It is well

  Pain. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Loss. We all experience the vast range of human emotion. And sometimes our feelings get the best of us. I recently had a frustrating week. Nothing seemed to go as planned. I felt trapped. I REALLY started to lose perspective. I have friends going through really bad stuff: life-threatening illness, divorce, economic troubles, and all the other “surprises” life sometimes throws our way. When we are in the midst of distresses, it often seems impossible to regain sanity and feel normal. We start going down what I call the toilet of despair, that sinking feeling of going in circles and threatening to disappear. We have our problems. But often, when we glimpse into the troubles of others, we see how relatively insignificant our little problems are and can get a bird’s eye view again. I’m not minimizing personal struggles or even tragedies. But I do think we sometimes need help adjusting our perspective. The video below helped me do that. In my morning devotional a few days ago, I thought about the old hymn that has been so meaningful from time to time. “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.” So I did a quick Google search to find the song. Then I came across this video. Not only did I get to listen to the beautiful words and music, but I also learned the tragic story of the author. Horatio Spafford was a prominent lawyer in the 1800s who seemed to have it all…and loose it all. But he never lost his faith. Turns out his lyrics transcend time and space. I found we...

Church

How do you know you’re on a good personal track? What are the markers of your spiritual growth? What do you think it means to be a person of faith? How do you nurture growth in your life? I had breakfast with a friend the other day that expressed concern because I don’t attend church services on a regular basis. Certainly she is not the only one to have voiced such fear. This friend followed up her statement with, “There’s a lot of stuff out there; what if you get off?” I then launched into a 5-minute defense of my spiritual life. We have social litmus tests for all sorts of things. And the common one for your faith is whether or not you go to church. (Interesting how church has become something you go to instead of who you are.) I’m cool with my friend, but our conversation topic makes me crazy! I think people and ideas and consciousness evolve. (I’m so glad we don’t believe in human slavery and are past the Crusades.) So a question is worth asking: To what extent can our understanding of God and faith evolve? I think that just as the universe continues to expand, so can our understanding of ultimate reality. Do you still believe that participating in certain rituals is a good test of your relationship with God, what you believe, and how you live your life? Jesus said people will know you are his disciples if you love one another.* But today, being right has become more important than being loving. And many people outside the church (however you define that growing group of folks), is, unfortunately, dare I say, sometimes nicer and kinder than those inside. Ouch! I’m not here to rag on church...

Quantum Entanglement

We are all connected in ways we are oblivious to. So I am immensely interested in the cross-section between science, social science (the study of humans) and spirituality. I love subjects of inquiry such as that surrounding quantum entanglement, which attempts to explain the ways that we are, indeed, connected. So I have to share this most recent article by Franciscan, Richard Rohr: Just as different ways of interpreting scripture and various types of truth (e.g., literal vs. mythic) are valuable for different purposes, so scientific theories have different applications while seeming to be paradoxical and irreconcilable. For example, we have the Newtonian theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum theory. Physicists know that each of them is true, yet they don’t fit together and each is limited and partial. Newtonian mechanics can’t model or predict the behavior of massive or quickly moving objects. Relativity does this well, but doesn’t apply to very, very small things. Quantum mechanics succeeds on the micro level. But we don’t yet have an adequate theory for understanding very small, very energetic, very massive phenomenon, such as black holes. Scientists are still in search of a unified theory of the universe. Perhaps the term “quantum entanglement” names something that we have long intuited, but science has only recently observed. Here is the principle in layperson’s terms: in the world of quantum physics, it appears that one particle of any entangled pair “knows” what is happening to another paired particle–even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which are separated by sometimes very large distances. Could this be what is happening when we “pray” for somebody? Scientists don’t know how far this phenomenon applies beyond very rare particles, but quantum entanglement...

What Size Is God?

The real question is, what size is YOUR God? We don’t know much. We try to find truth and figure things out, but we’re all just searching, often guessing. But this I know, if your God fits in a small box, your image of God is likely due for a makeover. When I was a child, we learned there are nine planets, with Pluto being the smallest. Today scientists argue on whether Pluto is even a planet at all, and in 2014, announced the discovery of 715 new planets outside of earth’s solar system. They think there are likely billions of stars, and our sun is one of the smaller ones. NASA estimates the Milky Way Galaxy is 100,000 light years across. As space probes travel further and further from earth, we are finding not only more and more galaxies, but clusters of galaxies! Perhaps one of the coolest discoveries is that not only is there more to find, but the universe itself continues to expand. Notice the image with this article. It’s actually named, “Celestial Maternity Ward N81!” It’s all rather mind-blowing! How cool is that? The universe we thought was quantifiable and static, or even dying, continues to grow. Growth and expansion are a mark of the universe. Should they not also mark of our lives and understanding of God and reality? If the universe is as big or bigger than we thought, how big God must be! If the creation is this magnificent and expanding, how much greater the creator! Yet a great irony is the extent to which we have made God so small. We make God fit into small buildings and tiny communion cups. We’ve created a myriad of boxes and forced God inside. We think how boring religion is, so...

God & Your Brain...

I found this short but most interesting video about what you think of God and how it shows up in your brain when you pray. If you don’t know about Science Mike, you might want to find out! He’s a Christian turned atheist turned follower of Jesus, who uses his story to help people know God in an age of incredible scientific insight. I find him wonderfully out of the box and refreshing. Find his blog here: http://mikemchargue.com. You may also want to check out his never-boring podcast, “Ask Science Mike.” I subscribed through Apple’s podcasts...

Honey

The old saying is that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I think that is not only true for flies, but for us too. Father Richard Rohr’s devotion on Sunday, September 6, 2015 was somewhat on this topic. See the excerpt below: “Rather than making dogmatic statements about how to get to heaven, Jesus modeled and taught how to live on earth in a loving way, and he said that this was indeed heaven! But Christians have all too often pushed heaven into the future. We’ve made Jesus’ death and resurrection into a reward/punishment system for the next world, which creates tremendously self-absorbed and self-preoccupied people. It doesn’t transform anyone into compassionate, loving individuals. Instead it leads to a kind of morbid self-analysis in which people feel guilty, inferior, and inadequate or superior and self-righteous. “This dualistic approach has corrupted the true meaning of the Gospel. I would go so far as to say that by sending Christians on a path of well disguised but delayed self-interest, we prostituted the entire spiritual journey from the very start. You cannot easily get to love when you begin with threats and appeals to fear. The driving energy is completely wrong. Rather, you come to love by attraction. Change must begin with positive energy or the final result is never positive.” To this I say YES! That is why I’m so glad to find a path to God that is marked by love and acceptance instead of fear and manipulation. But oh how may people have experienced the latter instead of the former. The irony is that LOVE drives the universe. God is not far away; the loving Divine is closer than our breath. God is sweeter than honey; and He/She is always...

Believing and Doing

Are we meant to BELIEVE or to DO? Have you thought about it? Which is more important, what you believe or what you do? Can you have one without the other? This question goes back a long way and has roots in both philosophy and theology. It helpful to introduce two terms that link the spiritual nature of being and doing. Orthodoxy is doctrinal correctness; it’s about theory, belief and conviction. It’s about believing the right stuff. Orthopraxy, on the other hand, is about doing or right practice. So is it important that we seek truth and try to believe good stuff? Or is it important that we work out our beliefs and values in acts of service? We might ask, what is a glove without a hand? (One might respond, not very useful at all.) I was brought up in the Lutheran church, a denomination that was founded on the radical (at the time) convictions of 16th century reformer, Martin Luther. Despite Luther’s belief that even doing simple tasks like housework are as important as the work of monks and nuns, he was overwhelmed with revelation of and the urgent need for an understanding grace. (We might define grace as the undeserved acceptance, love and assistance of the Divine.) In a historical period where salvation was all about “earning” one’s redemption, Luther’s voice was counter-cultural. He latched onto the Apostle Paul’s writing that “We are saved by grace” (Ephesians 2:8). We might pause to ask ourselves if it is enough to just believe the right stuff. Perhaps like me, you have encountered people who seemed to believe the right stuff, yet their behavior was deplorable. In the name of religion, they seemed to be doing “the work of the Lord,” yet didn’t have...

What my dog teaches me about God...

I have two dogs. One is a neurotic, co-dependent Schnauzer named Moxie. But despite her quirks, I love her. The other is a Cairn Terrier named Penne. (Hence I have a Moxicillin and a Penicillin.) Though I know the Divine exists in all things, I am particularly struck by how my Penne models God. She loves me unconditionally. I don’t have to earn her trust of love; she just accepts me. She is affectionate. She likes to snuggle and licks me with great affection. (I know she likes the salt on my skin in the summer, but I also think it’s her way of saying, “I love you.”) But the strongest attribute of my little black pooch is that she is keenly aware of me. I get busy and forget all about her; but she keeps tabs on me. When I walk from one room to another (including the bathroom), she follows me; I look down to see the little Penne at my feet. I think it’s amazing that one being can be so acutely aware and in touch with another. Even as I wrote this last sentence, she walked up and gave me eye contact. I guess it’s her way of “checking in.” I do think the Divine is acutely aware and attentative, always in touch and never far away. Like the affection of an amazing little creature, how much more the thought that the creator of the universe not only knows my name, but follows me around wherever I go. Wow. That’s pretty...

Nagasaki

It dropped from the sky just three days after the other one. The first was an atom bomb, the equivalent of 15 thousand tons of TNT that exploded above Hiroshima, Japan. The second was a plutonium bomb that fell on less than 200 miles away on Nagasaki. Never in the history of humankind had a single weapon—two it seems—created such mass and catastrophic devastation. About half the population of these two cities died instantly as their bodies evaporated into nothing or their flesh was ripped or burned off. In the weeks and months that followed, others died from their burns, radiation sickness, malnutrition and other injuries. And for years, other victims, and their offspring, suffered a variety of cancers and birth defects. By any account, it was horrible. We will not discuss the justifications here; people all over the world can justify what they do to fellow humans in the name of whatever they are preserving or fighting for. As we remember these events 70 years later, perhaps we can take away some lessons. I heard on a news report this week that the Japanese people are not bitter. Hmmmmm, not bitter? How could this be? Then I heard the name of the memorial at Hiroshima is not called a war memorial, it’s called a peace memorial. Wow. I don’t recall ever seeing a peace memorial in America, or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, if you Google “peace memorial,” the first several hits you see are for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Compare this to the attack on the twin towers in New York on 9/11/2001. Americans were incensed that they would a) be attacked on their home soil, and b) innocent civilians would be the target of the attack. Home soil...

Hiroshima

This week we “lament, and grieve our own complicity in the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 on the Feast of the Transfiguration. The atomic bomb became a symbol of humanity’s capacity for negative transfiguration.” So writes Father Richard Rohr, keenly aware that he lives near “Trinity Site,” where the bomb was tested before it was used to destroy two cities in Japan. “This is a reminder to me,” he wrote, “that my capacity for evil is as close as my backyard and my own shadow [myself].” Transfiguration marks the time when Jesus climbed a mountain with two of his disciples—Peter and James—and was transfigured before their eyes. It was a profound spiritual experience when “dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity.”* Whether or not you are American, I thought Rohr’s devotional on the subject was both timely and universal enough to share portions with you. May the anniversary give all of us us pause to remember and reflect. In considering the life message of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who lived just over a hundred years ago, the contrast between WHO WE ARE and WHO WE COULD BE is stark indeed. Rohr went on: “What if we had studied the “science of love” in the Little Way as she did? Harnessing the energy in the smallest interactions, moment by moment, we might have found that, indeed, “Love is as strong as Death” (Song of Songs 8:6). What if we had practiced confidence as Thérèse did–as deep trust in the mercy, love, and goodness of God? Maybe we would not have found ourselves in the position where good people participated in the continual “sin of the world” (John 1:29), which I am convinced is ignorant killing. Endless...