What About the End Times?

A woman asked me recently what my thoughts are on the End Times. I knew she was referring to the Christian belief based on the book of Revelations that the world will end and before it does there were will be a recognizable series of catastrophes. I told her that with the way we have treated the earth there will likely come a time when it can no longer sustain human beings. But not for a while, I added, and I am not going to worry about it.

I was able to fill her in on what scholars have said about prophecies of doom in the Bible, that these were actually grounded in specific moments in ancient history when the Israelites were dealing with evil monarchs an foreign invaders. I told her that I had learned in my studies that the book of Revelations was actually an underground secretly coded text used by an oppressed people. If found with it, they would not be arrested because their oppressors would not understand it.

I can appreciate why people prone to believe these types of fear-mongering scriptural interpretations during this crisis right now. But I think this flies in the face of Jesus’ message. This week we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. The most important part of the story is not that he died a physical death. This we will all experience and the coronovirus is here to remind us all of that fact. The miracle was that he rose, death did not conquer him. I am not sure what that means to others, but to me it means that even in the face of death, he never stopped doing what the Father sent him to earth to do…to love. On the cross, he forgave his enemies. There was room yet in his heart for more love. The Romans and his religious enemies may have been able to destroy the flesh and bone, the composite of the man Jesus, but they were unable to destroy the Christ, that of God that dwelt in him throughout his time of incarnation.

Jesus told his disciples that where he goes, they would also go. That place, according to my theology, is the Kingdom of God which is here among us. You see it even in the midst of this awful scourge: in the courage of our health care workers, in the joy our artists bring to us in our isolation, in the ways people reach out to see that their neighbors are fed, in the love teachers are showing toward their students, in the unity expressed collectively by people thanking the many helpers among us.

I won’t concern myself about this idea of the End Times. My body will have an end time sooner or later. I never needed the Bible to tell me of this. But I believe in the redeeming message that, just like Jesus, the Creator asks only one thing of me to do while I wait for that end to come…that one thing is to love.

Regaining a Perspective

A couple of months ago I was in a really good place. I had been reading the work of a particular spiritual teacher, enjoying some quality time alone, and taking care of myself physically. After the coronovirus arrived and we were told to stay home and not interact even with loved ones, I fell into a hole. The thought of the separation lasting several months was difficult to bear. But I am in a much better place today and I believe there are reasons for the return to the light:

  • Having been depressed in the past, I learned that dark times always come to an end just as good times come to an end. Change is inevitable. The serenity I’d been experiencing was fresh in my mind so I knew it was within reach again. I prayed, i talked about it with friends, I read spiritual material that was pertinent to what I was going through.
  • I tried to regroup. I’ve always been a planner and list maker. Being home day after day, I need these skills more than ever. I begin each day with a plan. I may not be gathering with people. but I can make a couple of phone calls to those I would have been seeing.
  • I am taking care of my body – every morning I do my stretching exercises and every afternoon a good walk. I miss going to the health club, but not having to spend driving time means more time to work on other things.
  • I stopped the “poor me” thinking. I pay attention to those who are lonely and afraid and reach out to them if i can. I have two elderly friends that I call each week to check up on to see how they are doing. This situation is a minor inconvenience compared to what our medical people are going through.
  • I work on gratitude. While I am not seeing my kids and grandkids as much a couple of months ago, I am talking to them way more than we ever did, thanks to the phone, Facetime and zoom.
  • I am a member of a 12 step community as well as a spiritual community. These, as well as a group of good friends, are making use of group calls and Zoom so we can stay in touch.
  • I resist fearful thoughts. I may or my not get the virus. If I get it, how it goes one cannot know. My stay on the earth was temporary from the start. The experiences I have or share with others is part of this earthly journey. There is nothing to be afraid of. We all have only this moment in time.

What Lives Under the Porch

Blogging is a difficult task for me right now. Any excuses I used over the years for not get around to  writing, whether my blog, a story for publication, or a book, have fallen by the wayside. I look upon toward day that is almost empty of duties. I take that back: there are the usual routine things one does plus a project or two. What is different is that the interruptions (meetings, gym class, doctor’s appointments, planned visits with friends, ordinary shopping) have all fallen away, leaving hours unaccounted for. At times in my life, I dreamed of days like this. It is what vacations look like except now we are in our homes instead of some exotic place in another location.

The difficult thing is that deep things are going on inside me but I struggle to find words to share these things. If I click “spirituality” in my list of blog categories I would guess over a thousand postings would come up. I would also guess that I felt pretty secure when I wrote them or I wouldn’t have posted them for public viewing. As deeply as I am feeling now, my security level is under the back porch somewhere with the awakening critters.

Some days in the past couple of weeks I have simply chosen to go light, reporting what I am doing as I stay in. It may have to remain that way for a while until I feel safe to come out of the darkness. With that in mind, I will share a couple of not-so-deep things I am noticing:

  • It seems I am communicating with others more than I did when I was mobile…and so is everyone else with me.
  • I am surprised by who are those I tend to miss now that we can’t actually see each other in the flesh.
  • I rather like simplicity. Planning meals and deciding what part of laundry I will do today isn’t nearly as heavy as duties I once had when I could roam about the world.
  • I can expect to get some things done in a timely manner, like making a gift for the birth of a new baby or a wedding.
  • I love that those things I most love can stretch out over more time such as my morning practice.
  • If I open my eyes and ears, I realize how exotic this little corner of the world is where I am vacationing right now.

Whenever I discover this thing, this understating, that is so illusive to me, I will most certainly share it. But for now, it still hides in the dark.

A Post the Day After Yesterday’s Post

One day after writing a post on how unconcerned I am about the Coronovirus, I am starting to feel different. The governor of New York, talking about the first death there, said we need to put things in perspective. The 85 year old woman with compromised lungs would have probably died from the regular flu, he said. I hear his level-headed words, but I can’t deny that I am more anxious today. An event I’d planned to attend today was cancelled and my daughter and I together decided against shopping this afternoon to avoid the crowds at Cosco. Bernie and I can go during the week when crowds are low if we need to. I have another event tomorrow that I am starting to question. The numbers at this gathering usually low, 30 to 40, but it occurs in a fairly small space where distancing is difficult. Another event, later in the week, will involve more people but spans a longer day as people come and go and there is plenty of room for distancing.

My thoughts are shifting from how to avoid getting the virus to how to keep up social contacts so that I, and relatives and friends, keep from getting lonely. I have started a list of people I know who are likely to be shut in so that I can touch base with them. After my knee surgery a couple years back, I got depressed from the isolation.

My husband and I are already talking about how to fill our time at home. There are so many projects to attend to, but with so much time anticipated, for some reason nothing sounds interesting to me. Under other circumstances, I would be thrilled to have a free day. There isn’t much you can do to please this gal, it seems.

I saw on Facebook that the president declared the 15th (tomorrow) to be a National Day of Prayer. I think we already have one but we can always use another. I would suggest every day be a day of prayer, with the world in mind, not just our little American selves. That is something worthwhile to do when stuck at home. It benefits those being prayed for as well as the pray-ers. I like it. I will put it on my list.

 

The Attitude of Hope

As I read my old journals, I see quotes from books I was reading on a particular day as I sat in the quiet of my morning. This quote comes from a student of Henry Nouwen. I was reading Matthew Fox’s “Original Blessing” at the time and it is likely there is where I read it.

“Hope is an attitude where everything stays open before me. Not that I don’t think of my future in those moments, but I think of it in an entirely different way. Daring to stay green to whatever today will offer me, a tomorrow, two months from now or a year from now, that is hope. To go fearlessly into things without knowing how they’ll turn out, to keep on going even when something doesn’t work the first time, to have trust in whatever you are doing.”

This lifts my soul today…as it did thirty years ago.

Approaching the Bible

It seems appropriate today to write about interpreting the words in the bible since one of my readers responded to yesterday’s blog with an interpretation of a biblical text. I welcome people’s opinions and don’t mean to single this person out but I learned many years ago about the ins and outs of how to read and understand the scriptures.

Years ago I was part of a community that interpreted the words in the bible quite literally. One day a priest, designated by the bishop, came to visit our group. He prayed with us and we did some reading together. Then he gave a teaching in which he held up the bible and said, “This is not a Ouija Board.” He told us that we need to be careful about applying the words too literally, especially if we hope to find guidance in how to live our lives.

Sarah Hurwitz, in her book Here All Along, has the same concern. Writing to a Jewish audience, she says, “…rife with ambiguity, the Torah* lends itself to multiple – often contradictory – interpretations. One traditional Jewish teaching claims that there are ‘seventy faces to the Torah,’ meaning many different ways to understand it. Another declares: ‘Turn it (the Torah) over and turn it over, for everything is in it.’ ”

Her experience was that reading the ancient texts “was like an ancient Rorschach test: What did I see? How did I fill the gaps? What did that say about me? How have Jews understood the Torah over the years? What does it say about us as a people?” (Italics is mine)

Lest you dismiss Hurwitz’ ideas as not applicable to Christians, remember that Jesus was a Jew and the Torah was his scripture. Judaism is our “parent religion” and we aught to pay attention to the wisdom coming from Jewish experience with the Word.

Once I let go of buying into only one, literal, meaning of a biblical text, I discovered a plethora of other meanings. In order to do this, I needed to set aside those voices that insisted they knew the true meaning, even for me, and have the humility to say, “I don’t know.” That is when the scriptures really began to open up for me as the living Word that began to change my life.

*The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament and the most sacred text for the Jewish people.

Super Glue It

Caucus night was slim pickin’s. There were more township tables empty than ever before. At my table there were three of us. At another table, there were two, the mayor of that town and a former legislator. This was very discouraging to me. For one thing, there were fewer to pick from to go on the the county convention. I signed up along with the other two to fill three positions.

After writing what I did yesterday, I went to the caucus with a different set of eyes and ears. I was not for looking people who support me in my beliefs. I was looking for divisive and unifying language. I found both. I heard words of divisive anger and unifying compassion coming out of the same mouths. I felt discouragement and hope at the same time.

When Jesus woke up to the the Divine within him, I think he also woke up to the fact that the wholeness he’d found was not evident among his own people. He said to a woman seeking healing that he’d come to reach out to his own people, the children of Israel. In the end he healed the woman (who challenged him for being so rigidly attached to his agenda) but the point is, he realized that healing the brokenness among his own people was a first step to healing the brokenness in the world.

I got home last night in time to see the last half of the Democratic debates. What a mess! People yelling at each other or yelling just to be able to finish their own sentence. I heard hurtful accusations. One mistake and you are out, it seems. Only perfect people allowed here. I had trouble sleeping and ended up moving to the couch where I played games on my phone until I finally dozed off. I couldn’t handle the divisiveness.

This morning, the noise and tension in me has subsided.  I can see more clearly. I prayed as the sun rose for unity. I made a decision to look for a spirit of discord and division in those who lead our country. These I will not support and may work against them. I will look for a spirit of respect and oneness to support and may work for them. I will try to be a voice for unity as I go forward in my writing, my political involvement or simply as I go about my life.

Truly, I don’t know what else to do. Our country is so deeply divided. I think right now of my daughter-in-law, Wendy, who showed me how to pull torn flesh together, apply super-glue and hold it in place until the glue dries. The image makes me smile. It gives me hope.