
That is the question isn’t it? How will our fate, laid out in scripure be fulfilled? Could God swoop down and finish the job? Or does he know that the sacrifice of his son has given us the necessary tools to be our own champions? 1John 4: lays it out plainly:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.
Love is what must be our core. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but at any moment in time we can pray to God to augment our imperfect hearts with His perfect love, or we can give into fear in all its seeming righteousness, in its promise of vengeance, its illusion of creating peace and safety. Violence will never be the answer; hatred exists as a bi-product of fear. But that doesn’t mean I am naive, either. I don’t condemn armies who fight for a cause…one of the conundrums of being human, I guess. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he said that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. He also told us that we couldn’t serve two masters, and how narrow the road to righteousness really is. But certainly, the task at hand is to focus on how others will see us and know that we are his disciples…they will know us by how we love one another.
I’ve always found comfort in these particular words of Jesus: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And yet…really? my bank account hasn’t changed. Let’s go back and read verses preceding the one I just mentioned. They are an admonition against judgement and pointing out the flaws in others while unable to see our own. The offer of receiving whatever we ask for comes only after we stop our judgy behavior and look at our own flaws first and foremost. While that may seem depressing, Jesus doesn’t leave us wallowing in our wicked imperfections…he says, “which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” While he chastises our behavior, it still won’t prohibit God from answering our prayers.
Of course there are qualifications…God responds to our requests with “good things” God would never give us anything harmful. I suppose asking for something bad would never qualify. So how then, do we know what good is? What follows gives us a clue. Jesus highlights the golden rule: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” He also encourages us to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life, and not the wide and easy gate that many will follow to destruction. He warns of false prophets whom we will only know by the fruits they bear, followed immediately by “for a rotten tree can never bear good fruit”. The lines are drawn clear: good tree, good fruit…bad tree no fruit. Goodness can only be known by good fruit.
So what is good fruit? Is it success, wealth, fame, popularity, prowess or power? I suppose it all goes back to what each of us sees when we pull that humongous plank out or our eye. We can never see goodness while our vision is clouded; there are too many false prophets out there that exist in obscured vision to lead us astray. Only goodness can perpetuate goodness, rotten trees never can…and we all know what happens to trees that bear no fruit whatsoever (remember the fig tree). It doesn’t need to be complicated, we simply start by not judging and pointing out the flaws in others before we can even see our own, treat others exactly how we want to be treated, pray to god in secret with faith, and he will respond with goodness, from which we continue to bear good fruit. Pretty much sums it all up.
I tell my sons this all the time. Much of the lifestyle we live, is earned and I am proud of that. As much, however, is not. I am always mindful of that I live in a rich country, have freedoms that others fought for, have the ethnicity that offers more opportunity to me than to others. I am gifted spiritually by Grace, and perfected by God’s sacrifice. I am NOT entitled to anything, except the opportunity to love as Jesus did and help bring light to a world that often seems dimmed by smoke and subterfuge…so that we cannot see that we are blessed, created by and vindicated by God.
I can’t help thinking that if we really believed that we were greatly privileged, and wore that greatness as a badge of honor, we would embrace the responsibility to love and honor each other so much more easily. We’ve been lulled into believing that we will never have enough, will never be enough, and the world’s acceptance matters. We should be better at it by now, you know, loving one another and being the Body of Christ. We are way too obsessed about gaining what is rightly ours…when nothing really is, in this temporal world, all is fleeting and none of it will matter in the next world.
I know it doesn’t mean we stop practically living in the world, but we would live differently if we really believed that we could. I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, “Sell all you have and follow me”. With the privilege of Grace, comes responsibility.
It has been awhile, for good reason. I am woman caught on fire. In the last two weeks, the archdiocese I spent more than a decade working for, and the University where I received much of my training, released the lists of priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors. The pastor of the first parish I worked for was on that list…and some who I have personal knowledge and experience of that should be on it were not. While my relationships with some of these men did not fall within the perimeters of the alleged abuse, it was still abuse. Suffice it to say that the rage I feel is based on countless power struggles during my tenure with the archdiocese that I believe impeded my ability to do the job that I was hired to do, called by God to do, and ultimately became the central reason I walked away from ministry. Given my personality, I always knew that I would have some difficulty working for the Catholic Church. I was an attractive, smart, strong willed, vivacious, intelligent woman. For those of you who think I should also include egotistical and arrogant to the list…yeah well, given all that I sacrificed during those years, believe me, while my list of vices may be many, false humility and lack of objectivity aren’t part of the list. Anyway, what matters is that given who I was and what the church was at that time, I knew the road would never be easy, and I took extra precaution to live a very pure life, to which I never strayed. But I never thought for one minute that I would be immersed in such a deep struggle between the sacred and profane. I can’t even regard them as people anymore at this point, because the manipulation and the mind games were so malevolent that even in the face of knowing rationally that something was way off with whatever situation I faced at the time, often I was the one left feeling like the sinner and they, the saint. I learned to work with blinders on just to survive, but I was too angry so I moved out of parish work to teaching after that, which didn’t turn out much better. The suggestions that perhaps if I dressed more appropriately for my profession, the rumors that went around never would have started. Shortly afterwards I cut off my hair. I’ve included some pictures to prove I didn’t dress like a whore, nor did I dress like a nun either.
I thought long and hard about what details to share, but I don’t think that would serve any purpose other than just more titillating proof of the kind of abuse that occurs in an environment of ultimate power, and fueling even more hatred won’t offer answers, just annihilation. The girl I was at the time wouldn’t like it. She would be embarrassed, humiliated and hurt, and just because she may have not been the typical theologian she deserved the respect she worked hard for. Still, after all this time, I don’t hate the church…I worked with too many wonderful and spiritual people during my time there. I do however hate the path the church has taken, and I can’t walk down that path anymore. For me, I knew I needed help finding clarity…that was what therapy was for, and given that the therapist knew I had never been sexually active at the time, said that I had all the symptoms of someone who was the victim of sexual assault, only on a spiritual level. She helped me see there is a much deeper dimension to the kind of power struggles I faced, and lost. I didn’t appreciate until I read those lists of names what a deep toll being a victim of spiritual, sexual assault took on me. I had many great plans and ideas back then, to manifest the Gospel in new and exciting ways, but I just got worn out and gave up. Meeting my future husband and moving to the woods of Wisconsin saved my sanity, which remains tenuous because I live in crazy town (too many men, too little common sense).
It is my hope and prayer that Pope Francis can not only clean up the mess, but begin to heal the many wounds caused by the hierarchy. But until I see evidence of that change, my faith life remains catholic…with a small “c”.
Yeah, I know Congress’ rating is at an all time low. I certainly can appreciate that. Now, what do we do? Yes, we can make our voices heard in the next election, but there is something that must be said first. I’m sick of vengeance politics. I don’t think the founders believed that problem solving could occur in a vacuum, and that is what vengeance politics does…it exists to punish and control. Those who declared what just happened in Washington “a battle” should not be there…period. We need people who first and foremost recognize that there are a multitude of issues and opinions in this country and don’t feel the need to vilify everyone who is different or shares a different ideology than they do. We need people who can empathize with others, who are committed to diving head on into difficult negotiations and find solutions to problems that affect everyone, and not just improve the livelihood of those who are like-minded. We need people who put the people over their political ambitions. Most importantly, we people who can forgive when they feel slighted and stop this monolithic grudge holding. I am sick of it. How else can we bring the greatness back to this country? While I understand that we should render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, those actions can’t cancel each other out either. Our faith should serve as a moral compass and courage under fire…not to stand in arrogant righteousness. I am praying for those who embrace those qualities to come forward…I hope you do too.
One of my own first experiences of following my sensibilities occurred early on in grade school. One day, when my teacher made an innocent mistake in pronouncing a classmate’s name, I raised my hand and corrected her. Much to my complete amazement she was furious and made me put my head in the desk to “suffer the humiliation of Eve.” The point of this little story is that my behavior was labeled “bad” for a reason that was rooted in one of the most pervasive assumptions (and one I was constantly plagued with) of all time—women are responsible for original sin, and as part of the punishment we should know our place.
The concept of Original Sin continues to slap women in the face in one form or another constantly. For the most part, my time in Catholic school was a testimony of penance for that very belief. For example, a priest once wrote my address on the board when I demanded to know where hell was. Please save the explanations. There is no parallel universe anywhere where treating a child like this would ever be acceptable.
So let’s take a look at the story that describes humanities’ fall from grace. Did Eve’s choice to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge warrant plaguing womankind with that kind of burden? Yes, she was disobedient, and yes, she convinced her mate to follow suit. What about Adam’s culpability, though? Eve had to contend with the serpent, pure evil; Adam just did what Eve asked him to do—how weak is that? (Remember that old maternal adage: if your friend jumped off a bridge would you as well? Well, Adam did.)
Eve suffered for her curiosity and then some, and Adam suffered for his weakness. There is no inference that Adam was charged with dominating Eve, the two of them were considered one body. According to the first Genesis story, man and woman were created at the same time and God gave dominion over the earth to both of them. It’s curious that most people only pay attention to the second creation story, where Adam is king of the world and Eve is made just to keep him company. It is clear that part of Eve’s punishment was that she would have an “urge” for her husband and be mastered by it—that appears to be an independent struggle for woman to contend with, not an excuse for gender subjugation. If anything, Adam’s punishment is the clearer representation of slavery; he is destined to toil and sweat until he returns to dust.
Perhaps Eve and Adam knew intuitively that it was time to move on to a place of individual choice, and with that choice they lost their innocence. Isn’t that the whole point of growing up though? In order to mature in wisdom we have to leave our childhood behind and take what we’ve been taught and try it on for size. So rather than getting too wrapped up in original sin and having woman bear the greater portion of it, perhaps it would be more productive to admit that both Eve and Adam made a choice that we have been living with ever since. Even from the church’s perspective that may not be such a bad thing. The Catholic Mass at the Easter Vigil has this to say about original sin: “Oh happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” It is curious though: when the “sin” becomes a good thing, Adam gets credit for it and Eve isn’t even mentioned?
Focusing so much on the sin detracts from the great responsibility that humans were given: to subdue and cultivate the earth. The direction of the game of life had been set down. In order for humanity to be successful, it appears to me anyway, that men and women would have to use their inherently unique talents together: the power of dominion coupled with the grace to nurture the ordinary things that God made. The formula for this cosmic union is contingent upon male and female rising above fighting over which perspective is right, to embrace both perspectives as necessary to fulfill, successfully, the charge of God.
Another reason I bring up Original Sin as a fundamental assumption that desperately needs critiquing is that it still fuels one of the most pervasive myths that plague culture: that women are weaker and thus inferior to men. There are those of you who may think that statement is inaccurate, but really, look around you; there is evidence everywhere of that belief regardless of what level of consciousness you’re coming from. How many women are in “high places,” positions of power? Even if you really believe that the place of women in the world isn’t inferior just different, you need only look at the way the law has treated woman in this country. One need only recall what some of the great jurists (even the fathers of our country) did to women legally, especially in terms of rights. Rather than assume that the subjugation of women is the natural order of things, I choose to believe it is not. But if not, how were masses of people led to believe that it was?
While studying theology as an undergraduate, I was aghast at some of the opinions the church’s greatest teachers had about women. Thomas Aquinas (the guy who pondered the number of angels that could fit on the head of a pin) said in his Summa Theologica, that every woman should have a man as her personal master, because her intellect is no better than that of a child or an imbecile. What is up with that? History has demonstrated that statement to be inaccurate. In all honesty, there have been more than a few men who’ve crossed my path that have defied accepted boundaries of stupidity. St. Augustine, one of the most influential of Latin Church Fathers and whose work created the foundation for western Christendom, had this to say about women (and it’s a gem): “women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should, in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in holy men.” My response is the same one given to my sons when they point the finger at each other: “Don’t blame someone else because you can’t control yourself.” My utmost favorite though, is a church writer named Tertullian who said this about women: “You are the devil’s gateway, you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree, you are the first deserter of the divine law, you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack, you destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die”. Methinks there was a bit of sexual repression going on there. Even Martin Luther, a great reformer, believed that women were made by God to be wives or prostitutes. And don’t even get me started on the Puritans.
But what does a young, female theology student feel when she finds out that many of the founding fathers of western Christendom had pretty skewed views of womankind? Well, indignation at first, but there was also conflict because much of what these great men had to say was also brilliant. It was at this point when using common sense, my innate sensibility, regarding the truth of the matter was essential: 1) there are plenty of men who are less intelligent than me; 2) it certainly is not my fault that men cannot control their sexual appetites; and 3) an entire gender, who, by the way was also created in the image of God, isn’t the gateway to hell. These church fathers had great minds and were brilliant, yes, but like me were creatures of culture and human experience which made them most undeniably—fallible.
Herein lies the problem with our concept of great leaders and rule-makes: a majority of folk take every word, hook, line and sinker of what they say without using any discretion at all. Generally speaking, their edicts for their supporters are sacrosanct, and those who oppose them are often vilified. It’s black or white, with no amount of grey in between. There seems to be a certain amount of infallible mysticism that surrounds the rules they create. If they are brilliant and/or holy, then everything they say must be right and we must never disagree or criticize them. Later, when we’ve evolved beyond them, or we tire of them and a flaw or two is exposed, we chew them up and spit them out, or, if they die before we tire of them, we make them saints. Given that kind of attitude, how can the voice of a common student compare to the voice of the Church Fathers? Well, if David could defeat Goliath, why not? Seriously, if the names of the men who said those horrible things about women had been left out, wouldn’t it have been easy to write them off? There have been plenty of times when I thought the men in my house were demons sent straight from hell, but that is my problem and no reason to make it a sweeping generalization for the rest of mankind. We often vilify what we don’t understand, agree with, or are afraid of, because somehow on a deep level we do want to subscribe to the “there is only one true perspective” rule. I, however, find it necessary to dispel this fundamental assumption when ever the spirit moves me—needless to say, the humiliation of Eve never quite stuck.
It is by questioning assumptions that we often have to contend with many conflicting perspectives, some of which seem to fit and others that do not. It is during the process of questioning, though, that we can begin to recognize that inner voice, one rooted in being a completely unique person whose perspective is of no greater or lesser value than anyone else in the universe. What I share with others doesn’t have to be right or better than anybody else’s perspective, it just has to be mine. Have you ever been in conversation with someone and they pull out a masterful source from the Bible or the Constitution just to prove how right they are and how wrong you are? Ultimately, both of the sources mentioned have always been subject to interpretation. It is a rarity to hear someone say, “I believe this way because it serves me personally” and just leaves it at that. Even though my inner voice may be inspired by my faith, it doesn’t mean that I have a better handle than anybody else on the mind of God or what God says to them. It is the process of sharing our ideas that keeps us moving forward. Sharing different ideas, regardless of who you are, should be encouraged rather than discouraged because you never know when another person’s perspective may be the needed ingredient for germinating an idea in someone else. When personal truths are shared, the world becomes a better place.
Let me tell you something else I learned about some of our rule-makers out there: that many of them are completely and utterly crazy. Throughout my life I’ve witnessed the amazing power crazy people have in establishing rules by which they demand others to follow. Most often people, (including myself) side step around them to avoid the scenes they create when we don’t follow the rules they set down. They come in many shapes and sizes, from some of the priests and nuns I had in school to people with substance abuse, or people who are generally miserable people and want to make sure the rest of us are made miserable too. None of us are on this planet long enough to abdicate our person freedom and follow the rules of crazy people who sap away sanity like syrup from a tree. Curiously, though, there is an upside to having crossed paths with all you sap suckers out there, because you gave me the opportunity to use and thereby hone my native good judgment.
So, back to the rules in respect to men and women, why can’t there be two equally respected perspectives? Why can’t we simply appreciate that reality is divided into two equal parts, like two sides of a coin? Well, besides equality and balance being absolutely no fun at all, with balance there is also no difference, no discord, and without difference there is no perceptual universe. If there were never any conflicts what reason would there be for any of us go beyond our limitations? If there were no darkness, could we truly know light? It’s the same dilemma with good and evil. Although the rules that I choose to follow may not be the same as yours, and many people in other parts of the world live according to a different rhythm, it doesn’t give me license to “live in my own private Idaho.” My own growth depends on bumping up against other rules and ideas that often run contrary to mine. That may sound a bit like I am contradicting myself, but just bear with me.
While studying Constitutional Law in law school, I was aghast at the lack of discussion that was encouraged about controversial issues, and in Con Law, there was a new one every day, from abortion to affirmative action. What saddened me most was that many class mates had their minds made up about an issue already and refused to even entertain the possibility that in actually listening to the “other side” they may be gaining a greater truth. The atmosphere became not one of learning, but of debating who was right. Inside the walls of a law school should be a forum for good intelligent discussion, a place to exercise the skills we were learning: to conflict with each other and in doing so achieve a greater understanding. Sadly enough, there may be a legitimate reason for societies’ mistrust of lawyers. The one thing I regret most about law school is that I didn’t take enough time to tell those students and teachers who had thought provoking things to say that I appreciated their insights because it challenged me to look at issues a little more broadly.
So although inequity exists and may be the natural order of things, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be my goal to abolish it anyway and actively engage in conflict with the intent to create harmony, even if the harmony is only internal. Because it was during my biggest struggles that truth often exposed itself and led me to seek an ever greater truth—inevitably leading to another conflict. Again, it all turns on perspective. One person may want to win and have their perspective prevail and happily remain ruler of their own little hill; another person may want to clash just to see what there is to learn in the process. It makes the most sense to me to choose the latter. The most important reason not to be too concerned about any controlling perspective is not only are they fleeting, regardless of who claims to be right at any given time, truth has a way of eventually prevailing anyway, like a phoenix rising out of the ashes. There is so much more out there that we, as human beings, have yet to discover that no one person can ever claim to have any complete answers. I believe that God has them, but the rest of us are a far cry from being “in the know” like God is. We simply have to get over the fear to engage in conflict.
As a result of not being in the know, here is another fundamental assumption about the game of life that proved to be inaccurate: that the rules should never change. The fact is that the rules change constantly, whether we want them to or not, as they should. As long as humanity keeps moving, discovering, inventing, loving, and hopefully evolving, the one thing we can be sure of is change. The ending of the game I play isn’t etched in stone; that is the great thing about free will. The rules I live my life by now are not the same as those that guided my life in my teens, twenties, thirties, forties and yes even my fifties. There may be a consistent theme in the rules I follow, but I’ve learned not to rigidly hold on to rules that no longer fit my life.
Let me stress that although there are certain fundamental rules that are necessary they aren’t always obvious. I’ve usually discovered what they were the hard way but at times there were a few people who were older and wiser that held my attention. And although there are lines drawn for the kinds of rules that help our world vs. destroy it, I can’t say, unequivocally, what they are. Throughout my life though, (usually by running smack dab right into a brick wall) I have picked up on some universal themes which are laid out at the end of this chapter. I am also aware that I can’t change another’s perspective any more than I can make pigs fly—with any level of concentration. For example, the men in my house won’t be transformed into clean freaks simply because I choose to believe that dirty underwear doesn’t belong on the kitchen floor. And although my opinions are made known to the men in my house, picking up underwear, laughing about bodily functions, and carrying the burden that it will always be my job to replace the toilet paper are things I’ve simply accepted, one, as a means to preserve my sanity and second, that men and women will always exist together and it would behoove us to try and get along.
So before you continue reading, let me offer a challenge: if you want to free yourself from the chains that bind you then suspend all your beliefs for a moment and try living by the seat of your pants for a bit. The Upanishads (Hindu scripture) says, “Whether we know it or not, all things take on their existence from that which perceives them”. When you’re done reading, go for it. Put on your old beliefs if they fit, but in order to see if the rules you are following fit the movie in your head, you should be willing to, at the very least, entertain the possibility that everything you think you know for sure right now maybe nothing more than a shadow created by someone else. Only you can bring to life the movie that is in your head. Then it becomes life as you see it, not how it has been told to you. Oh and one more thing, once I chose which rules I was going to follow, the responsibility of achieving my dreams was on me. Like the parable of the talents, God has given me a treasure, and it was up to me to go and make something out of it. That may sound like a big responsibility, but I try to think of it more as a golden opportunity.
Things that I know are true:
1) Things are not always what they appear to be, so pay attention and don’t judge too quickly—and by all means, have a sense of humor, especially when you’ve judged incorrectly.
2) Shit happens—and that can be a good thing.
3) One need not be perceived as an influential person to be a powerful influence.
4) What goes around comes around, or a slight variation: what ever you put out there comes back to you tenfold.
5) Love (or God) is a constant (like in math) and is greater than and is never changed by our perception—love is separate from and not defined by our expression of it.
6) The opposite of love is not hate, but fear
7) What is essential is invisible to the eye; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
8) Fame is not necessary for me to shape the world in a powerful way…no one, not even me need be conscious of it.
9) Real power has nothing to do with control.
10) Having faith demands that I let go (not give up) of an outcome; and doing that will almost guarantee things will work out.
11) Just because I cannot understand “why” now, doesn’t mean that I will never understand, sometimes I have to be open to looking at an issue from a multi-dimensional perspective.
12) Unexplained phenomenon is simply proof that I am continuing to evolve and that I don’t have all the answers yet.
13) Vengeance never brings peace.
14) Money is never a reason to do, or not do anything.
15) I may not control all that happens in my life, but I do control how I respond to it.
16) Destruction and death are essential elements in growth and life.
17) Things gained without lessons learned are empty successes.
Here is something that must be said. Simply stated, my faith in God is central to the way in which I observe the world—but that is just me. Although devout, I wouldn’t describe my faith as typical. I know I’ve said this before, but as a theology student I was given an assignment to find a biblical passage to represent my faith…my choice?: King David dancing naked before the Ark of the Covenant—draw your own conclusions. In the rash of religious fundamentalism that has taken hold of many in today’s world, I am almost a bit embarrassed to share my passion and devotion to God for fear of being pigeon-holed as an advocate for some of the idiocy that has come out of some religious fundamentalists. However, this post can be helpful to anyone regardless of where they are in life’s great journey or what philosophy or theology they embrace. My purpose here is to simply help people reflect on, and have a stake in how they choose to observe the ordinary things in this world because it matters more than you may realize. The many Christian and other spiritual images I use serve to illustrate what I have learned, and they just seem to make a lot of sense to me. More than anything, it is faith that God is behind me at all times that gives me the strength of this conviction: All things, are indeed possible.
Let me say this: the connections I’ve made based on how I observe the world have led me to new ideas which have resulted in becoming an effective force for change (or a force to be reckoned with depending on the day). Simply put, I found that most of the materials necessary to live out the movie in my head and the answers to my life’s questions came wrapped in ordinary brown paper, free for the taking. As much fun as it is to believe that a secret society, centuries ago, has buried the secret to happiness in countless riddles all over the globe, the truth is that it has been right in front of us all along.
The key lies in how to observe the ordinary: using ones own cosmic imagination to see everyday raw materials as essential ingredients in creating something greater, to achieve ones dream. I may just be stating the obvious, but I’m amazed at how many people don’t even begin to use the simple things that are right in front of them. They look, but do not really see. The growing sense of fear and despair in the world is all the proof that I need to bring a message of hope. Observing the world as one that is evolving into greatness shapes the very way one moves and creates in it. This is not just another take on “attitude is everything.” When I use the word “observation,” I’m not speaking about a passive action, rather, one that is the root of all creation and growth. I, in my ordinary-ness, am as essential a factor in the world’s equation for success as any president or king, because my observations are unique to me alone. And because they are unique to me alone, they can be the exact ingredient necessary for my greatness somewhere else.
Another observation I’ve made is that too many people want to bypass the middle of any process. We live in a day and age where the easiest route is always the best route, regardless of the cost. Having status is far more important than the process by which one attains it. What happens when one is given something too easily, without the opportunity to earn it? In an age where technology has made all our lives so much easier, perhaps we have lost the motivation to work hard…for anything. That may be a hard bit to swallow, but there is evidence out there to prove my point. I find the amount of money that goes into gambling and lottery pots around the world staggering. It is certainly more than the GNP of many third world countries in the world. What really is the end result for bypassing the middle where all the hard work is and jumping to the end? I think part of the reason that we want to bypass the middle is that there is a subtle underlying message today that tempts us into believing that life shouldn’t be hard, that there are ways to bypass any difficulty and that if you can’t fix it within a moment’s time, throw it away and buy something better. Sadly enough, there are more than enough individuals out there who have, to put it bluntly, just stopped moving period, forcing the rest of us to find our way around them.
I would also venture to say that most people out there have, at times, considered themselves to be inconsequential when it comes to making an impact on the world. They don’t see themselves as an essential element in something much greater. It is this belief that has created the grey cloud that is obstructing clear sight. I am here to say this: the roots of colossal change lie in the smallest and simplest things which often go unnoticed by the naked eye. When you bypass the middle of any process, you miss all the important stuff. It is the mustard seed approach that Jesus spoke about: taking something small and seemingly insignificant and learning to have faith in its potential, to put forth the effort to nurture it and see its place in the distant future, far after it has left my circle of influence. Like the beauty of our DNA’s double helix, every single element is essential in creating the blueprint that becomes a human being. It is the compilation of many different elements that expresses our potential. Why not look at our human family the same way?
Being in the middle of a process can also be, at times, tedious, hard work, full of uncertainty, and time-consuming. It also demands a great deal of humility and faith in the work being done and the process as a whole. It is my hope to give credit and encouragement to anyone in that middle place, where the effort is not glamorous, but is no less essential than finishing the job. All of us, at one time or another has had the tedious job of passing a bucket. Columbus may have been credited for discovering America, but when it came to the discovery of chocolate he was just a middle man
So how does one go about judging perspective? Is it even appropriate, especially given that we all walk in our own pair of shoes, is there any kind of measurement that we can use to create some kind of standard? Empathy for our fellow humans can only take us so far. Is there a human blueprint or archetype that we can use as a starting point? When I observe the men in my house, a great deal of the time I truly believe that I’m the only sane person in crazy town. Therein lies the rub…is it possible to truly understand perspective when all you have is your own…is there any substantive to point to judge what is truly illusory and crazy? I know there are a million self-help books out there, and I’ve actually read a few…but I’m looking for something more subtle. Is there an underlying beat, deeply embedded in our DNA, that we humans march too? Let’s talk about the Golden Mean.
The Golden Mean, or Golden Proportion is a particular construct I’ve used to help me give shape and form to a concept that is usually so illusive. Some of you who read this may be already familiar with this concept and for those of you who aren’t, I’ll explain it to the best of my ability (or you can always look it up in Wikipedia).
The Golden proportion is a special proportion deeply rooted in nature, art, math and philosophy that represents harmony and balance. According to ancient history, the Greek mathematician and astronomer Eudoxus of Cnidus (c.370 B.C.), noted that when he asked his associates to find the most pleasing placement of a crossbar, they naturally did so according to this proportion, 1 to .618. Here is a diagram (great thing, the internet).
The golden mean is also called PHI (pronounced “fee”, not to be confused with PI) in the language of mathematics. PHI was derived from a sequence of numbers created by a thirteenth century mathematician named Leonardo Fibonacci. The sequence is a progression in which each term is equal to the sum of the two preceding numbers: 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21, and the quotients of the adjacent terms possessed the property of achieving the number 1.618, which is PHI, or the golden proportion. PHI is found throughout some of the best architecture in history, including the Great Pyramid and the Parthenon. You’ll see it in art, (a classic Greek urn, da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man) nature, (the spiral of a sea shell) biology, (the proportion of male to female bees in a honeybee community) and music (organizational structures in music or the shape of a violin).
What was insightful to me was not that we conceptually understand all the implications of the golden proportion, or mean, but that we, somehow by nature, abide by its rhythm. Somehow we intuitively know this balance point. Up there out in the world, there is a consistent melody that life moves to. There is supposed to be a connection to something larger and I think that we stopped listening to that melody a long time ago. In the human scale, our hearts lie right at the golden proportion point, so it isn’t surprising to me that the heart, not the head is the archetype where true wisdom and love is found.
The lack of reliance on intuition, that internal melody evidenced historically by how dominant pure reason became. Reason, historically a male characteristic, has been considered superior to intuition. Think of it, it’s common to tell someone to be reasonable but have you ever heard someone ask you to be intuitive? The general tenor of history has taught that intuition, because it is vague and illusive, is also something that can’t be relied on and is something that should be evolved from, replaced by science and reason, again, probably rooted in that whole “sinful human nature” thing. There is also plenty of examples in history when it was even vilified—note, burning “witches” at the stake. In working to regain a better sense of balance in this world, hence a better perspective, there is nothing to lose by looking at the possibility that “reason” may have shown us just one side of the coin. Visiting the other side of the coin, via my intuition, certainly added clarity and a new dimension to my world. And adding that dimension was as pivotal as learning the world was no longer flat.
Although intuition is intensely personal, outside resources were helpful in learning to tap into it, understanding the golden mean only being one of them. We all receive plenty of guidance from outside sources, mine happened to be from scripture, scholars, educational programs and all sorts of other mediums and everyday people like my parents. Most often I listened to these sources not because of a command but as the result of a conscious choice, they hit a harmonious chord deep within. Like the story of the Garden of Eden, there is a point when we all have to learn to rely on ourselves when making choices. Ultimately, I am the direct beneficiary of all my personal choices, even if the choice is only limited to whom or what I’m seeking direction. The greatest challenge is to have the courage to let go of the control of the rational world and allow ones self to move according to the rhythm of the universe. In this age of rigid rules and control it feels overwhelming to trust what’s “out there.” It has, for me, been the only way that I have stumbled across the answers to many of my life’s questions. That isn’t to say reason wasn’t essential as a check when something sounded too good to be true. It has always been the balance of both my innate sense and rational mind that has kept me pretty balanced (unless you ask the men in my house…)
As a result of remaining fairly ignorant about the power of intuition, I wonder how often we second guess ourselves. The sense of knowing what choice is the right one comes to me by gut instinct far more often than I may realize or accept. The result of weakening the credibility of our inner voice is that it becomes a whole lot easier for the world outside to dictate how we live. As you already may realize, the outside world perpetuates a lot of illusions guaranteed to obstruct clear sight. Without a strong inner voice, it’s easy to succumb to those illusions. Perhaps living from the outside-in is less effective than to root how we live in the world from the inside-out. So, from this point onward, try letting your intuition be your guide in what is presented as only one woman’s take on what lies on the other side of the coin.
How we observe the world is essential, but let me go into detail about that later. It was my intuition that added a whole different dimension to the power and accuracy of my observations. But it isn’t always easy listening to my inner voice. First, because it means shutting off my own babble long enough to listen and second, by its very nature it tends to be elusive. In this day and age, it is even more difficult to listen to the voice within sometimes because of the noise of everyday life, from everything we’re wired into, to the noise of modern life outside. We are all bombarded by sounds from practically the moment we wake up in the morning, and it takes a conscious effort to turn them off. It is possible, however, to learn how to tune them out. When things get really crazy and loud in my life, I remember a line from one of the Psalms that says “Be still and know that I am God.”
Because of the mysterious and intangible quality of intuition, it is the perfect place from which God can speak most clearly. There is a great story in the Old Testament about the prophet Elijah. As a result of being a zealous advocate for God, Elijah is a hunted man. He hides in a cave and the Lord speaks to him and tells him to go outside the cave and to wait for him to pass. Elijah witnesses strong enough storms to shake the mountains and cause rocks to fall, yet the Lord was not in the storm. Afterwards there was an earthquake and then fire and the Lord was not present in these powerful acts of nature either. Then Elijah heard a tiny whispering sound in the wind, and it was in the whispering where God was present, and it was from the whispering where he received direction. Please don’t think I’m representing myself as a prophet: I’m not. I have, however, taken the MMPI , busted my hump academically, read thousands of books and danced under the full moon naked—okay scratch that last example. But like Elijah, I do believe God exists in the whispering, from deep down within me. I am confident in this statement because I’ve learned to get out of my comfort zone and test the wisdom I receive from within and then watch the results. At least at this point in my life I choose to listen to the presence and direction of God in the whispering—when I shut up long enough to listen
All crap aside, I have tried in the last couple of days to 1) figure out what exactly drives me as an observer and 2) figure out how to improve and change what drives me as an observer. Truthfully, I am stuck. I’m stuck because there is a part of me, perhaps the part that is rooted in common sense, that absolutely can’t change how I view that portion of the world that is so rooted in illusion that they are convinced it is the rest of the world that is completely insane….I KNOW! THAT VERY EXAMPLE FITS ME BOTH AS AN OBSERVER AND THOSE THAT I OBSERVE!!! It is a bit of a conundrum. So, I have begun to disassemble the illusory elements in my life…which also stands as proof that my willingness to accept that I may just be as crazy as those I’ve been judging, is a sign that I am in fact, not the crazy on in this observer/observed relationship. Also, the fact that I would never go out in public with my boobs tucked into my pants because I misplaced my bra and shirt is a point on my side as well.
As far as what drives me as an observer, I would say first and foremost it is my faith as a Christian….I KNOW! MOST OF THE CRAZY PEOPLE I’VE OBSERVED ALSO INCLUDE CHRISTIANITY AS THEIR BIGGEST DRIVING FORCE! That includes, and is not limited to those horrible spirited people who protest funerals, those that think that a woman’s body has special powers to keep from being impregnated when she is “legitimately” raped, and any or all of the “Real Housewives of Orange County.” So, what happened? Did we get it wrong? I, personally, think we did. This then, is where I will start. Read this verse John 13: 34 & 35 and answer this question…is this how you understand your faith? Actually read the whole chapter, it is the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. A wonderful portrayal of what is expected of authority.
I know that Jesus didn’t just grab a random person off the streets and command them to love like he did and wash their feet. He loved these disciples. He had journeyed with them, spent three years with them…he had tamed them. Because he had tamed them, he knew that they would understand his command. The ties that bound them on earth were so important when it came to building and continuing his church, and he was no longer physically with him. They were responsible to each other, just like the Little Prince taught (see post on Taming). I think is the most important part…I asked myself the same question: How am I responsible to Him?. I didn’t get tamed by Jesus personally…only spiritually, and it was through a disciple that I came to understand what he was all about. It is what made me different from any of the others that have made the same claim. It has put me on a path of not focusing on being better than or being right…but one of being better and responsible to this phrase: “They will know you are my disciple by how you love one another.” The break down of illusion starts there.
A priest once told me that the movie in my head was much better than real life and I was just setting myself up for disappointment. I actually felt sorry for him…and, hopefully, now that he is not restricted by human limitations any longer, he sees things differently. I don’t know if it a blessing or a curse, but I do believe the movie in my head is fantastic…because it’s inspired by God and God has an even better imagination than I do. I do admit, though, that priest’s words have challenged me throughout my life to understand the importance that perspective ( the movie in our heads) has on shaping reality. While the theological essence of perspective has been my choice of study…I wanted to enlarge my focus to include a scientific perspective as well. As a non scientist, though, it’s been an exciting challenge to understand the process of observation within the context of quantum physics. but I do so because it opened my eyes (pun intended) to the important position of being an observer, and my personal impact on the world. The first part may seem unbearably dry, but bear with me, it’s essential in understanding how important observation is in bringing the movie in our heads to fruition. Just as important, in a time where fame and infamy give credibility and notoriety to a select and often undeserving few, I think a pitch for the ordinary Joe or Josephine is crucial.
It is tragic that in my study of theology, we never looked at science to broaden our understanding of God. Reflecting back on my own experience with science, it always made me uncomfortable. There was always an unspoken understanding that science was diametrically opposed to religion (just look at the controversy between evolution and creationism, or “divine intelligence” as its now called). Somehow, since God transcended the material world and couldn’t be proved by extrinsic evidence, science existed in some subterranean dimension. Many scientists and theologians appear to lie in wait to challenge, as fallible, the fundamental suppositions of either discipline (although there are plenty of religious leaders who believe there is plenty of extrinsic evidence that proves the existence of God, the majority of scientists I’ve met generally, keep faith and science separate).
During my early studies, the discovery that religion hadn’t necessarily represented my role as a woman in the world fair or accurately, led logically to understanding that perhaps that the conclusions they made about other things were flawed as well. History has many sad moments when the church harshly closed a door on a scientific discovery. It didn’t seem like an in-congruent step, then, as a result of all the historical animosity that scientists were not giving religious truth a fair shot either. It appears to me, anyway, that many on both sides would be perfectly happy to cancel the other out. Nothing like throwing out the baby with the bath water, don’t you think? Let us hope that cooler heads prevail and we learn to utilize the language of the empirical and language of the spiritual to create a broader understanding of reality: where theology can nurture the observer, and science the observed.
In my own experience, I recall a conversation with a scientist about my belief that science and religion, like light, are the same thing, just observed differently. By his reaction, not only was he offended that I would reduce quantum physics in such cheap layperson’s terms, as a theology teacher, I obviously didn’t have the level of intelligence necessary to further the discussion. Unfortunately, his snub left me speechless. While hiding in a bathroom stall to hide my watering eyes and embarrassment, I began to wonder if, in terms of science anyway, his observations would always be superior to mine. My embarrassment turned out to be a good thing, however, because it also made me angry enough to begin yet another search for truth (OK, it also included the desire to prove him wrong—regardless of my motivation though, I did learn a thing or two).
It is sad that most people, like my conversation with the scientist, never get to fully understand how someone arrives at a certain perspective. Not everyone just pulls things out of thin air. I had spent countless hours studying and preparing for a class with the physics teacher at the high school where I taught: an investigation of theology from a scientific perspective and science from a theological perspective. What happened was something I could have predicted. From the onset it appeared as if the idea had its own agenda. When my colleague and I entered into the world of quantum physics (I still get a tingle up my spine thinking of that moment), I knew my life would never appear the same again.
In the world of quantum the observer, or the means by which “something” is observed, means everything. Its form depends on how it’s observed. For example, light can exist both as a particle or a wave, depending on how it is observed, which, until quantum physics, was considered impossible. Physicist Werner Heisenberg, gave even more importance to the observer via the uncertainty principle, which states that the exact position and velocity of a particle cannot both be known at the same time—the more precisely one value is known, the greater the range of possibilities that exist for the other. Even the act of observing something changes the reality of what is being observed. In the classical view of the universe, science taught that by eliminating subjective influences nature could be revealed as she really was. Quantum physics changed that classical viewpoint by exposing a dichotomy between experienced and un-experienced reality. The idea that the mechanism of observation could actually affect what form matter took forced science into a new paradigm, besides giving great weight to the observer.
The discovery of the wave/particle duality has taken us beyond the limitations of Newtonian physics. There are two levels of reality which can be said to exist: reality as experienced, or as it exists in relation to the observer; and reality that is un-experienced, or as it exists in the absence of an observer (sort of like the old question does a tree falling in a forest make a sound when no one is there to hear it?). Un-experienced reality, then, is reality as it exists before or beyond human experience (perhaps in a dimension beyond height, width, weight, depth and time). Un-experienced reality relates to experiential reality in that it forms the basis or context of experienced reality like an archetype or prototype. The issue that is of central importance to me is the relationship between what is experienced and what is not. Naturally, since human beings, as observers, are confined by certain dimensional and subjective limitations, it would seem obvious that the un-experienced dimension has the greater control over what we perceive. I’m not so sure of that anymore; from my theological background I know the power human beings have to be co-creators of the universe, and therefore color every experience with personal meaning. What I have begun to worry about in this age of information overload, is the effect that all the negativity and violence has on the observer. On a microscopic scale, are we turning into that priest that I talked about in the beginning? Are we killing the movie in our heads and living a life of fear and disappointment? Stay tuned.
Who really has authority and power in this world? While fasting in the desert, the Devil told Jesus that the authority of this world was his and he could give it to anyone he wished. All Jesus had to do was subjugate himself and worship Satan. To this Jesus (at least in Matthew) grows angry and demands he leaves and reminds him that it only the Lord God that we are to worship and he alone shall we serve. Curiously, I’ve often wondered if Satan really believed he controlled this world, or that it was just a trick, a slight of hand to obstruct Jesus true power. When I look at dictators throughout history who appeared to have control of their respective kingdoms along with the allegiance and worship of their people, their power was always rooted in fear, was transient, and their people always fickle. Selling one’s soul to the Devil for the illusion of power will never really make one powerful. Control over someone isn’t necessarily power over them. No one can take our power without our permission. The Devil can’t give away what never belonged to him in the first place: our free will. Shackles may contain us physically, but the spirit never. Jesus knew this, which is why he knew he could command the Devil to leave.
When I look back over my life, the thought of having some form of a kingdom never appealed to me. I don’t really want that. But there were plenty of times that I felt controlled by someone or some circumstance. In hindsight, I realized that I simply allowed myself to believe the illusion that I was powerless. I later understood that at any time, I could have simply said no and relied on what Jesus said…we get our power from God and serve him alone. But hindsight is 20/20. So, while I can’t change the past, I can change the future. I need not convince anyone that the power they think they have over me is an illusion. I’m the only one who needs to know and believe that they don’t. That is the way to break the bond of power. When that person realizes they can’t control your spirit after all, like the Devil did, they leave…perhaps not without some damage, but that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right?
People who desire to rule over others, generally choose those who feel powerless to begin with. Feeling powerless opens the door to being seduced by someone who will promise you anything, all for the exchange of your soul. A hefty price to pay for an illusion. When you build a source of inner strength, you stop attracting those kinds of people and situations. You attract those who will empower you and be empowered by you.
I’ve been working on a dramatic piece called “Stations” about Jesus’ final walk to Golgotha for a while now, and it’s had many incarnations. Lately, though, I keep coming back to the agony Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane before the culmination of his great act of sacrifice. How deep was the agony he felt that it would cause him to sweat blood, to panic so deeply, that even after all his miracles and raising Lazarus from the dead, he asked his Father to release him at the last-minute? So, as I often do, I prayed to God for some insight into those few hours underneath the tree…and this is what came to mind. Music is part of my process, and this piece in particular from Eric Whitacre peeled away much of what I was afraid to see, invoking such grief and deep emotion that I was almost too embarrassed to write this post. So I add it as a context, while you read that hopefully it will add a dimension to my words.
I see a solitary figure under a tree, with sleeping men laying a short distance away. His loneliness is palpable and He prays out to His Father for assistance and comfort. An angel appears and quietly sits beside him, and I draw closer. The solemnity of the angels’ presence is palpable, his tone somber as he speaks to Jesus. What transpires between them is an understanding of what is about to happen in the next few days, that agony has begun. The angel shows Jesus the sinfulness of humanity throughout the ages and his fury grows blinding hot, more than he ever did at the scribes and pharisees, or any other behavior we have witnessed thus far. In his rage, he turns away and tells the angel that perhaps humanity is beyond saving. The thought of sacrificing himself for such an abomination is unbearable to him. The angel than takes his hand and shows him the victims of that sin…the beauty of God’s creation destroyed in the darkest and most heinous fashion and then racked in anger and despair he begs his Father to release him from drinking from this cup.
I try to empathize with Jesus, and though I haven’t seen all that the angel has shown him, I hope I have seen enough evil in my life to maybe create a speck of understanding. Who would die for them? The angel then turns to me and brings Jesus attention to where I am standing. Up until this point I am an unknown presence, a simple voyeur watching a play. As I am drawn in, fear wells up inside, I am exposed…in all my fallibility it is me that Jesus sees now in his deepest agony. The angel points to me and says…”It is for her that you must bear this burden, so that she might live.” Jesus turns to me and immediately the anguish in his face dissipates for a moment and he sees me, purely, flaws and all. I am no longer an insignificant one of millions who is graced because of something that happened 2000 years ago. I am removed from that safety of history and stand right before him, weak and pathetic. Than angel wants me to be the reason that he follows through with what will be the most painful, demoralizing and fearful moments of his life. Completely shocked and appalled and before I can run away to avoid the guilt of being the reason for his pain he turns to heaven and says “Father, let your will be done.” He turns to me resolved and with such eyes of love that I fall on the ground weeping. I scream at him, “Don’t make me the reason, I am not worth going through what you about to go through.” I fall with the weight of this realization clear in my heart to the ground…the phrase “He died for my sins” blaring into my head, and I am unable in that raw moment to safely intellectualized anything. My soul in broken, I see that now.
Jesus pulls me up, and the moment I look into his eyes, my burden is lifted and the weight of my sins are gone. In an instant, I know that it wasn’t only just my face that he saw but every face seen singularly, yet all at once. His appearance becomes a bit heavier and darker and I understand the transference of my sins and all whose eyes he gazed upon has begun. The aura of his purity is blackened…I know now that it will be easy for him to be handed over for crucifixion. The blackness of our sin becomes like a cloak…hiding his true nature by reflecting back to those that gaze upon him their own sinfulness. Magnified by a millennium of sin I see now how they can hate him. Every Good Friday service, at the part in the story when the crowd screams “crucify him!”, I am certain I would have stood up to the crowd and fought for him. Now, seeing him with the weight of that darkness, I don’t think I could. It is so easy to hate the sin worn by others, when we can’t see it in ourselves.
My once broken soul has been made whole by his sacrifice, the cloak of my sin is gone. The light of his grace can shine unfettered and bring healing to the world. It can shine through me if I choose to be his instrument of love and peace. And as often as I may fail, this visit to the garden will inspire me to keep trying…every day until I die.
This one is hard for me. Not because I have trouble voicing my opinion…but because this issue is so rooted in fear and hatred of the gay community. Strip away all the rhetoric and what is left is fear at its weakest and hatred at its strongest, neither of which is an acceptable motivation in my book. Scripture teaches that the opposite of love is fear, so that is where I stand first and foremost. Regardless of where anyone of you stand on the issue at this moment, which is a freedom richly fought for and celebrated in this country, level heads must prevail…which is easier said than done. I know that. I’m not the one fighting for my self-respect. What I do know, is that I have many dear and beautiful friends who are gay whom I see as naturally no different from any of the other dear and beautiful heterosexual friends I have. Sexual orientation isn’t something I even recognize so by extension regarding love, marriage and children I see no difference. Period. Except I know that in society there is one. I know social media is rife with profile picture changes and scripture quotations making a clear unwavering stand for their positions on the issue. So how do we come together? We talk, we discuss, we challenge old judgments and work together, and for my part as a Christian…work together as the body of Christ.
When I hear people quote Scripture as an indictment against homosexuality, I wince. Most often because the words are taken literally out of history and out of context. For example, I did question someone when they quoted the first chapter of Romans to me about the literal word of God, but balked when I challenged them on their view on gun control. Jesus did tell us to love our enemies and turn our swords into plowshares after all. I really wasn’t trying to be a smart ass…really I wasn’t. I did want to support the notion that it is dangerous when you use scripture to justify a bias literally on one issue and disregard it in the next. I also challenge all of you who use Romans 1:24-32 to continue reading to the next chapter where Paul admonishes people for judging…you will be judged by the same measure with which you judge others. Never mind that Paul in the first chapter was talking about the state of Rome under Nero, after the edict of Claudius expelled all Jews and converted Jews out of Rome…that he feared for converted Gentiles who lived there that they were falling into old pagan practices. Never mind that the wickedness that Paul lays out in verses 29-31 could describe any one of us…so to heap all those horrible qualities on just gay people is ridiculous…period. I also believe that to take Jesus words in Matthew as an indictment against gay people is just short of blasphemy… yeah, I said it. Jesus was being tested by the pharisees about divorce as a means to find something to use against him, as they often did. Jesus spoke to the hardness of the people themselves as a reason for divorce. He went on to make sacred a union that in his time was often unfair to women, who had no voice, were considered chattel, and who could be dismissed by her husband if the marriage was unsatisfactory. To use the beauty of a verse that celebrates love into a tool that indicts gay people renders its message void, especially since the verses that follow have Jesus blessing the children, entering the kingdom of God by loving God and your neighbor as yourself and concluding with how hard it is for a rich man to get into heaven. It’s curious how few take the verse “Go and sell all you have and follow me” literally…not that I would either, I’m just saying.
Jesus spent his whole ministry challenging the notion that we get to pick and choose who we love, and who we should treat with respect. He spent his time with those whom society rejected and he often berated those that held positions of esteem…because it is wrong to use position and power to keep others out. He is the corner-stone whom the builders rejected. He championed our eternal destiny by bearing our flaws. I can’t help but think, as Easter our most sacred day comes near, that we do him a dishonor when we focus more on judgement than we do championing love. Love, as I’ve stated before is so much bigger and more powerful than our limited comprehension of it. When it comes right down to it as Paul goes on to say in Romans…”There will be joy, honor and peace for everyone who does good…there is no partiality with God.”
I find it a little surreal talking about evil with any real clarity because it is so weighted in stories of fantasy, monsters, fallen angels, hell and brimstone, red demons etc. So, let me start with this: Christian Scripture is heavy on the notion that all things work out for those who love. Then where does the big “E” come in to play? I’ve never met the prince of darkness personally, but my first hand experiences of evil through perhaps his minions were good enough to convince me of its existence. In addition to be donned, the Father of Lies, I think another good moniker for Satan is the consummate actor and tailor: one who tempts us to layer ourselves in costumes and convinces us to portray ourselves as anything but what we truly are. We then, are confused so deeply that we lose the ability to ask for the right kind of spiritual help.
For example, look at the chaos that gun violence has brought to this country. There are those who think the government is evil because they believe their second amendment rights are threatened. There are those who think the guns themselves are evil and that they should be eradicated. I’m sure God has entertained prayers to abolish both. Where then, does the true root of evil lie? I would say the true root lies in the most fantastic misdirection of all. First that God has not conquered Satan yet (in classic terms) and we think we know exactly what evil looks like and what fuels it. When Jesus died, and before he rose, we are told of a short trip he made to hell where he basically opened a big ol’ can of whoop ass. What does this mean? I think that the whole point of Christ’s sacrifice, essentially is that for those who choose Him, evil cannot infect them…they have a spiritual vaccination, of sorts. Evil is like an opportunistic virus; it can not survive on its own. Without the human spirit to infect, it can never thrive. Think for a moment, what better way to create a foothold in human lives than for evil to skulk around shrouded in disguise in order to infect our perception and cloud our vision. Evil, then, like a plague that spreads like wildfire, we are paralyzed by fear and become obsessed with how to combat it, even though we’ve had the cure all along. And we fight it, most often in the name of God and religion. Aldous Huxley, in The Devils of Loudoun (regarding the crusades) explains it like this:
“Those who crusade not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptively worse than it was before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil, we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself…To be more against the devil than for God is exceedingly dangerous.”
So I say, the best way to combat evil in our lives is first and foremost to practice love, and never let fear take hold of how we live our lives. Then, and only then, will we develop the acumen to recognize, free from disguise the face of evil…I will save that for another post.
As it so happens, when I am able to articulate a bit of wisdom, or share a challenge of sorts… others may sit back and breathe a sigh of relief they were able to move a bit down the path of righteousness…I just close my eyes and wait for the karmic tumble that I know I’m about to take. Generally, it manifests itself in a couple of ways, 1) In the form of a shit storm, most often metaphorical, where I am barraged by spiritual excrement in the attempt to call “hypocrite” and make me take back what I said, or 2) In the form of a person who makes it almost impossible to put into practice what I’ve just put out into the vastness of cyberspace. This time, it was number 2…yes, pun intended. Mind you, rarely does anyone put my teeth on edge like this particular person…a person who at our clinic in a full waiting room, once showed me a disgusting souvenir that his Philippino “girlfriend” sent him and was just barely able to scream at him to put it away before I vomited in my mouth. This is a person who after bringing me to the edge of my fragile sanity so many times finally stopped speaking to me because I wouldn’t let him come over to our house and use our pool for “rehabilitation”. Finally, I was free…of course until I shared my words of wisdom about seeing everyone through the eyes of grace. HMMMM! Was it the devil or God who decided to test that notion? Whatever, it doesn’t matter…because I get it. Sometimes it’s HARD, so hard that when I picked up the phone with my bright message of, “It’s great day at Edling Chiropractic…” that horrible, horrible voice, forgiving me for being so inhospitable made my hand involuntarily rise to my temple and start pounding the phone against my head until the phrase, “See him through eyes of grace” popped in there. Lord of All, I love you with all my soul…but that, my deity, SUCKED BIG TIME! Ok, I tried. I was kind. I kept my boundaries. I wasn’t mean. I listened, even though he only called to talk about his bracket for March Madness. I am humbled, and now I need a shower.
These days, I write what comes to me in prayer, what moves me in the face of what is happening in the world…even if, to some, it appears that I think I know more than I do. Really, I don’t. And yet in the same breath…I do know a lot of things, as do many of the people I come in contact with every day. I try to learn from people and things that cross my path… Some times the lesson come easily, and sometimes the lesson begins to fester against my strong will, and when I’m ready, I finally understand. But when my brain simply can’t make heads or tails of what a lesson means and I feel blind to the answer, I simply surrender. I let go not because I’ve given up, on the contrary, it is because I also know that I am guarded by the spirit of grace, a wisdom that my mind can never fully comprehend in my human form…a grace that ultimately saves me every single time I accept my limitations and am unable to see a truth. Jesus blessed those that weren’t able to see and yet still believed, which I would respectfully say means all of us, even the wisest and holiest. I accept that with grace I am more than what I can see with my eyes, just as anyone who embraces this free gift can be. When I look through eyes of grace, all my cracks and fissures are filled in, I am so much more than what I see physically. Am I just being delusional?…what then, is the point of grace? Is it just a free ticket to heaven? Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within, and that we too could do all that he did. Is it all just folly? Perhaps, except I am so much better a person when I try to see my imperfections filled in by that divine gift. Grace will never make me better if I don’t allow it to fill me up. But the prerequisite is to see ourselves as broken as we truly are first. Seeing through the eyes of grace demands that we walk differently in the world, even if we may look physically the same as everyone else, our actions should prove to the world that we are so much more. How well have we done in 2000 years? That is the challenge of this generation. Today I pray we all see ourselves and each other through the eyes of grace.
There are times when a prophet must take a moment on the journey and sit quietly and enjoy the warmth that the light brings. Breathe and allow your senses to take in the beauty of that clarity. The world holds an amazing ability to rejuvenate and inspire if you take the time to stop periodically and take it in. Afterwards, take a moment to give thanks express your gratitude. Simple as this gesture is, it is important in building stamina that is necessary to finish the journey.
You must continue to learn constantly. Once you become aware of a truth, it cannot end there. The process of uncovering is constant and continuous. What you think you know about a truth today only stands to change in the next moment. Be vigilant in utilizing as many sources as are presented to you. Truth takes on many dimensions that demand just as many perspectives. Never be afraid to see the many different sides of a truth. Pray for discernment to see with clarity and to broaden your understanding.
There will be a time in your journey as a prophet, usually after a long period of effort, trial and error, and finally success at presenting a truth, when you feel the absence of a higher voice. As you mature in your role, this is necessary. Once a student leaves the classroom, the teacher may be present for a while, but a good one knows when to be silent and let the student make their own way. Embracing the agony of silence is essential in spreading the light of truth, the focus then continues to be on the light of truth as it travels from teacher to student until the student, in turn becomes a teacher. To know when one journey ends and another begins can cause sadness or joy. To choose joy means that you have faith that prophecy never ends.
The downfall of most traditional religious systems is that they try to insulate their body of believers from the rest of the world. Inclusion to a group predicated by certain beliefs and axioms will not keep purity in their body of believers. Why? Because we are all of the same fabric. A true prophet is motivated by this simple truth: we are all one. To judge one as dispensable affects the whole. That is why Jesus said that a shepherd guards all the flock, not just those deemed worthy. As long is there is breath and life there is hope for all. A true prophet goes to where truth is in desperate need. What good is it if you preach only to those who have already aligned themselves to God?
As a true prophet and human being, we are given only as much as we can handle at a time. There is a reason the prophets of the Old Testament were told they would die if they gazed upon the Lord directly. Be sufficient, be content, be fulfilled in the moment. The truth you seek will come in the increment and form that suit you best. Truth is a coat of many colors, designed specifically to serve each person and their purpose. It is never limited to doctrine, but is to expand perception and consciousness. Like layers, or ripples on a pond, the truth builds upon itself.
Truth, like oxygen, is a vital nutrient for our body and spirit. While oxygen is essential for the integrity of the brain and the health of cells, the truth works in the same way for the integrity of the spirit. Oxygen purifies the blood stream; the truth purifies our stream of consciousness. Without either we die. It is known that mental tensions produce restricted and shallow breathing The same is true when we allow illusion to stress the spirit. Practice deep breathing and focus on the truth and your body and spirit will be sustained.
Most people won’t have the exact same vision as you do. Remember that there are as numerous ideas as there are grains of sand. You must learn to discern the difference between an idea that is a different facet of your truth, and one that destroys the seeds of truth you sow. It will never be an easy job, given how we naturally gravitate toward sameness. Truth has many dimensions of which you may only see a few. Let light, love and faith in the truth you seek be your guide. Always remember that the process of expansion is uncomfortable and it takes time to broaden your perspective.