A Nation Founded on Shaky Ground

Many believe that all we have to do to set things aright in this country is to return to the original intent of the writers of the Constitution. But as I read the history of my country, including some really candid stories of our early presidents, I realize that we were on shaky ground from the start. For example, “all men”, as in those who are created equal, was a lie. One can argue that just because the fathers held slaves, they believed in their hearts that slavery was wrong. At least the words about equality made it to the parchment, right?

Both Washington and Jefferson wrote about freeing their slaves. It was like they were addicted. “I should not be keeping slaves. It is bad for them and it is bad for me. I will let them go tomorrow.” And then tomorrow they say, “I will sign their freedom papers next week after the family party.” Then comes Monday morning: “I will release them after the harvest.”

Boy, I sure get that!  The problem is the legacy they left us: hypocrisy, disregard for the humanity of others, putting my own needs and desires first. The list goes on.

How different it would have been if they had done as many of the Quaker slave owners had done when they realized the sin in owning other human beings. With risk to their own financial well-being, they let their slaves go. And then they went on to help other slaves find their freedom. Their legacy? Honesty, respect for the humanity of all, putting the needs and desires of others on the same plane as one’s own.

I can’t help but wonder what would be different today if our founders had done more than write their ideals and actually lived them. What if they had freed their slaves and opened the door for black citizens, women and Native Americans to share in the process of building the nation. Instead, we have had to struggle forward like anoxcart through mud with one of its wheels missing.

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Lifestyles and Money

I was thinking this morning about our lifestyle and what we spend our money on. Years ago I tried to set a budget to live by but it never worked. I realize now that it was unrealistic to have a budget when you hardly have any money coming in. Having a clothing budget was ridiculous. The food allowance was what was left over after the bills were paid. Those times are past for us, thank God, but my heart knows that there are those who live that way today.

Budgeting in today’s world is far different than what it was because the definition of necessity has changed. I notice among young women who I know are strapped for money that having their nails professionally done seems to be a necessity. I don’t mean to judge them. But I do judge the world of advertising, whose intent is to make people believe the need products that they really don’t.

Meanwhile, we are troubled by what to do with the waste products that pile up as a result of our consumption. I hear all sorts of ideas on how to solve the problem except the one that makes the most sense: don’t buy the products in the first place. There will always be some waste but imagine if we would eliminate all waste from non-necessities.

I will speak for myself here. It is my intention to leave as little footprint upon the earth as I can while still living in a community. (I can’t control other people, after all.) I don’t wear make-up. I wear my clothes as long as I can and buy used clothing for most needs. I don’t redecorate and will purchase furniture or appliances only if something is broken. You can see that my womanish needs are quite simple. I like it that way. It feels like I am contributing to a greater cause.

I wish I could put a dollar amount to how much I have saved over the years by simply not buying things. But that would be trap, too. We don’t need to measure everything in dollars in cents. Living simply is its own reward. I like to imagine the birds and trees are grateful for the little difference I make.

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Bringing Peace

Gabrielle Bernstein ends her beautiful book, The Universe Has Your Back, with a quote from The Course in Miracles: “You are at peace and you bring peace with you wherever you are.

I have lived through many political upheavals in my time on this earth, many here in my own American backyard. Mahatma Gandhi said once that we should be the change we are seeking. If we seek love and have no love in our hearts, we are working against ourselves. The same holds true for faith and peace. I believe in what Gandhi says…seek to be what you want and, without thinking, you will bring whatever that is you desire, into the world.

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God is Everywhere…Even Inside You

I am always pleased to open a new book for my morning read. It is in the wee hours that I am able to be in silence enough to take in spiritual insights. I just started reading Mysticism of Now by Rafael Catala. I have not heard of this author before but I noted on the introductory pages a reference to The Nag Hammadi Library one of my resources for The Memorial of Jesus. I am curious to see what in this set of writings had meaning for him. Enough said about that!

This morning, I came across two morsels that cause me pause, pause to think and maybe smile a little. The first is his insight about omnipresence. This is a character of God I learned very early in my religious upbringing. Omnipresence simply means that God is everywhere. Catala says, “…for God, the universal intelligence, to be omnipresent it has to be inside and outside of me. As a matter of fact the life God has to be my very life and yours, the life of the rocks, the vegetables, animals, mountains and planets, galaxies and universes. Otherwise God is not omnipresent.” When I read this, I thought about those who fail to admit that God is within everyone. Many believe that we have to do something, believe something, or achieve something in order to be a fitting vessel for God. Believing that God is omnipresent means that you don’t need to do anything…God is already there in you.

Catala’s second morsel has to do with sin, a good follow to the other because people often believe that it is sin that keeps God from “coming in”. Catala learned that sin comes form the Hebrew word saten which means “to miss the mark”, a meaning devoid of guilt. “If you missed the mark you can try again until you get it right. This idea fits neatly into the idea of God being a loving father instead of a stern disciplinarian. Love it. And I think I will love this book.

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Politics and the Kingdom of God

Richard Rohr’s meditations this week have been about politics. This morning he writes: “Transformative change in politics depends so much on having a clear view of the desired end.” He suggests various sources for one’s view of a desired end might originate in political platforms or political candidates. “But,” Rohr writes, “for the person of faith, that vision finds its roots in God’s intended  and preferred future for the world…not as a dogmatic blueprint but as an experiential encounter with God’s love.”

I have always believed that the place faith and politics come together is where a person of faith engages in politics. We don’t need to proclaim a state religion. People carry their faith into their vote and service and, as Rohr says, “…in their view of the end.”

Those of you who have read my book, The Memorial of Jesus, know that I envision a way to live in the Kingdom of God even as we continue to walk upon the earth. Remember the Lord’s Prayer. As Jesus saw his mission to build the Kingdom on Earth, I believe it was his intention to call all humans to make the Kingdom real. I believe the role of Christians is to continually hold Jesus’ vision up to the world.

I am not sure how other Christians try to live out this leading by Jesus, but I do it in a couple of ways. First of I open my eyes to seeing and hearing the signs of the Kingdom. There is no doubt in my mind that when we saw the young boys and their coach being rescued from the cave in Thailand we were seeing the Kingdom of God. Those who risked their lives, all those who fed the team or prayed their hearts out were the Kingdom people because it was pure love that motivated them. This is what the Kingdom looks like: love in action. You can see it if you look for it. Seeing it and naming it makes it grow like water on the plant.

The second thing I do is to open my eyes to seeing and hearing the signs of the enemy’s work. I am talking about Satan, the personification of evil, whose number one intention is to prevent the Kingdom from coming to fruition. Whenever I see words and actions that are about hate instead of Love, I know that Satan is at work in the hearts and souls of humans. When I see children being ripped away from their parents’ arms, I see Satan’s handiwork.

We bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the Earth through our actions. God’s Spirit, Genesis says, is breathed into us and, as I see it, moves though us upon the Earthly Kingdom. This work is the work of human beings. Some suggest it is carrying on the work of creation. All that builds up, leads to growth, heals, and mends is of God. All that tears down, leads to death, destruction and division is not.

Simple. Easy to understand, almost impossible to live. But as Jesus said, “Nothing is impossible for God.”

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I want to do a follow up to yesterday’s post. I wrote that I set my intention for the day as “Practice noninterference. Miracles are habit and should be voluntary.” I said that, while I would try the noninterference part, I did not really get the part about miracles.”

Here is a little about how my day went. In the morning I just went about my home routine but tried to “go with the flow” with the people I share my life with. I attended to a few tasks related to the book. I wasn’t able to complete all I had set out to do, but was able to let the rest of my tasks go without getting my shorts in a bundle. Noninterference with the passage of time, I guess you might call this. This is somewhat of a miracle in itself. My usual default is frustration, even anxiety.

I left home and drove to Good Shepherd Nursing Home to visit my friend Olie. She was in good spirits and pretty sharp. She was thrilled by the statue of St. Francis I brought for her. As we sat together, I made a conscious decision to let her talk. I didn’t interfere with her need to feel sad about the many losses in her life. I didn’t try to make her feel guilty for the lack of appreciation she seemed to have at the moment. She felt what she felt. I let her to be free to just be who she was at that moment. Miracle#2

I went to a meeting. There is a friend who I have known for several years, a guy with a rather strong personality and can take a considerable amount of time to tell a story. I had been praying for this man, but not acting. One of my character defects…intentions without action.  But this day I brought a reading that I thought might help the group. After reading, I stopped and in my heart, I prayed for guidance. I took points from the reading and asked if these might apply to what my friend had been sharing. I could not believe how open he was! Miracle #3. Strange that I felt in a way like I was interfering, that is, poking in to his business. But as I reflect now, I think I was actually practicing non-interference with the flow of divine guidance through me.

Later I had coffee with a friend who had read my book. A delightful time. We talked about a common friend that had left the community and how we both missed him terribly. When I drove out to the House of Prayer, I was surprised to find that this man whom I consider my spiritual director, was giving a retreat. I caught him between teaching sessions cooking in the kitchen.  He was excited about my new adventure, had been waiting for day when my book would finally be published. Gave him a copy of The Memorial of Jesus and as we parted I said, “I miss you.” “I miss you, too,” he said. I was so grateful for this brief reunion and hoped that the union will not be left neglected as it has been for some time. Miracle #4.

As I was leaving the House of Prayer, I noticed a woman that I’d met another time, almost exactly a year earlier at another retreat center. She’d been the presenter and had told me that when my book is finally published she would be interested in knowing about it. I had forgotten completely. Miracle #5

Miracles 6 & 7 are the convenience stores I passed on the way home, where I didn’t stop for a bag of chips or candy. I arrived home properly hungry and with an appreciation for the meal prepared. No guilt, just gratitude.

So what is so habitual of miracles? Perhaps miracles are God’s habits, the habit of God being nice, like he is love and can’t really help it. Perhaps miracles are simply the knee-jerk reaction of the world whenever we do something nice? Perhaps they are what happens when we don’t let our fearful or selfish thoughts get in the way of doing a kind act or saying a kind thing. Maybe this comes natural for some, but I have had to work to make kindness an automatic thing. In fact, I am still working on it. I think it will be good for me to remember yesterday, to remember my faith statement and the value of setting an intention. It can only get better, right?

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Create a Faith Statement

This morning, in The Universe Has Your Back author Gabrielle Bernstein suggests writing a personal faith statement. I would like to share with you what I wrote:

I know the Christ dwells in me, That of God moving through and out to transform the world with loving attention, kind words, and action.

She suggests praying it throughout the day to deepen your faith. Then she suggests that at the start of each day, you set a new intention for yourself. Her examples:

  • to be more loving to your partner
  • to have a productive work day
  • to eat more mindfully
  • to focus on love and expect miracles
  • to practice non-interference. Miracles are habits and should be voluntary

I should really consider each of these intentions. I think those around me might really appreciate it. I picked one for today…the last one. I get the  non-interference but don’t know exactly what the second part means. Perhaps if I stick to my intention throughout the day, the meaning will hit me by its end.


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