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...

Quit loving the sinner...

Love the sinner but hate the sin. So goes the old Christian saying. But it is really a good saying? Is there is a good philosophy behind it, or might it need some significant tweaking? I came across a very provocative article on this and knew I had to share it with you. Get Control Of Your Life is not only about generating new content, but sharing great stuff we come across. The post is by mom, Beth Woosley, published on her blog titled, 5 Kids Is A Lot Of Kids Woosley claims the saying, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin,” is not in the bible and actually originated with Augustine of Hippo (whom some people call a Saint) and his Confessions. I’ve read the 4th century theologian’s treatise and actually done a fair amount of research on the man. Augustine was a tortured soul who, before converting to Christianity, lived a morally depraved life and was a member of a wacky cult. He brought many neo-platonic ideas into Christianity as well as his guilt-driven views of the material world. While Augustine’s influence on Christian theology is undeniable, reconsidering some of his positions is clearly appropriate. Please take a few minutes to read this important article: http://bethwoolsey.com/2013/10/3-reasons-i-quit-loving-the-sinner-and-hating-the-sin/ Feel free to leave a comment below or on Beth’s...

Creativity

You are creative. Maybe you don’t think you are, but you are actually a very creative person. If you’re like me, you were intimidated by some classmates in elementary school named Laura or Scottie who seemed to draw like a pro. Not only were they polite, and brilliant, but they seemed so incredibly creative. For me, it was Laura, the pastor’s daughter at the parochial elementary school I attended. When people around us are recognized as smart or creative, is sends a not-so-subtle message that you’re NOT! Comparing ourselves to others is a natural social phenomenon, yet it is often unhelpful. So back to creativity. How do I know you are creative? It’s because science and religion point to you being both FROM and PART OF the vast universe. The nature we are part of is full of magnificent wonder. Birds, waves, animal behavior, the formation of storms, the regeneration of life…it’s all most incredible. You are made of the same stuff, except are even more. You have intelligence, communication skills, reasoning, emotion and so many other attributes that are not less than the rest of the world, they are more! Unlike the plants and animals, you were actually made in the likeness of the Divine—the intimate intelligence and creativity of the universe. Just think about that for a moment. You are actually a descendant of, but you also share the DNA of the creative force of our universe and beyond. So that’s pretty cool, right? NO, that’s FREAKIN’ AMAZING! That means you have the ability to be remarkable. I’ve found that creativity manifests itself in surprising ways. Though you may not be able to paint, sculpt or even create a gorgeous garden, you are creative. Think about the times you were financially challenged and made an...

Religionless Christianity...

What is the difference between religion and true spirituality? I have found that many people today are turned off by religion, but are still interested in seeking truth, spirituality and God. I think it’s a worthwhile topic. So it is with enthusiasm that I share Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation on (Pentecost) Sunday, May 24th (2015). It’s one of those I thought was too good not to pass on. “Most religious searches begin with one massive misperception. People tend to start by making a very unfortunate, yet understandable, division between the sacred and the profane worlds. Early stage religion focuses on identifying sacred places, sacred time, and seemingly sacred actions that then leaves the overwhelming majority of life unsacred. People are told to look for God in certain special places and in particular events–usually, it seems, ones controlled by the clergy. Perhaps this is related to the clergy’s need for job security, which is only natural. Early stage religion has limited the search for God to a very small field and thus it is largely ineffective–unless people keep seeing and knowing at larger levels. “In Franciscan (and true Christian) mysticism, there is finally no distinction between sacred and profane. The whole universe and all events are sacred (doorways to the divine) for those who know how to see. In other words, everything that happens is potentially sacred if you allow it to be. Our job as humans is to make admiration of reality and adoration of God fully conscious and intentional. Then everything is a prayer and an act of adoration. As the French friar Eloi Leclerc beautifully paraphrased Francis, “If we but knew how to adore, we could travel through the world with the tranquility of the great rivers. But only if we know...

Money is Spiritual

Have you ever considered that money is a deeply spiritual issue? If you think like most people, you probably haven’t, as spirituality and “the rest of life” have been separated in our collective mind for quite some time. But consider these aspects: Debt: Most of our ancestors considered debt to be sin, and that having loans makes you a slave to the lender. Giving: Generosity is a virtue celebrated in many cultures and religions; there seems to be a deep-down understanding that we need to share. Frugality: This is a spiritual discipline practiced by seekers for centuries. It is abstaining from things that satisfy our desire for status, glamour or luxury. As theologian, Dallas Willard, wrote, “The spiritually wise person has always known that frivolous consumption corrupts the soul away from trust in, worship of, and service to God and injures our neighbors as well.”* Work: The so-called Protestant work ethic has its roots in society and the bible. It comes from a pragmatic understanding that it takes the contributions of all in order for individuals and communities to survive and thrive. There is a saying: work not, eat not. Investing: Jesus told the story of a generous master who gave away money for three people to invest. He got really upset with the one who buried it in the ground and did nothing.** There is a link between poverty (individual and corporate) and spirituality. When principles are violated consequences ensue. You may recall two Get Control Of Your Life podcasts with Carrie Riffee. She and her three kids lived under a bridge for a year. She had just escaped an abusive marriage (he violated principles of properly loving his wife), she succumbed to a co-dependent, unhealthy relationship (violation), and society failed her by imposing...