Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve

For unto us this day is born in the City of David a child....

Life in the Roman Empire circa 30 BCE was probably a grind for most of the population.  Getting enough to eat and keeping a roof over one's head probably occupied a major portion of daily life.  While there have been thousands of innovations and the number of material possessions have increased exponentially, for many the same two basic worries - paying bills especially for food and shelter -- remain a basic background daily concern.  It is difficult to put one's focus on the spiritual dimension when you are unsure from where your next check is coming and how much it will be.

So, given the spiritual vs tangible living split, what does Christmas Eve really add to your life?  For too many it adds a weight to the cost of living by having to buy gifts so as not to appear too pathetic. For many others it harbors the discomfort of long-standing family conflicts.  Many hate the holidays where people who haven't gotten along in forever get packed around a dinner table in a too-small space with the portends of a ticking time bomb going off. All through the season Christmas carols jingle in the background while our pockets are being emptied subliming the Ho Ho Ho of good cheer and Hark! the herald angels sing.  That may be the closest you get to spirituality even if you're religious.  Yet, wherever our heads and worry is directed, Christ Consciousness still exists.  That Consciousness is grounded in the imaginings and work of sages and wise prophets through eons; imaginings of peace, love, and eternal bliss.  How do we capture those imaginings for ourselves?  Or, do we just allow ourselves to succumb to the catatonic holiday robotic movements that get us through this paradoxical time warp called "The Holidays?"  

Much of the "spiritual not religious" popularity sprinkled through society is a recognition, at least, that the spiritual does have a place in our lives.  Spirit is really about finding meaning.  Spirit always has been about locating the higher, deeper, broader, life-enhancing meaning of life.  Christmas represents the incarnational in-breaking of the ancient rites of life-giving reconciliation and progress in expunging conflict, hostility, and difficulty from life.  To tune in and find it requires a desire to claim a space in which for it to arrive.  Christmas is the recognized space we strive to claim.  It travels on the waves of silence and beauty.  We join it figuratively by kneeling at the simple rustic side of a manger crude in concert with lowly beast and simple furnishing, a star overhead -- or even the overhead moon-silhouetted jingle of a passing sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer.  Those moments are the touch-points between the divine and the human.  They instill a memory, a longing to return to peace and goodwill that can last a year if we just set aside the silent time daily to revisit the memory and bask in it's gentle presence. The more we re-visit those memories, be it for 2 minutes or 60 minutes daily, the more we will find them influencing and pushing aside the worries and anxiety that so commonly occupy uncomfortably large parts of our lives.  That is the deeper underlying purpose of these kind of spirit-based annual observances -- to re-orient and put the whole on the same page again. 

Merry Christmas!  Peace and Goodwill to All!

Sunday, December 8, 2019


Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. -- Romans 15:7
Welcome is one of the nicest words.  It is full of hospitality and portends receiving what we need, be it shelter, food, a resting place, warmth, acceptance, or tea and good conversation.  Paul implies here that when we welcome another, we welcome the beauty and wonder of God into our midst.  He explicitly says to welcome as Christ welcomed us.  Have you ever thought about the ways Christ has welcomed you?  Have you ever sensed being welcomed by Christ?  If you have had that feeling/sense, it is what incarnation feels like.  Incarnation is what we celebrate at Christmas and what all the looking for it during Advent is about.  Incarnation is where our needs and hopes, which most often exist as a thought in our head or as some ethereal concept, become real, experienced, and appreciated.  Often the depth of appreciation we feel is tied to how in need we are when someone welcomes us and provides us just what we were needing.

The holidays are often a time when people are more generous.  Food banks fill up.  Community meals are served for the hungry.  Money is donated to charitable organizations.  All of these acts are acts of welcome.  All of them are ways Christ welcomes each of us -- in our own place, in our own particular need.  It is always odd to me that welcoming and generosity take place so readily during the holidays, while during the rest of the year there is often more grumbling and complaining -- about the poor and homeless (in particular.) 

Welcome isn't just an act that we do for or receive from others.  Many of us could use learning how to welcome ourselves.  Anxiety, stress, regrets, feeling unworthy are all emotional needs where a welcome would be welcome.  There is a meditation practice taught by Catherine Bourgeault called Welcoming Prayer.  It is a meditation process where you take what you are feeling and you spend some quiet time scanning for where in your body you are feeling it.  Feelings have a residence in various locations in our bodies.  When we've located it welcome it and then thank that body part for welcoming and holding those feelings for us.  We stay with those thoughts as long as it takes to appreciate what that body part does for us when we are stressed.  Finally, after our thanks are given we can take our leave and let it go.  I have found it a remarkably powerful practice.  Oftentimes, just connecting the body with the feeling is all it takes to remove the distress that the thought/feeling was causing.

May we welcome the stranger, the friend, our own beloved self and pour us a cup of tea by the fire of Christ's love.  Amen.

Actionable Suggestions:

  1. Welcome yourself with a spa day, or by giving yourself a break from this busy season. 
  2. Think of a friend or someone who you haven't seen for awhile and give them a call or an invitation.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Be the Glory

The sun will no longer be your light during the day. The light from the moon will no longer be your light at night.The Lord will be your light forever.  God will be your glory.  -- Isaiah 60:19b

The sum of Isaiah 60 is the prophet's encouraging word.  The people have been beaten down, they have little.  They're in exile. Isaiah promises that things are going to change.  God has heard them, seen them. The expansive resources available to them from God's good countenances are there and will be their's -- from material prosperity ("I will turn your copper to gold... v.15) to ethereal brilliance that will light their way. It is an excellent chapter to read in these times of gathering political gloom -- from whichever side you're seeing it.

While the sun and moon are big shiny objects with solid certainty of remaining in place, they don't have the same positive intentionality that set them in motion.  That intention, God by many names, still holds all the brushes and paints to existence as we know it. A minority deny that there is any intention at play in the universe, but the majority of us have had enough spiritual experiences to know there is something profound going on that we can't prove or touch.

This is where Incarnation appears.  Incarnation is where spiritual becoming physical, the invisible becoming visible, and the intangible becoming tangible.  The glory referred to in the verse above is that inner beautiful light that emanates from within us when we are kind, compassionate, generous, collaborative, forgiving, and loving.   The Advent journey is an Incarnational journey of fostering and growing the glory of God's intention for us to be Love in all our interactions - be they commercial, political, religious, familial, personal or interpersonal.  It's a journey into gentleness and kindness -- first to our own sacred image in which we're made, and then to the rest of the world.  In the words of Matthew, the gospel writer, "Don't hide your light under a bushel."  All the power and resources to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you grows from purposely demonstrating the wealth available in your own spiritual connection with Love that has always built and is building the universe with your partnership. 

Grant us the courage to shine Love into the world at every turn.  Amen.

Actionable Suggestions:

  1. Arrange time to hang out with positive people through Advent.  You could call these get-togethers sun and moon meetings.
  2. Practice being an advocate for Light by calling people on their negativity -- in a loving way of course!  In every way possible, offer alternatives rather than just chastising for wrong.
  3. Think about getting a therapist or spiritual director to work on any parts of yourself that perpetually trip you up and throw you into negativity.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Breaking With The Past.

In those days and in that time I will cause to grow up a righteous Branch of David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. -- Jeremiah 33:15 
Genealogy has a few of my relatives caught up in the ancient ways where knowing who you came from mattered.  Rooted in a common myth, if you were the child of a crook the chances were deemed pretty good that you'd become a crook.  Yes, simple minded - but most stigmas that get stuck to a person are more lie than truth.

Understanding of the ways we inherit stuff from the past have expanded a great deal.  Long ago inheritances were passed on by family relationships, usually father to eldest son.  This was the Biblical context.  Early Christian writers, like Matthew and Luke, worked hard to trace the familial lineage to "prove" Jesus fulfilled this ancient Biblical prophecy of who the Messiah would be.  The underlying expectation of a Messiah was that he would be a new kind of king, a holy ruler who would vanquish all the other imposter rulers.  Jesus claimed a different kind of messiahship and with it a different definition of power.  Jesus didn't see power arising from the tip of a sword or other forceful means.  Jesus embraced the power of everlasting connection with truth and wisdom.  This power was present in the true self and in the true community of believers.  Another word for this power is Love.   

Then Mendel came along and demonstrated that genes carry information forward, mainly physical traits.  Current thoughts embrace ideas that familial energies get handed over, family system dysfunction gets passed on, and there are a growing host of ways genes can get turned on or off like switches. Perhaps the definition of sin is how all the mistakes and misperceptions of the past come to roost in our psyches.  Voices, stigmas, and messages we've accrued from our long lineage tell us we're not good enough, that we can't trust, that only through control and force can we be safe, that watching out only for myself is how to gain security. We believe these partial truths and dismiss spiritual virtues of love, generosity, kindness, gentleness, compassion, inter-dependence... as "sucker fluff for losers." Yet in fact, it is those very virtues that comprise the invisible web of life that keeps the environment and humanity in existence.

The "righteous Branch of David" is the truth that lays hold of us and feeds the roots we share with the human family - those living and those past.  All humanity possesses the very same needs to be accepted, loved, kept safe, possessing hopes and dreams. We are blessed by that Jesus kind of messiahship.  It is our present state.  Will you live it into the future?


May we put down our insufficiencies and need for control to pursue our adopted state within the Divine.  Amen.

Actionable Suggestions:

  1. Journal about the implicit and explicit messages you received about yourself that still control your self-worth and confidence.
  2. Search Youtube.com for videos on how to do tapping and use it to diminish the internal messages you no longer want to be living out.
  3. Interview older members of your family about any messages that they've carried through the years that probably held them back from accomplishing more.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Revealing Light

The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. -- John 1:7 (Christian Standard Bible)
The word used in the Greek for light is phos.  In the Greek semantic nuance, phos is the kind of light that reveals something.  John is saying there is a revelation here for all to see, and you're all going to know it.  Given that most of us have read ahead in the story, we already know what gets revealed is the forerunner bearing the essence of God.  This forerunner has the lamp that will light our pathway to a new place we've not been taken before.  The prophets of old foretold it.  In our own moments of deep or profound meditation or prayer it is whispered or we lightly touch that revelation.  Something deeper, calmer, more in perfect synch with everything - there, just beyond -- a sweet gentleness just outside the swirling chaos of our busy lives.

Advent is an intentional time to set ourselves apart from all our hustle and bustle; to slip into warm incarnate waters of peaceful spirit and soak in its revelatory light.  In that shimmering mystery, which has been described as angel choirs or cleansing spirit, all fear, anxiety, and stress is vanquished.  We know in that moment what it is simply to Be -- be present and aware, something greater -- beyond what we experience of life when we're scrambling to make ends meet.  In this space of presence and awareness we meet our true self.  The self as God created it -- pure, sacred, in God's own image, able to connect authentically with Divine Purity. God welcomes us.  It is our false self, our ego that lies and tells us no.  Advent calls us to exercise our power to push aside the untrue voices in our heads and put more of our will and spirit into the soft light -- that soft, sweet, gentle light that is pregnant with the infinite possibilities that Jesus opens for us all.


Oh Self-Revealing One gift us with the ability to open ourselves to the revelation of truth and love that Jesus showed us.  Silence all doubts about our goodness in your eyes.  Bless us with beauty and acceptance.  Amen.

Actionable Suggestions:

  1. Set a timer for 3 minutes.  Darken the room.  Light a candle.  For the 3 minutes breathe slowly and deeply and focus only on the light of the flame asking it over and over, "What do you have to reveal to me?"
  2. Ask Alexa/Google to play Handel's Messiah.  While it plays, try to imagine all the people who have heard it and the places that piece has been played. One outcome from this is a deepening appreciation of the common experiences we share with millions of other people -- around the world and all across time.
  3. While you're sitting in a restaurant or at bus stop or anywhere in public, close your eyes and try to name to yourself all the sights that are around you.  This is an exercise in training your brain to notice what is being revealed.  Much that goes on in our life passes us by because we are just checked out from what is being revealed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The World Can't Win the Dualistic War

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.-- John 1:5
For more than 4,000 years humanity has carried on a dualistic theology of tribal warfare.  Each tribe, feudal state, or nation has held near it's own god who led them into their respective wars against "infidels."  I strongly believe that our spiritual beliefs/systems transmit deeply subconscious ideas about God and they direct our impulses and inclinations on the social level.  To change our reality we have to believe it to be different. To put it bluntly, humanity has not outgrown their warring theology in 4,000 years and it's killing the planet.  Isn't it about time we moved out of this dark place into one of light?  To skip all the history of war gods, in our present time "Evangelical Christians" support a U.S. president who promises them racial purity and legal constraints on particular "sins" they deem abhorrent.  They see their mission as protecting God from the Satanic world.  As we believe so follows concrete decisions in politics and society to battle what we fear,.

From this ancient faith mindset it is easy to interpret light and darkness in the same war-god framework.  Light wins.  Darkness loses.  Goodness wins.  Evil loses.  That's how the Star Wars movie is supposed to work.  There is no denying that Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) has threads woven through it of Assyrian/Babylonian gods influencing their faith as there are New Testament threads-- notably Gnostic-- of evil and goodness.  But, has this warring dualistic theology led us anywhere near to what the Incarnate One (Jesus) taught us?  If we are intent about adopting an incarnational life for ourselves, are we nearer to revealing the God of all Love if we continue the long history of singling ourselves out as chosen ones and eliminating all competition?  I don't think so.

Light and darkness were two elements of a simple fundamental pattern the God of Love first created.  God provided for sleep and activity, life and death, waxing and waning, growth and burial. Much of it is cyclical and follows the wholistic pattern of birth-transformation-death-rebirth.  Our whole lives long we are growing - a change process of giving up the old and adopting the new.  Neither light nor darkness overcomes the other.  The two just ebb and flow in and out of the other and in that flow life thrives.

Changing our dualistic warring ways opens the door that we see Jesus fling open.  Healing occurs.  Love gains traction.  Acceptance and care for the least of these prospers.  Reality transforms to a life-giving and eternity sustaining proposition for the good of all -- humanity and all of creation.

God of life and love, may we gain the vision and insight of a loving existence that will grow as a mustard seed into a large new reality where war is no more.  Amen.

Actionable Suggestions:

  1. Work, support, and vote for political candidates who show stronger incarnational leanings to inclusivity, wholeness, and love of neighbor.
  2. Study the costs and implications to our social net from the warring drive to keep the world tamed to our will.
  3. Begin the process of changing your theological underpinnings from dualist imaging to studying the growing body of teachings about non-dualistic faith and belief.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Watching into Wholeness

What I say to you I say to all: "Watch." --Mark 13:37
When the realization of wholeness dawns, the last vestiges of fear, doubt, and separation dissolve. -- Deepak Chopra

Spirituality is an absent element in so many lives. Culturally, we have grown suspect of all religion, while simultaneously seeing a vast expansion of specialization and division that emphasizes physical and emotional dissociations. But Hildegard of Bingen taught that the unity of body and soul is where wholeness and health is found and separation creates illness.  Spiritual perspectives raise the bar of our awareness to the transcendence of beauty and nature.  More recent scientific investigations into health have found that people who spend time in nature, surrounding themselves in beauty, and practicing prayer and meditation experience stronger immunity, reduced stress, and better health.

To begin getting to know your spirit only requires one thing: awareness.  Life in the Western 21st century world is cram-packed full of doing from the moment one's eyes open until they close at night.  Stress is one of the most common ailments in our social order; fatigue is tied for that spot. Taking any amount of time, two minutes or more a day, just to experience quiet awareness of your breathing, of your being, or of your connections with things that fill you with joy or happiness will begin expanding meaning and your wholeness when done consistently.

Wholeness is the sum total of the universe.  You only lose connection by choosing not to be connected. This is what watching is -- maintaining a conscious awareness that everything you are going through is of smaller significance than the power brought by a divine kinship with Love, Perennial Wisdom, and Everlasting Blessing.

God of all waking, bestow on me, a seeker of deeper meaning, the gift of presence with the realm where peace, joy, and acceptance rule.   Amen.

Actionable Suggestions:

  1. Do an internet or youtube search for guided meditations.  Try out ones that resonate with your personality, faith, and experience.  UCLA has a research program into meditation and they have meditations available on their website and phone apps.
  2. While sitting quietly with a pen and paper try to quiet your mind.  Help your mind empty by writing down each word or phrase that disturbs the quiet.
  3. Let a Bible fall open, close your eyes, and point to a spot on the page.  Read a couple verses.  What word or short phrase jumps out at you.  Spend time just saying that word or phrase over and over to yourself in silence for 2-5 minutes.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Being an Incarnation Partner

God is faithful, through whom you were called into the fellowship with God's son Jesus Christ our Lord.  -- 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NAS)

Fellowship is one of those words that many outside church circles don't hear.  To the modern ear it is archaic.  Archaic vernacular often disconnects us from the meaning, so how can we connect with the meaning?  In the original Greek text the word is (transliterated) koinonia.  According to Strong's Concordance, koinonia can also be translated as partnership.  God calls us into partnership with Jesus. This should be heard as a seriously proactive statement.

In much of Christian theology the heavy historic emphasis has been that God/Jesus does everything for us if we just submit to the "right way."  This "right way" tells us we are saved by a blood sacrifice, by the Holy acting to make the secular sacred (if we have crossed all the "authorities'" t's and dotted all their i's.) But instead if, in fact, we are present to and aware of our own connectedness to the Love of the universe, then we are primordially linked in a partnership with Incarnate Love that Jesus tangibly (and faithfully) lived out in the New Testament witness.  Through our present consciousness of Being within the reality of Love, we are in a partnership with all others of presence and awareness who make all existence sacred -- from the lowly electron to the interstellar galaxies, but in particular, our own swath of existence -- our own "front porch." We work in the partnership by sweeping our front porch with kindness, healing, beauty, and love for all who happen by. 

May the peace of all understanding lead you more deeply into the wisdom and love that supports the universe.  Amen.

Actionable Suggestions:

  1. Pray where one focuses not on ego-driven wants and desires but on the magnificent love it would take to create a universe. Then concentrate on enfolding yourself and each of your loved ones and acquaintances into that transformative love.
  2. What partnerships are you part of, or could join, to find encouragement and comradery in making a difference in your community supporting the environment, health, indigenous populations, the homeless, the disadvantaged, or expanding beauty?
  3. Could your family or group you're part of build a little shelter to house a neighborhood book exchange or food pantry?  

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Incarnational Journey Begins Now

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  -- Romans 13:11 (ESVUK)
Time is.  Time is not will be, because we don't know for absolute certain what our future holds or that we won't meet our end in the next minute.  Time is not was, because that can never happen again and persists only as a memory (if at all!)  The present moment is all we have.  This is the root nature of Incarnation - it is now. It is the Divine Present if we are aware.

The irony of Advent is that it is a preparation time leading to Christmas, as though all earth is waiting for Incarnation.  The suggestion of preparation implies a future that we are a building toward rather than knowing that what we do, pray, and think now folds into and manifests the future.  Perhaps I should define incarnation.  Simply, it is the physical manifestation of Divine Love, which can be seen all around us if we simply pick up our awareness and look.  I think what is meant by "salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" is that Emanuel (God with us) doesn't need to be hoped for or even expected.  Rather, Incarnation is unfolding moment by moment whether we include ourselves in it or not.  The moment of Incarnation consciously is that moment we see ourselves as an intricate part of the indwelling Love that holds the universe intact. Incarnation is the looping of all time into the present.  We eat, interact, love, worship -- and are saved -- all only in the present moment, in this time, in this hour.  We miss it only by choosing to step outside it and put ourselves - our needs, our desires, our self-pity, our self-centered importance -- anywhere but in God's flowing love and wholeness. It's always nearer than we believe!

O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.*  Amen.

Actionable Suggestions

  1. Be thoughtfully present for ways you can tangibly lift someone else's spirits today -  a smile, a kind word, a donation.
  2. Send 3 Christmas cards addressed to a local nursing home addressed to "One Who Needs Their Spirits Raised."
  3. Make up a few bags with some gloves, a hat, some protein bars, a bottle of water... and hand them out to homeless people at intersections.  (The Dollar Store may have other items you might discover as being helpful.)
Make Incarnation real today!

* United Methodist Hymnal, c. 1989; "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go."  Words by George Matheson, 1882.