Dear Friends, followers, and guests. I have ceased blogging. My latest creative venture is my podcast, CircuOsity. I am exploring the presence of circles in our lives. Circles offer dynamic symbols and spaces to encounter one another and The Divine. Circles create communities in manners different from our common linear and static ways of meeting and speaking to one another. Please drop in and listen to an episode or two. You may choose to follow and friend us on podbean or on facebook.
I went to Whitenight’s Farm and Greenhouse sometime back in May. The weather was warming up. I was in the mood to plant vegetables and flowers. I have a friendly relationship with Karen who works there. She may even own the place. I don’t know. I like her and the business alot.
My intention was to cultivate a colorful garden. I also wanted to build upon my efforts to farm and nurture Monarch Butterflies. Gardening is a healthy spiritual practice for me. I wanted some Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia) and Milkweed plants. They are key ingredients for farming butterflies. The farm didn’t have any as it was too early to plant them. Karen wasn’t there that day so I didn’t get to check in. The cashier was kind enough to take my contact information. She ordered the amount of plants that I wanted. I went back to the house and planted my peppers, tomatoes, and some other things.
Then, life happened. Other priorities and diversions came along and I forgot about my gardening goals.
Someone from Whitenights probably called at some in time. I don’t usually answer calls from unknown telephone numbers. They didn’t leave a voice mail message or maybe I accidentally deleted it. Regardless, about six weeks later, I stopped in again to ask Karen about how the monarch butterfly season was going for her. I wasn’t seeing any monarchs in my backyard. She indicated she hadn’t seen any monarchs either. She then inquired whether I still wanted to buy the milkweed and sunflowers I had ordered.
Crap, I had forgotten.
She wasn’t even sure that the greenhouse still had them. Karen hadn’t ordered a lot more of milkweed and Mexican Sunflowers because of the dearth of butterflies in the area. Weather and conditions south of us were preventing monarchs from making it to Pennsylvania – at least that’s what we heard.
She asked someone to look for my ordered plants just in case. They were still there – about to be thrown away and looking very parched. I felt awful because of my poor memory. I was responsible for the plants dying. Karen told me to go ahead and take them home. “Plant them anyway and see what happens.” I offered to buy them. She gave them to me for free. Feeling guilty, I bought some planting soil and some other stuff. How many flowers and vegetables wind up in compost or garbage bins because customers like me aren’t as responsible as we should be? Nature’s unpredictability and human shortcomings don’t probably help much either. I headed home with my almost dead garden plants and a heavy heart.
I planted the Tithonia in a section of my garden were the lilies and bee balm were doing great. I used a heavy dose of planting soil, watered the twigs, and offered a prayer of gratitude for Karen’s generosity and hope for some growth. Maybe the flowers and the butterflies would survive despite my forgetfulness. Maybe I should just be thankful for the manner in which my tomatoes, peppers, hydrangea, and other garden plants and vegetables were thriving. Well, was I in for some surprises as spring turned to summer.
We had a very rainy summer. I traveled quite a bit; so, I was away from home. My garden was on autopilot. I came home to this picture.
My sunflowers had flourished! There were bees and butterflies all over the place. Monarch caterpillars were crawling all over my milkweed plants elsewhere in the yard.
I understand simplistically that these plants don’t need me or my feeble expertise to grow. They are like the mustard seeds that Jesus speaks about in a fairly famous parable. Little seeds can grow into great big plants as long as they have good exposure to sunlight, healthy soil, and enough water to drink. This is not rocket science. Some would say, me being among them, that people are doing much more to harm than good to our planetary environments. The most recent United Nations Climate Report suggests that human beings must take unprecedented social changes if we will survive and avoid catastrophic planetary peril. It was more than 90 degrees in Norway and over 100 degrees in Japan even as the rains fell in Pennsylvania and wildfires burned uncontrollably in Europe and Oregon. “Weirdness abounds” according to Rutgers University Scientist, Jennifer Francis.
We lose or waste billions of tons of food on this planet. Americans are especially wasteful as we throw away $165 billion dollars of our (un)prepared food. (Quention Fottrell). What would we gain if we would at least compost some of this supply? Who is going hungry as food spoils on our garbage dumps? What I find spiritually, ethically, and theological renewing is that there are emerging efforts across the globe to confront these realities. Episcopalians have decided to make the Stewardship of Creation an important goal by funding environmental stewardship initiatives. Organizations such as Columbia University’s Earth Institute purposefully blend research in the physical and social sciences, education and practical solutions in order to assist people and nations adopt a path toward sustainability.
One of my core personality principles that I commonly lose sight of is that everyone and everything is ultimately connected. I have a deep longing for some idealistic future even as I overlook the beauty of this present moment. Wholeness already exists. Paying attention to the joy I experience by going to Whitenights and planting flowers will help me to avoid becoming anxious or fascinating upon an unrealistic future.
Dr David Daniels astutely says that those of us who desire transformative change for ourselves, our gardens, and this island Earth our home must identify where we feel violated, angry, or afraid. How do these negative emotions shape and harm our future and our present? It is only then by confronting what is really going on that we can choose to act differently, and become someone who is born anew.
In my own experience, I may look at myself as being ashamed of throwing away the flowers and letting them die at the nursery and along my life’s pilgrimage. Instead, I may choose to receive the gift of these dying flowers and plant them to see how they will grow and beautify my life and the lives of the people around me.
Developing daily rituals such as enjoying the beauty of the garden I’ve participated in growing, valuing the relationships I have in this moment, and continuing realistic, inspiration advocacy for the causes I love. These changes will have immediate as well as long term benefits . This pilgrimage invites a sustainable, beautiful path.
I’m going to purchase some mums from Whitenights today.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
“The circle way is a practice of reestablishing social partnerships and creating a world in which the best of collaboration informs and inspires the best of hierarchical leadership. … The ancient ways of circle are waiting for us to remember and activate a true experience of collaboration.” (Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, 2010, p. 11)
I attended The Circle Way Practicum on Whidbey Island WA from Aug. 15 – Aug. 20, 2018. The learning group was comprised of 22 practitioners and 2 highly skilled hosts Amanda Fenton and Tenneson Woolf. The group was very diverse. Attendees traveled to this circle from a vast array of cultural, generational, professional, and geographical contexts and disciplines. I was amazed at the quality of each participant’s authenticity and competencies – as people and as community members.
The event happened at Aldermarsh – a beautiful sustainable environmental retreat center. Whidbey Island is a paradoxical setting. The island is home to a military naval air station on its northern shore as well as to natural sanctuaries such as Earth Sanctuary, Whidbey Institute, and Aldermarsh. It is in this puzzlingly holy space (fields to use Rumi’s terms) where The Circle Way groups have gathered over the years. These groups will continue flourishing, despite and because of such contradictions. It is only in such cauldrons that true alchemy occurs.
My beloved friend, Gil Stafford is someone I’ve sat in many circles with over the years. He writes:
We must identify what’s hiding in the shadows of our community & then we must accept some responsibility for our work on these denials and repressions. Second, we have to look into our own shadow. What do we have in our personal DNA that feeds into this corporate shadow? Third, we must ask ourselves how we are going to work on our own stuff in a way that will positively affect the collective? In other words, how do we share our inner world with the outer world in ways that are not “all about me,” but instead for the collective health.” (Stafford, Changing the World Without Words, Peregrini June, 27, 2018)
Circles become cauldrons when the paradoxical forces in the shared space beckon participants to come out from behind themselves and enter in the center of the circle’s shared learning and wellness.
A typical day began, for me at 5:30 in the morning for mediation and preparation. Attendees communed for breakfast at 8 am. The Circle met for morning, afternoon, and evening sessions, with some time off for reflection and relaxation on one evening and one afternoon. Formal sessions usually ended before 9 pm. The exception to this rule was an especially emotional and bonding “Story Council” on Saturday evening. Small groups often gathered for reflective and refreshing conversations after the evening session. I was normally asleep by 11:00 pm.
It was without a doubt one of the most transformational experiences of my life as an Episcopal priest.
My initial purpose was to learn more about The Circle Ways tools and techniques. How might I incorporate them and use them in my ministerial and consultative practices? What I have crossed the threshold with is something much, much greater. I have instead gained a cohort (circle) of beloved peers and friends. And, I now possess a much deeper insight into types of questions, reflections, and conversations holding holy room for creating true communities. The Circle Way creates immense capacity for motivating transformation in communities such as mine, Christ Memorial Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. I’m now home with a pallet of activating questions to share with my neighbors and peers.
The birthing point of The Circle Way practice roots itself the reality that human beings have gathered in circles for hundreds of centuries. A circle is one archetype for understanding basic human motivations as well as our shared collective unconscious. We come to meet with one another in circles because we cannot exist without one another. (Neill, 2018)
We live presently in a time and contexts when and where most people and organizations have lost their understanding of communicating in circles. Instead, especially when under stress or contending with confusion, we choose to debate/argue/deliberate with one another in dyads, triangles, or squares. These choices are typically reactive than responsive. Such conversations frequently lack shared purpose, concurrence toward addressing and acting upon a common need, and desire to maintain healthy relationships with one’s self and one’s neighbors – friendly or otherwise. What works and why The Circle Way is core to my practice is that the process beckons us and human beings to cross thresholds of assumptions and difference much like a participant must cross to and from the threshold of Whidbey Island and enter its paradoxes.
I appreciate the way that The Circle Way process invokes some of my tradition’s core tenets. What we share at the center of our conversations yokes us into deeper communion. The center of such offerings is an altar of sorts. What we share of ourselves at the altar is sacred, vulnerable. Who we are on boundaries of the circle we are participating in invites us into deeper covenant with God and one another. There is spiritual synergy that happens in such space that is transformational while provoking shared purpose and flourishing. (The Circle Way, 2018).
Tenneson reminded me yesterday that the essence of our work, play, and being with one another lives most graciously in the context of friendships. Early Christians would describe such friendships as “agape“. Circles create such agape when the people around the center share wholehearted opportunities to be close to one another while being ourselves, in our own bodies, and souls. In this Spirit,
I now re-envision that Jesus’ Last Supper and The Church’s First Communion did not occur at a long rectangular table. Rather the disciples sat with Jesus around a common table with their fears, loves, hopes, and doubts embodied in the shared sacramental bread and wine. Such communion opens us up to betrayal and sacrifice. Letting go in order to live anew is unquestionably more likely when we don’t have barriers between us. Such meetings and the conversations that happen there may be, as the First Communion was, life-changing for everyone in the room and beyond the community’s walls too.
I invite your prayers, ideas and participation as to where we may begin and continue this transformative work. Would you join in a Circle with me?
It’s been awhile. Blogging routinely challenges me. Creativity is one of my Character Strengths. Self-regulation isn’t. I know that I ought to blog routinely – once or twice a week. Then I would build a healthy habit of writing creatively. And, as Lisa Laskow and Robert Kegan suggest in their book, Immunity to Change, I have to really, really desire to write regularly if I am going to change. Simply telling myself that I should is not nearly enough to overcome my internal resistance and external forces for changing my life in such a way. I’m not ready, at least on this task, to self-transform my mind. I’m not energized enough to commit myself to working my way through an Immunity to Change Map. That’s not to say that I’m not spending a great deal of time to transform myself. I’ve decided to drift away from being adaptive though. I’m working on flourishing instead.
You see, I went down a pretty dark depression hole back around the end of May. I don’t remember what the precipitating event was. I don’t need a reason sometimes. I just get a shovel and start digging. Sometime around the middle of June, I came up for air long enough to read about Dr. Laurie Santos’ Science of Well-Being Course at Yale. Professor Santos’ class is the most popular course ever at Yale. I was intrigued; so, I did a little research. Love of learning is another one of my Character Strengths. That’s a good thing for me and you to know. Do you know what yours are?
I discovered that I could sign up for the class at coursea. And, it’s free! (unless you want a certificate of completion of some other form of proof of continuing education). One of the first assignments is to evaluate your character strengths and present level of happiness. Yes, there’s actual homework and it is worth doing! It is a Yale course after all. This initiative along with the idea that I really, really wanted to go to Spain with my spouse and best friends in 2020 prompted me to get off of my ass and rejoin Planet Fitness. We intend to spend 14-17 days as pilgrims on the Camino De Santiago. $22.00 bucks a month for the PF Black Card is not going to break my bank. The HydroMassage Chair is awesome for my lower back and meditative practices. My feet, knees, back, shoulders, brain, and soul will all thank me when indeed we venture out for a Buen Camino some months from now. As my anam cara , Gil Stafford, writes in his book – Wisdom Walking – Pilgrimage as a Way of Life – a pilgrim begins her or his pilgrimage long before she or he sets a physical foot on the path. And a pilgrim must walk all of the miles – known and unknown – spiritually, mystically, intellectually, and physically when they indeed do choose to complete their Immunity to Change Map and consume God’s Bread of Life. (more on that in a few paragraphs).
All in all, I chose, about six weeks ago, that I really, really wanted to let go of some aspects of my old self for a newer – more free version of me. This is not the first or last time that I have made such a decision. I’ve quit lots of time. Self-regulation is not one of my strengths. Creativity and sense of purpose are. So, I’m using what I desire to be good for dealing with my growth edges. Each time I learn a little bit more about myself. I followed Professor Santos’ directions and downloaded the ReWi app. I’ve used religiously the application. It really is helpful to track progress in 7 different categories: goals, sleep, exercise, connections, gratitude, kindness, and savoring. The act of documenting and writing something down is scientifically and faithfully important. I’m checking on my levels of PERMA throughout each week. I doubt that Dr. Seligman would use these words but I will. This self-improvement endeavor has more deeply reacquainted me with eating the Bread of Life that is necessary for eternal life. His book, Flourish is re-connecting me with my faith in God and belief in the God-given character strengths that I uniquely have and that I believe everyone possesses.
Let me explain those last two statements.
Jesus, in the 6th Chapter of the Gospel of John, differentiates between bread that sustains human beings on a daily basis in contrast to the Bread of Life that God gives offering life to the World. (kosmos) Jesus adds that he is “The bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6: 35) . There is nothing in this passage about getting a free pass to paradise. There is plenty in this passage suggesting that Jesus’ Way is The Way toward becoming fully human. Sacramental living is living as Jesus lived – sharing himself through the healing of the people around him. He savored God’s Grace while coincidentally giving thanks and contributing his divinely inspired and miraculous gifts with others. He rebuked selfishness even as he broke bread with thousands of people. That’s all very biblical and it is also very practical.
Consider this comparison. The VIA Institute on Character states that their goal is to “fill the world with greater virtue – more wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.” Now, I don’t know that anyone at the institute is a self-professed Christian. Some of Seligman’s research suggests that religious practice in and of itself is not predictive of authentic happiness. On the other hand, identification and application of character strengths – especially when dedicated toward improving the well-being of other people and creation assuredly correlates with increased levels of joy and well-being. That sounds a whole lot like Jesus Christ’s Gospel message to me. ” I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” (John 10:10)
Creativity is one of my greatest character strengths. I didn’t ask for it. It is a gift from God. If writing is one unique way for me to express my original thoughts and ideas – so be it. I’m guessing that I’ll have to use this and some of my other strengths to build up my prudence, humility, and self-regulation. Perhaps this blog will become a more regular weekly exercise for me to accomplish – along with getting to Planet Fitness.
In my head are many facts That, as a student, I have studied to procure In my head are many facts Of which I wish I was more certain, I was sure Is a puzzlement ….
Is a danger to be trusting one another. One will seldom want to do what other wishes But unless someday somebody trust somebody There’ll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes. … ( The King and I – Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II – Music By Richard Rogers.
Human behavior ??? What a puzzlement to be sure. I’ve read articles this week about human interactions and concepts that seem incomprehensible. What the hell is Incel? I mean, I’m gay so I’ve never been hung up about not engaging in physical sex or intimate relationships with women. I certainly have anguished over not being able to go home with a man for hours of erotic sex when I was single. We didn’t have Grindr back then and seemingly many gay men’s physical and mental health are still suffering despite being able to hook up as much as they want to daily. (For the record) – Howie and I met online a little over 13 years ago and just celebrated our second year of marriage last week. Honestly, I’ve been plenty frustrated about a lot of things – sexually and otherwise – single and married. Yet, I don’t recall ever considering or carrying out a plan to kill people by running them down with a van.
Tragically, LGBTQ persons, women and men of color, women more generally and especially women who survive in domestically abusive living conditions are targets of misogynistic, mentally unstable men. Violent men frequently wound or kill their marginalized victims because such men are victims of violence themselves. They consequently become emotionally and behaviorally troubled men who feel sexually rejected, economically deprived, or otherwise disabled. Such men act out their rage by attacking, injuring, and killing people they hate.
The Manosphere is yet another universe of tumultuous concepts and communities I don’t know anything about nor understand;. There are mad men in these societal galaxies- and their rage is real and terrifyingly obvious. They don’t work out their anxiety by singing musicals or soliciting sex online. They drive their cars down streets, shoot fully automatic weapons in night clubs, theaters, and concerts. They apparently don’t give a shit about the carnage they cause in communities. We, as men more often than not and implicitly/explicitly, promote and prosecute war and violence as we have done through our (un)civilized time on this planet.
Naturalist Michael McCarthy recently said, “There is a legacy deep within us, a legacy of instinct, a legacy of inherited feelings, which may lie very deep in the tissues — it may lie underneath all the parts of civilization which we are so familiar with on a daily basis. ….” Our violent masculine instincts and fixations are destructively alive today in Jerusalem as they were about 2,000 years ago. The author of Matthew quotes Jesus of Nazareth as saying: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you. How often I wanted to gather your people together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that.” (Matthew 23:37 – Common English Bible) . He uttered these words as he was condemning Jerusalem’s temple and religious authorities. He laments the carnage they and imperial Roman political officials are causing. The more things change – the more they remain the same if not worsen. This week’s violence in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem is occurring because conservative American, Israeli, and Palestinian men prefer killing one another and exercising their rights in the manosphere of worldly affairs. Who suffers most? Palestinian children, that’s who.
The Episcopal church that I serve hosted a Spring and Fling event earlier this month. One of our children, who is happy and healthy – thank God, his family, and local community – shared his Jenga set. Jenga is essentially an architectural puzzle. Individuals or teams (de)/(re)construct wooden blocks. The goal is to not tear down the tower and lose the game. It’s a lot of fun! The stakes aren’t particularly high. Reasonable men (and women) can compete with one another without losing their tempers. Emotionally stable men (and women) won’t fight when they lose. They start another game or find another healthy hobby to enjoy.
Of course, figuring out how to (de)/(re)construct the manosphere and or associated murderous masculine intentions such as historical violence in Jerusalem is a much more difficult, adaptive challenge. The solution however, is similar in both instances. People. perhaps led by women instead of men, try to restore healthiness step by step. We ruminate over the problems by observing honestly what is going on. We experiment with options. We risk communicating our phobias and vulnerabilities. We hang on with people we trust whose intentions are positive rather than negative. We create physical/wholehearted purposeful communities where we incarnate – seen and heard. We don’t hang out for hours alone in the shadows of virtual “Reddit” or “Facebook” sites where evil adults often lurk and thrive.
I wish I could say that I’m optimistic. Today, I’m not. I speak with the image of Agent Smith influencing my words. Contemporary life seems more akin to The Matrix Reloaded rather than The King and I. Humanity often does appear to be a stinky, evil virus with no redeeming values whatsoever. Our systems seek only to normalize hatred. Our police do more to preserve the status quo rather than protect and care for human rights and children’s rights to live freely and joyfully, Indigenous and racially marginalized people and communities are caught and cast aside by our consumerism and disregard for shared environmental and human connections.
Perhaps, God please may it be so (Amen!) …may there be a Neo and King Mongkut out there for us. May Jesus of Nazareth’s sacrificial Gospel speak and be true. May you and I find some courage, some wholeheartedness, some faith to say no to thousands of years of masculine, reptilian instinctual bullshit. May we reject the manosphere of false truths, May we profess gracefully and prophetically to be followers of Christ who prefer joy and peace. Let’s build blocks in our local communities dedicated to eliminating the terror of religiously, politically, based terror playing itself out across our cities and planet. May we say yes to working as men with one another to create communities that Jesus, Buddha, Pope Francis, and other men seek to bring into being.
I jokingly said one time that you know there is a God when a graduate from the University of Arizona (UA) can be the best of friends with a graduate from Arizona State University (ASU). This momentous occasion took place at Saint Augustine Episcopal Church altar in Tempe, not very far from ASU’s main campus. At the time I was serving as the Episcopal Campus Minister at the UA . My Anam Cara, Gil Stafford was the Episcopal Campus Minister at ASU. I was newly ordained and Gil invited me to preside at the Eucharist at his primary altar. It was a blessed moment, one of many that I treasure with Gil. He continually blesses me despite his affiliation with the Territorial Normal School at Tempe. Truly, Gil’s work as Canon Theologian, Author, Priest, and Spiritual Director and Teacher is profoundly Spirit-sent and offered. I make progress on The Way because of Gil’s friendship, mentoring, and love.
Thus, I feel like I’m standing on very uncertain and holy ground when I respond to one
of Gil’s articles. Gil blogs at Peregrini. Usually, I just ruminate over his thoughts. Occasionally, I write a reply on Facebook or in his blog’s comments. This time though, I need to respond. His “Jesus Go to Hell, Please” piece prompted me to dig deep into my soul . What do I truly believe about Christ Jesus’ Resurrection? What is its significance for me? How do I articulate and live it out in my life? Am I a witness as I preached a couple of weeks ago? Well, here’s a bit of my “what” Christ resurrection means to me.
First, I believe that The Resurrection is a mystical “meta-narrative” divine and human phenomenon. What does that F!i)kin’ mean? Well, more simply put. The Resurrection is a transformational event. It happened miraculously with Christ Jesus. It happens with us too – within and beyond our human comprehension. The Divine’s (God’s) Love beckons all of creation, including human beings to live, die, and be reborn . Christ Jesus’ Resurrection was a singular event on that First Easter Sunday morning. And, every human being over the course of this and most likely many life times live into the life, death, and rebirth of Christ Jesus’ Resurrection. Our souls are eternally and profanely engaged in a circular, evolving pattern of growth – in spiritual, mortal and mystical terms.
“For the end is always like the beginning: and, therefore, as there is one end to all things, so ought we to understand that there was one beginning; and as there is one end to many things, so there spring from one beginning many differences and varieties, which again, through the goodness of God, and by subjection to Christ, and through the unity of the Holy Spirit, are recalled to one end, which is like unto the beginning.” (Origen, On First Principles, Book I, Chapter VI. Section II).
Origen believed that our souls were pre-existent and passed through human suffering and sin to reborn life over the course of eternity. (Bryan Rich, Apokatastasis in the Thought of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, December, 2007). For Origen , all souls, including the most evil ones in the cosmos (choose the human being you despise the most) will eventually achieve salvation. “God’s love is so powerful as to soften even the hardest heart, and that the human intellect – being the image of God will never freely choose oblivion over proximity to God.” (Edward Moore, Origen of Alexandria, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy n.d.).
Origen got himself into a deep mound of Christian doctrinal manure. His beliefs along with the fact that he lived a very ascetic life and allegedly castrated himself didn’t win him many orthodox ecclesiastical friends. Bishops and fellow presbyters mocked and imprisoned him because of his bold, mystical, and innovative understanding of The Holy Trinity, Eternal Salvation, and yes, Christ Jesus’ resurrection. And yet, his Christian Catachetical School was wildly popular. (ReligionFacts, Origen of Alexandria, n.d.)
Wise, unconventional, and provocative philosophers and theologians frequently run aground when they stir up controversies, especially when they contest strongly held beliefs about such things as heaven and hell and the nature of Christ Jesus’ Resurrection. I observe that Origen and Gil are both out-of-the-box in systematic Christian theological terms. They are equally iconic in terms of the brilliance of their thinking about Resurrection and Salvation. Both of them are unorthodox and life-giving Christian scholars and clerics. Frankly, in these times of distress, as in Origen’s time, we need theologians such as Gil to point us and The Church into the rebirthing cycle that The Cross initiates and The Resurrection gives birth to for all of us. I make that comment on scriptural as well as metaphysical foundations.
Origen and Gil alike ask me (and you?): What does Jesus’ Resurrection mean for us today? Well, let me respond with a few of my own questions.
Why do we need a one-time Savior? What do we gain with one salvific moment in human history? Have we forgotten that the Romans crucified thousands of Jews? Does Jesus’ forgiveness of sins and God’s redemption of humanity through Christ Jesus’ Resurrection somehow negate the fact that human beings, especially those persons possessing political and imperial power, have executed hundreds of marginalized prophets, philosophers, and activists, including Jesus of Nazareth. What purpose does Resurrection have for us today amid the carnage of daily gun-related violence, unconscionable levels of human sex trafficking, and an opioid crisis killing thousands of Americans in the past 20 years. What does our forgiveness require given these ignorant human tendencies and thbrokenness?
Indeed and in belief, we need an eternally loving God and an eternity of maturity, evolution, and rebirth as a species to discover and receive redemption from sin and evil. Christ Jesus’ Resurrection declares that death does not possess victory over life. Yet, there is no pilgrimage, at least in my experience that does not undertake a process of stasis, chaos, and new order (life, death, and rebirth). Such evolution occurs in all sorts of minute and miraculous ways – on God’s time (kairos) rather than humanity’s time (chronos) .
The Resurrection provides this paradoxical Way, to live as a human being. Resurrection declares God’s Love and Grace through the passage of time on this planet and beyond mortal comprehension. Resurrection – in my Progressive Christian terms demands that there is no Easter without Holy Week – there is no Cheap Grace. And Christ Jesus is The Vine from which the branches of our faith and belief in God’s love provides The Way for this mortal and our eternal life – for Sun Devils, Wildcats alike and together.
“Know Thyself” is one the most ancient and relevant adages for people to contemplate and act upon in the age we live. Multiple sources indicate that ancient Egyptians originated the concept. (Asaf Braverman, History of Know Thyself, 2018) Socrates, and Plato after him stated that “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
It is probably elitist in some ways for me to spend as much time as I do involved my development of personal awareness. Lots of folks have to work multiple jobs, parent children, confront prejudice in all of its forms, enjoy recreational endeavors, battle addictions, and accomplish countless other human activities. And, Socrates was no wealthy man, elitist professor, dazzlingly handsome, or popular hero. He was a complicated sage. I rationalize the time I spend as soil for becoming a better priest & person.
In contemporary and adaptive terms, personal growth and the exercise of leadership requires observation, analysis, and interventions. There are lots of perils and opportunities in becoming more wise and honest about myself. Such wisdom requires experimenting with my beliefs and behaviors. I have to discover new ideas while casting off habits, memories, and assumptions that are no longer accurate or beneficial. Walking The Wisdom Way means adjusting to life over times, building positively upon past experiences, transforming assumptions and values, and maturing into a self-aware and compassionate adult.
Lots of folks want the world to change, including me. Such transformation begins with one’s self rather than someone or something else. It requires faith, loss, and a devoted practice of living a life with a open heart, persevering soul, and embodied sense of purpose. Anyone who calls themselves an expert should heed Socrates’ teachings regarding ignorance. (“I do not think that I know what I do not know.”)
De Botton said a couple of things back then that I still try to put into practice. First he said: “The Ancient Greeks had a view of love which was essentially based around education, that what love means — love is a benevolent process whereby two people try to teach each other how to become the best versions of themselves.” He also said that there are three keys to living into a truly loving relationship. Those keys are: 1.) Be Empathetic, 2.) Manage your emotions rather than letting them manage you, and 3.) Set aside the bad things in order to observe the good things. (De Botton, On Being Project Conversation, Feb. 2017). I understand him to say that you (or I) can’t love someone else without, once again, knowing yourself (or myself) and being comfortable with who were are as well as who we desire to be. Many weeks I take three steps forward and two steps back in my own life’s process. Sometimes vice versa.
So, I take advantage of many tools from a variety of sources. Some are Psycho-Spiritual such as Bill Plotkin’s weekly Soulcraft Musings. Plotkin’s musings provide me a reminder that my life has ecological and earthy rather than egocentric and mechanical roots. I also read Richard Rohr OFM‘s Daily Meditations. Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation provide resources espousing an alternative Christian theology that is rich in Franciscan heritage. I like their focus on connecting my contemplative life with ethical actions with myself, beloved people, and the world. And, I check in with my personality by engaging my Enneagram preferences each day. I tend to be a 6; yet, I have strong 2 and 8 aspects too. I receive an Enneagram Institute Enneathought email message every morning. All of these ruminations are thrown into the hopper of the time I spend studying scripture, mediating, and praying, working with a Comprehensive Resource Model therapist, and sharing my deepest desires fears, hopes, and confidences with a couple of Anam Karas who I love and who love me.
Another fun thing I do every now and then is a pull a card out of the School of Life’s
“Know Yourself” box. Each of the cards prompts the reader to answer a question. What happened in my childhood that shapes who I am today? If I wasn’t afraid of failing, what would I endeavor to accomplish? Identify a few key moments of failure in my life. What did I learn from those experiences that I have or should be applying now?
Earlier this week, I pulled out this card. What are four adjectives I would use to describe myself. I’ve jotted those adjectives down. Then, as the card suggests, I asked three of my best buds to choose four adjectives they would use to describe me. I invited them, along with myself, to choose one adjective that is a “growth edge.” I’m imperfect and I have much to know about myself that I don’t appreciate. My ego can hack it. I also need reminders about the skills and joy I offer people and myself.
This exercise is a spin off of the popular Johari Window. It’s fun! Simply reveal something about yourself you believe to be true. Then, invite others to share their perspectives. You can ask friends, families, co-workers, dates, strangers, anyone depending how trustworthy you deem them to be and how much vulnerability you’re willing to accept.
Just because you think something is true about you doesn’t mean it is necessarily so valid. Just because someone characterizes you in a particular way isn’t absolute either. On the other hand, coming out from behind yourself into a conversation opens you and another person(s). into being more authentic and willing to grow. That’s very helpful when there is so much fake news, unannounced sharing of personal information, and genuinely misguided egoistic and sinful behavior going on these days.
If you’d like, you can offer me three or four adjectives that you would use to characterize me based upon my blogging. Just comment below…. . I trust your intentions will be pure of heart. (FYI – I’m not receiving any compensation for these recommendations :-))
I occasionally consider what I believe in and why I believe it. When I use the word believe I don’t mean to express it as a way of just thinking. Believing for me is as much as more of be-living. Where, Why, How, Who do I profess and express faith and practice in my daily life. Am I faithfully devoting myself to issues and principles greater than my own free will and best interest. Do I minimize hypocrisy as much as possible?
I am both a spiritual and religious person. That is to say that I practice Christian rituals and believe in a triune God. That doesn’t suggest that I’m an orthodox Christian. In fact, my hypothesis is that I’m actually more heretical or universalist than many of my Christian contemporaries. I’ve become less dualistic in my thinking and beliefs. I slowly and steadily am stepping beyond my ego toward engaging the actual and mysterious paradoxes of life. Such paradoxes are full of koans . For example – evil, vicious actions indeed may lead to renewed life. The innocent murder of a sinless person possesses the capacity to redeem the world, not in a substitonary fashion but rather in transformational ways.
This past week, I (and millions of other Christians) traveled through Holy Week. This story is a religious and spiritual meta-metaphor for not only Jesus of Nazareth but for us as well. The Holy Week pilgrimage proclaims theosis. God offers in-breaking presence and power in Holy Week. Power in weakness and defeat, then and now, provides means for resurrecting and guiding our steps toward becoming more human and divine.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and protest at the Jerusalem temple create conditions for tumult. He accepts these challenges even as he celebrates a first sacramental communion and last mortal supper with his disciples. He suffers the shame of betrayal. He is falsely accused of crimes. Roman officials, most likely with the assistance of fearful and/or jealous religious leaders, conspire to murder Jesus. All of these events provide the passionate stew for something miraculous to happen. Jesus dies a horrible death. Then, amazingly – three days later he appears in a wounded yet transformed being to demonstrate loves power over hate, grace’s victory over evil.
All of this “greatest story” is a dramatic representation as well as a demonstration of Divine, in-breaking manifestation for transforming our abilities to become more human and divine. Do you want a current example today, here and now in America. ‘Consider the activities of the Parkland High School Students before, during, in front of, and “Behind The March.”
Richard Rohr OFM, describes human development in a couple of coincidental ways. First, he (along with Carl Jung) suggests that God offers people of faith opportunities to mature in two halves. These two segments do not have to be equivalent in time. Some, perhaps many of us (and the communities they live in) never reach the second half. We spend the first half of our lives building up our senses of individual and tribal powers, security, and ego-based (false) identities. Rohr, October, 2012). We construct laws, rituals, and structures to support these values. It’s therefore important for children to learn quickly that God and their families love them as well other people different than them. Children who feel safe, beloved, and connected to God, themselves, their communities, and the creation more broadly develop healthy ego structures and boundaries. (Rohr, March, 2018). As we all know, or discover, this process isn’t easy. We live into the harsh and often perplexing realities of being human. This is the stage for the first portion of Jesus’ Holy Week as well as our own.
In life’s second half, our egos and we along with them come to understand that life isn’t all about us and/or the groups we belong to in this world. Our egos and souls emerge to claim what is our truest being. We adopt a holistic sense of who we are and why we are here, now. We have a shadow side as well as a bright side. Psychotherapy, and authentic religious, spiritual experiences unleash us from the bonds of our disbelieving what we understand about ourselves and the world we live in. Living in this half of life redeems us from selfishness, elitism, consumerism, and a host of other ego-based vices we are witnessing today. Peter begins this process when he betrays Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ trial.
Regrettably, we can’t just leap-frog from the first stage of development onto the second stage. We require a bridge. Often, it is a treacherous one. Moving from life’s ego-based into life’s soul-based domains typically requires us undertaking and accepting deep loss (death), shame, and wholehearted love. People living with the disease of addiction(s) encounter the Divine through a vital spiritual experience. Victims of trauma and grief receive God’s Grace from unexpected encounters and unexpected healing circumstances.
Witness how the two halves of life and the bridge between them happens between Palm Sunday and Easter Day. Jesus’ followers and enemies alike believe that he is a king. Victims of the Roman Empire seek a Messiah. Political, imperial, and religious authorities observe a threat. A clash happens leading to chaos, confusion, and death. And then new life happens in The Resurrected Jesus Christ. Women witness The Lord on Easter Sunday morning. They set set aside their fears. They had possessed an understanding of how their world was supposed to work. It didn’t. Powerful religious and political officials collaborated to execute their King. He died …. And then rose again. Thus the disciples who encounter The Christ cross over from the first to second half of life. They choose to adopt new beliefs, regardless of the costs. They remain in Jerusalem accepting the possibilities of being slain as their Messiah had died just a couple of days before them. They were, as Jesus was, reborn and willing to offer new life to other people too.
This process of “order, disorder, and reorder” is what life, death, and resurrection should be all about as followers of Jesus Christ. Every day provides each of us moments to contemplate and act upon what half of life are we living in. Who are the people transformed by their soulful, sorrowful, and life-giving experiences who inspire us? What stories from scripture remind and redeem us? How does Christ’s compassionate life of offering sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and peace to victims of violence. Have we picked up on our crosses and struggled up Calvary’s hill to die as one of the men who hung on crosses next to Jesus? What may we do to live with him now, forever on the other side of Easter’s empty tomb? How was your Holy Week? How is it going today on this side of Jesus’ and your own potential resurrection.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word…. (Book of Common Prayer, 1979, p. 265)
…. What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance. … (David Whyte, 2014 – What to Remember When Waking – retrieved 1/30/2018)
I started Lent in January. ‘Might as well get an early start. Honestly, I have resolved to adopt different ways of being this year. Some of my resolutions have to do with my diet and physical wellness. Other resolutions are more spiritual and vocational in nature. Each of them, individually and in concert with one another have to do with making progressive and healthy changes in body, mind, and soul. In other words, I am striving to repent.
A priestly friend and colleague introduced me a few years ago to David Whyte’s work. Whyte is a poet and speaker whose thoughts and words provoke thousands of other fans to view life through the lens of their day to day experience in this world. Whyte’s wisdom considers lessons of ancestry and spirituality.
Some years ago, David offered a presentation at Seattle University’s School of Theology. In this talk he offers this wonderful definition of repentance (metanoia – in New Testament Greek). David Whyte said (beginning at (9’:55” in the video):
“There is a lovely etymology (meaning) to the word repent in the Bible because in the Greek the word repent was actually metanoia which simply meant not to go over your past sins and lash yourself on the back … which you can do and enjoy if you like. Make yourself a very nice cup of coffee before you do it. But metanoia literally just to change your mind and to think differently.” (Whyte, 2012)
The way that we think shapes the way that we speak. How we speak shapes the way that we live. Early Christians came to be known as people or followers of The Way.(Wiener, 2017). They claimed and received this title because they adopted powerfully their Christian disciplines and exhibited their Christian faith. Fasting, devotional prayers, silence, and acts of generosity were evidence of these newly baptized Christians’ changes in heart, mind, and body.
Lent remains about resolutely changing who we are. It is an intentional season of transformation. We go with Jesus into the Wilderness We follow him into Jerusalem to confront persecutions and prejudices. We witness the intimate and vulnerable time he shares with his disciples. Lent beckons us to confront our own internal and external temptations. Such repentance invites us to reject cravings separating us from God’s love and our neighbors’ needs and desires. Once again, Lenten repentance gives us space to choose what ways we will think, speak, and walk upon moment by moment.
You can begin your Lenten practices early too, if you like. The Wilderness is as far away as your willingness to meditate. Are you willing to allow God to speak silently to you. Try going into a trance as my friend Gil suggests. You may further elect to fast from a habit or ritual that focuses your life more on yourself than God. You should find time on a daily basis to pray and interact with Christ. Sacred Space offers a daily examination from the Jesuit tradition. Sign up for Richard Rohr’s Daily Mediations. There are lots of additional options to choose from on the Internet.
We may enter Lent wholeheartedly. Such personal devotion, reflection, and thinking requires courage. Our Christian faith is sacramental and sacrificial. This holy work wholly offers pathways to join Jesus at the foot of the Cross as well as at the opening of Easter’s empty tomb. Christianity doesn’t own the desert of contemplative and transformational life, not by a long shot. Let your soul guide you if your religious or spiritual bent is different than mine. I’m yearning to go on an Animas Valley Institute Soul Initiation quest. Maybe you’re supposed to go rather than me.
May our pilgrimages through Lent’s wilderness and wild places draw us nearer to God, provide awareness of God’s angels, and offer us more trust in Jesus our Lord and Christ. May we claim our truest, very best Christian inheritance. Let us carry our divinely offered gifts with humility.
I haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet. Don’t spoil it for me! I’m going tomorrow.
My spouse and I decided to watch The Force Awakens one more before going to see this movie. This seemed like a wise thing to do after reviewing the Rotten Tomatoes Last Jedi webpage.
What I find fascinating is this: Why is there such a difference of opinion between critics and movie-goers? 9 out of 10 critics like the movie whereas only 5 out of 10 people who paid to get in enjoyed it. My limited research suggests that audiences who hated the money think it diminishes the legacy of the episodes preceding it. Rian Johnson has, for haters, written and directed a movie that is incoherent and epically unsatisfactory. The plot doesn’t hold together. The characters viewers expected to love and hate are dumb and simplistic.
Conversely, critics like MaryAnn Johanson relish that Johnson creates a disturbance in Star War’s 40-year long cinematic relationship with The Force. This movie takes the story in a different direction. Johnson assaults Star Wars orthodoxy. Critics appreciate his originality.
[Most everyone agrees that the movie is too long. Try sitting through the Oberammergau Passion Play if you think a three hour movie is too long.]
My inference is that there’s a reformation going on with Star Wars’ spiritual, psychological, and narrative midi-chlorians. Some people enjoy having their expectations and foundational views of the world, scientific fiction or otherwise, jumbled up. Some don’t. Thus the movie is getting its mixed reviews.
I live in the realities of paradoxes and uncontrollability; so, I expect that I’ll enjoy The Last Jedi. I think this will be true despite the series’ ongoing messianic message and dualistic cosmology (Manichean/Confucian dualism). Is the universe inherently designed upon a battle between good and evil, dark and light? Or, is the universe religiously pluralistic and morally relative? This argument provides some basis for people’s difference of opinions. Maybe it just sucks or excels. I’ll see.
For me, the Star Wars is a spirituality saga. I spend lots of time contemplating the nature of why and how universal creatures make choices. Theology means a lot to me. One of the factors that I admire most about these movies abides in the characters’ psycho-spiritual depths. Why do they (we) decide to go to the Dark Side? What motivates them (us) to recognize and acquiesce to imperial and carnal desires. Why do Darth Vader and Kylo Ren for whatever evil reasons choose to surrender themselves to their deities: Snoke and Palpatine (Darth Sidious). On the other hand, why do the protagonists elect to abide in The Force’s panentheistic truths? Luke Skywalker and Rey seek The Force and learn its values? The course of their life channels them toward Yoda and Obi Wan Kanobi. Why? Is destiny singularly relevant? It doesn’t seem so because the characters are constantly striving to persuade one another to make different choices. “There is still good in him.” “I will show you the Power of The Dark Side.” Conflict continues in The Last Jedi. Rey must fight Kylo Ren again….unless there is a deviation in the epic’s typical narrative trajectory. Why?
Well, because human beings tell stories, strive to make meaning of the world, and often don’t have a frickin’ idea why the universe works the way it does or why we do the illogical and emotionally unintelligent things that we do. We are emotional more so than we are rational. We don’t unplug from anxiety or passions particularly well. Heroes like Hans Solo and villains such as Jaba reveal these truths.
George Lucas created, composed, and crafted a spiritually pertinent and heterodox religious myth whether or not he intended to when he began this work back in the 1970s . He suggested in a 2014 interview w/ Charlie Rose that he created Star Wars as a vehicle for exploring psychological motifs. He pondered whether or not modern people worried and wondered about mythical and oral beliefs in the same manner as ancient people did. Why do some people make heroic sacrifices while other people don’t? What does it mean to be someone’s friend? Why do we make enemies knowing that our wars will perhaps kill us and others?
Lucas furthermore explained that, as an 8-year-old he asked his mother why there were so many religions if there is only one God. His inquiry may be the basis for the reason that the Star War movies blend so many spiritual and religious themes. Myths shroud whether or not The Force (God exists). Believers and sages of both The Dark Side and The Force gather in temples, sit in councils, and contemplate their relationships with nature and other beings. For goodness sake, The Force Awakens ends on Skellig Michael. 6th Century CE Celtic ascetic monks chose this sea crag as the best destination to pursue greater union with God. (World Heritage, nd) These monks, like Luke Skywalker in a galaxy far, faraway during a time long, long ago before them, withdrew from civilization. They isolated themselves to yoke themselves to the Divine following conflict with spiritual and secular foes and frustrations. In sum, George Lucas and his disciples have sought to do the same thing that Moses, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Lao Tzu and other spiritual-religious prophets and mystics have done. They creatively use myths and beliefs to explain the universe and humanity’s place in it.
I’m going to head to the movie theater tomorrow for the same reason that I will sit silently in Centering Prayer tonight. I will worship God this weekend in church as well as learn more about God at AMC Classic Bloomsburg 11 because all of these endeavors will provoke me to think about life and death. Evil things happen every day. I am evil sometimes. Other times I am very good. Grace occurs when we least expect it Why do I make the choices that I do? Why do you believe what you believe? Why did Luke abandon his friends? Why didn’t Darth Vader return to The Force before mortally dying? Seemingly, some of the characters in The Last Jedi are going to make choices that their predecessors didn’t make. The course of universal constructs may change because Rey or Kylo don’t make absolute choices as their mentors did before them. One reason that some people like this movie and others don’t is that not everybody possesses the same fears and anxieties. Neither do we all have the same genetic composition for managing trauma and/or health. Some of us need deities that are molded in stone. Others of us need ethereal, malleable gods.
I’ll let you know what I gained from seeing the movie in my next post.