May 16 Journal—– 

From Kent Ira Groff…God of all times and places, we see you more fully through our varied skin complexions, geographical locations, and vocations.

Help us not to pin you down in one place, one race, or one way of life or work.

Help us cultivate your presence in all of life and blaze new trails.

Help us to discipline ourselves, to do the hard work of practice that allows your gift within us to come forth.

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Intense Spiritual Moments of Spiritual Experience Given

My life is a spiritual experience, the varied strands of which are held together by our God and the partnership I/we share. As with the protagonist in the novel The Chosen I am the child of a very quiet man, which seems even today, quite sad. Yet, same as with Danny Saunders, that silence is a spiritual background to my whole life, a silence of loss and yet, of plenty, allowing me permissively, plenty of awe, mystery, unbiased exploration, sense, and presence, and nonsense, and openness too. Since my mom worked full time perhaps I was what’s called today, a “free-range” kid. My mystical Catholic Church gave me atmosphere and meditative time weekly with mass and confession and saints’ stories. 

 The intensely spiritual moments cannot be separated–beginning with this one: the end of a one time event, my college’s Date with Dad weekend, where we spent a special weekend on campus, attending special meals and displays together, a dinner at Sally’s Steak House followed by a dance in our cafeteria. It was so great that this was his longest dry period– my mom told me years later. A Wonder. After he left and I went to bed, I experienced a gift of knowing and feeling that my dad and I were one person, one person. We were one then. A quiet real oneness. 

 Next, during my first and very difficult marriage, during a yoga time in my front room, I tried following directions from my yoga teacher on Kundalini yoga. After a long yoga session I breathed with imagining that air moving up and down my spinal column as up and down a hollow tube. Then my clothing seemed to flicker, I touched near the bottom of my spine,but my clothes weren’t causing a movement, the movement started slowly up my spine and became warm and vibrating as a circle of warm energy. Up and up and I experienced the moving up to my head then atop my head and was, myself, above my body and I was me, but now as pure brilliant light that was also simultaneously greatest unearthly and heavenly pure joy…the no effort here, no discernment needed. There I was and I was pure joy and light.
And I started to want it to stay, and then I found myself back in my ordinary body.
That was intense. My instructor later told me that yogis try their whole life to experience what I had experienced, and most, without ever having that type of moment. 

Yet I have three more experiences just as mind blowing.
Walking with my baby in a stroller and my toddler near the local lake and park when, now a happy Presbyterian, I found myself wading in love. The same as in thigh high water, but what was thigh high was not heavy water but a weighty love fluid and all around me as in a sea, a sea of love.
That is enough to share, though several other times I felt Jesus’ full presence tangible to me and then heaven itself when I was in the maternity ward and my first born was in my arms and in that room I was walking in heaven. The Joy was around and part of me and it was love and God’s Glory.

Jesus was tangible to me twice during worship, once with Rev. Schulte sharing how the disciples did not recognize His Resurrected self while traveling together on the Emmaus road. When the pastor shared that it was the breaking of the bread they saw and knew him, I right then, through those words , felt him present there in church near me and my tears commenced to flow. The other time Christ made himself tangible to me was during the end of my children’s sermon….where they role played one carrying heavy rocks of being different, the six others prompted to taunt him and add more rocks to his basket. When finally one stood next to him and took some of his rocks and took the same taunting, sharing the suffering of others, what a follower does. My prayer mentioned how this works as we participate in his work and He was tangible to me. Tangible I think to our new minister, too.

Jesus and Glory, Presence and oneness, Meaning and Joy…..Fills and spills from within within. These moments were gifts and remain gifts. I want to use the energy God provides to help bring new life within the lovely people God shares with me. God’s Energy can do what I can’t.


O Antiphons 

The poem  “Antiphons on Winter” summons winter as teacher,

 nurturer, a dark gray caped figure, dark soil for our inner seeds to grow… 

And I fell for each beautiful personification head over heals, dark over light.

I loved winter daily with each reading.

 It was story time for this adult who just found something brand new…

High on Love! Deep in love! I loved this winter past, more than any other.

 The consciousness of it!! More conscious than my young self was ever prepared to be about a winter’s day. 

O poem who redeemed my winter by writing out the performance of the reader praising winter, do you know you redeemed along with winter, even more,

time passing, the present moment, and even now the present memory of my winter, my love, whom I will always love.

Come O Words! Come Words with power to consecrate moments as they come,  and come, and come.  

O God -the wonders waiting for our thrilling love for them. 


Ordinary

Ordinary is miraculous. If only we weren’t so spellbound on leaving it far behind. 


Red as merely color 

Think about red.

 You can’t be unhappy thinking about it.


A Quote for These Days –365 Days

I found this quotation handwritten (by me) on the inside front cover of my Oxford study edition of The New English Bible. It may be one of the best quotes as far as helping us navigate these days.
It’s by Samuel Taylor Coleridge from John Baillie’s A Diary of Readings.

A tranquil habit of inward life–(this is) the medial organ in and by which our peace with God, and the lively working of His grace in our spirit, are perceived by us. This peace is inviolable; but the sense may be interrupted, disguised , ….through temptations, weaknesses, but when these eclipses are over, the soul is revived by a new consolation, the grace and love of God towards them depend, not on their sense, nor upon anything in them, but is still in itself, incapable of the smallest alteration.

Hoping for us, the deep establishment of this “tranquil habit of inward life.”
Though our perception be disturbed, daily!…That habit keeps our perception from knocking us out, from knocking the real reality out of bounds. Though even then, the reality of God’s peace for us is no less real.


My Children

I-In
N-No
S-Selfish
P-Presence
I-I find
R-Relatives–offsprung
E-Enriching
D-Dharmma*

All-For All
H-HO!
!

* within a western context can be seen as an applied system of natural mental health and well-being.


A Carefully Prepared Cup of Evil

I am Reading the Transforming Moment by James E. Loder where he relates how his wife, after he suffered injuries from a freakish accident, heard the words from out of the blue: Take the cup I have prepared for you.

Loder says her reference raises the question of theodicy: how can a good God allow the presence of evil…and that though he thinks the question presumptuous he knows we all ask it. So he promises to take it up later in his book.

Why Evil? I am now prompted to share my take on the answers, before I read his chapter 3. I want to take a sip from the theologian’s cup. Why evil?

First, to learn, understand and then grow~~into God’s earthly counterpart, who would have to know with conviction of experience, that there is something more desirable and all around better than merely the lack of suffering, or a state of painlessness. It has to do with our life in God and through God, our dynamic of being with God on into the future God created as ours, God’s and ours, utter reality~joy~and ours. Reading Corrie Ten Boom’s Hiding Place explains it well in true story narrative.

Second, why evil? Again, to learn, to understand and to grow into God’s earthly counterpart, in unity with and deepest friendship and kinship with God, we need a means to equality. Without equality there can be no real friendship. So God had to suffer to be friends with unequals and for us to be God’s friend we would have to understand his suffering.

The only way we could understand his suffering, right, we have to experience it. That is how we know God makes us one with him/her. We have full understanding of his life which is totally for us. Totally for us. And when we agree, yes, I want to be totally for you, God, we appreciate who we are marrying for eternity, the great creator, maintainer, transformer, lover, reality, joy, oneness and freedom.

Does the Bible tell me so? Yes, everywhere, but most particularly in God’s work on earth when Jesus walked and died and arose from death, and for each of us, as we walk and someday die but with knowing we are one with our friend our mate our greatest love, our brilliant eternal friend.

Prompted to reflect on my understanding of evil and of God’s care for us, care that appears careless, but in the end is his/her highest tribute and loveliest courtship of our eternal souls. He shares his whole knowledge of depths and the deepest depth, deeper than a cup.

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What’s “The Story”?

What’s “The Story”?

Now in this condensed bible which my church has been reading since September, we enter the New Testament. Who chose which segments to leave out of this version? I’ve read of all the kings and killers, warriors and prophets, but now in the New Testament I do not get to read of the great friendship between two relatives, Mary pregnant with Jesus visiting Elizabeth, also pregnant, with John the Baptist. The honor and understanding that Elizabeth expressed in her greeting to Mary showed her to be the first person of the New Testament to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Surely the first we hear proclaim him her Lord. Had anyone up to this point in time, ever pronounced a baby in the womb her Lord?
So that was omitted. Oh, what we women are up against in being viewed as inconsequential by the powers that be in the world of the learned Christian publishers.
Surely there are other wonderful things left out of the bible so why “quibble?” We can’t include them all! Yes, surely true. So why complain over this Elizabeth? Because she was one of the infinitesimally few women named and with a speaking part. That she appeared at all is a miracle against the grain of that historical period in which the scripture was being saved and handed down. No other religious writings this ancient contain ordinary or extraordinary women in any role, they are absent, nonexistent from the sacred writings of other religions. That is why the few portions such as Mary and Elizabeth’s visit are of import. They shine with the true message of inclusion, love, humility, and upsetting the apple cart of snobbery and arrogance of this world system that was and is, what Christianity is all about.

That these two women’s relationship is disregarded in this new edition which many churches are reading together today in 2014 shows me that some who speak for our true faith, are not able to appreciate the message of God. We have to speak up or the message is lost.


Numbers and Lent Don’t Add Up!

My title needed an arrow pointing up instead of an exclamation mark. The proverbial sign for heaven, up there above our heads, where who knows what numbers add up to?
Our church’s special letter for Lent encourages all to come back to adult Sunday School class where we are studying the Story, the Bible in manageable form. It makes sense to do this. “Let’s make this the biggest SS class in our church’s history!”

Why not also encourage attendance at the very same study on Monday nights for those unable to make the Sunday morning class? A very capable intern leads that class. We usually do have a midweek Lenten study so this could be it, instead. But then, that could detract from the big numbers they are looking for on Sunday morning.

My gut said Lent and numbers don’t mix, but I could be wrong. After all the mainline church is decreasing in numbers daily, while our pastor’s doctoral studies focused on building up the church in all ways yet pointedly in its numbers. So do numbers and Lent go together??
Heavenly coincidentally, here’s what happened next.

My holy reading this morning was Christian Century Magazine, Editor’s Desk. John Buchanan writes in his article Being Christ’s Body, about feeling like Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey, watching the downsizing of his beloved estate.
In his last paragraph he shares, “I have a proposal: Let’s call a moratorium on counting members. Let’s consider that we are called to witness to God’s love in Jesus Christ and to do everything we can to be Christ’s body in the world, to do what we believe he would be doing and is doing through us.

Numbers abound in scripture….the multitudes Christ fed, the Pentecost crowds, “make disciples of all nations,” Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars. How hard the task of a minister to discern the appropriateness of his images. I felt that Lent was holy and sad and yet the source of our life’s ultimate gladness and rejoicing. So is it good to mix numbers and lent? Maybe it is a bold move on our minister’s part and I am just envious I am not an insider leader of my church, helping to grow great numbers of followers. Or maybe I am a critic who sees that our focus on numbers can be unholy at times. Are numbers a kind of score that is a shallow measurement in Christian life or are they a kind of Hallelujah!?

For me they can’t be a Hallelujah. Here’s why.

If my Christian church taught that homosexuality was not a sin, that historical analysis shows that Paul’s admonition of how it was “unnatural” really is not based on the known reality of nature, since homosexual creatures exist in nature, then, then, I think I would shout, ” Yes, grow in numbers!! Publicize these numbers during Lent!”

Until that happens I won’t care about numbers any time of the year all that much.
One unpleasant tickle still remains, though, and that is, why not shout out for an increase in the numbers of the Monday night class, too? Make it the biggest evening class in our church’s history?