Author Archives: Eileen

Holy Dissent and Self-Critical Thinking

Father Richard Rohr values how Judaism and the Hebrew Scriptures introduced the gift of self-critical thinking into their relationship with God:

The Hebrew Scriptures, against all religious expectations, include what most of us would call the problem—the negative, the accidental, the sinful—as the precise arena for divine revelation. There are no perfectly moral people in ancient Scriptures; even Abraham rather cruelly drove his second wife into the desert with their child. The Jewish people, contrary to what might be expected, chose to present their arrogant and evil kings and their very critical prophets as part of their Holy Scriptures. They include stories and prophecies that do not tell the Jewish people how wonderful they are but, rather, how terrible they are! It is the birth of self-critical thinking and thus moves consciousness forward. No other religion has been known for such capacity for self-criticism, down to our own time. [1]

The Jewish rabbi and noted theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel understood such self-critical thinking and dissent as central to Judaism and to all vibrant and healthy religion:

Inherent to all traditional religion is the peril of stagnation. What becomes settled and established may easily turn foul. Insight is replaced by clichés, elasticity by obstinacy, spontaneity by habit. Acts of dissent prove to be acts of renewal.

It is therefore of vital importance for religious people to voice and to appreciate dissent. And dissent implies self-examination, critique, discontent.

Dissent is indigenous to Judaism. The prophets of ancient Israel who rebelled against a religion that would merely serve the self-interest or survival of the people continue to stand out as inspiration and example of dissent to this very day.

An outstanding feature dominating all Jewish books composed during the first five hundred years of our era is the fact that together with the normative view a dissenting view is nearly always offered, whether in theology or in law. Dissent continued during the finest periods of Jewish history: great scholars sharply disagreed with Maimonides; Hasidism, which brought so much illumination and inspiration into Jewish life, was a movement of dissent. . . . Creative dissent comes out of love and faith, offering positive alternatives, a vision. [2]

Father Richard seeks a both-and approach that embraces self-criticism without falling into excessive intellectualism or despair:

Self-criticism is quite rare in the history of religion, yet it is necessary to keep religion from its natural tendency toward arrogant self-assurance—and eventually idolatry, which is always the major sin for biblical Israel. We must also point out, however, that mere critique usually deteriorates into cynicism, skepticism, academic arrogance, and even post-modernistic nihilism. So be very careful and very prayerful before you own any self-image of professional critic or anointed prophet! Negativity will do you in. [3]

To the Woman Who……You Are Loved Beyond Measure. That’s Jesus’ Kind of Love.

Melissa Mayberry

Just because I feel like no one has said it….

To the woman who is pro-life, you are loved beyond measure

To the woman who is pro-choice, you are loved beyond measure.

To the woman who is on the fence, you are loved beyond measure.

To the woman who is heart broken from being told she is unable to have children, you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman who is excitingly pregnant with her fifth child even though her family says it’s “irresponsible” you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman who found out the child inside of her would cost her her life and chose to abort, you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman whose world has been turned upside down when her child’s heart stopped beating inside her womb, there is endless unconditioned love for you.

To the woman who is on the bathroom floor looking at two pink lines after running from their abusive partner. There is endless unconditional love for you.

To the woman who has to make an impossible decision when she was told her child was not forming properly and was in extreme pain. There is endless unconditional love for you.

To the woman whose abortion haunts her every day, there is grace and incredible love for you.

To the woman who was raped and found out she was pregnant and decided to not carry the child, there is grace and incredible love for you.

To all of the women who had to make a choice to bring life into the world or to end it and to the ones who were not given a choice. I hope you know that His grace and love is endless for you.

Whether people say your choice was “right” or “wrong” and with all the hatefulness on both sides. I hope you know that you are loved by the savior of the world. He understands your pain/grief/worry/doubt/ and every other thing you had to go through. And you are priceless and endlessly loved in his eyes. And mine. (I apologize for those who told you different)

You are loved beyond measure.

I join my Amen! to this. Eileen Norman

Loving the Other

Kinder Days?

Upper and middle-class whites remember kinder days. But they were not kinder to many who were disenfranchised. Many judges in the South simply refused to accept black vs black cases and left them to fight it out. There were many ways the white power structure forced others to resort to violence. Our white upper and middle-class view of how kind it was “back then” didn’t apply to either minorities or the very poor whites. Some of our problems are the results of the blindness of those days. It’s going to take more than going back to undo the damage. Particularly with so much of Christianity being hijacked by those whose God is about control, more than love.  Much of our violence comes from fear of anything or anyone different from us. Fear blinds us and turns us to seeking power whether by laws or guns. Most of us haven’t recognized that many poor whites’ only power for a long time has been their guns. It’s more complicated than we can see with privileged eyes.

“Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged.”

Probably no more than 25% of people of each generation can see beyond the culture they were born into. The majority simply aren’t born with minds that question. That’s why it takes so many generations to change cultural blindness. And many of the blind are extremely kind to individual people different than themselves that through circumstances they get to know first-hand in youth. But they don’t generalize beyond those people, because of what they were taught by family, friends, and the culture. If they do manage to grow beyond their limited world view, usually by the love of someone who sees differently, they can be the ones that take the greatest risks to change the status quo. Those people deserve our admiration. We, who either were not taught prejudice or whose minds naturally question everything, were blessed and can’t really take credit or judge those born with different minds any more than judging those with different color skin. We work for change, but we have no right to judge. That becomes a prejudice itself and draws lines in the sand. It turns everything into “them” vs “us.”  Jesus “got” this!!!

Love of God is Love of People

As long as religions teach that God doesn’t let unbaptized babies into heaven (a technicality it seems to me), then many moms, not taking-into-account the number of miscarriages that God allows early on, will oppose abortion.  I understand that on a feeling level. But my logic questions what kind of God would do that. Not the God of the Jesus I know. Some religions have taught that birth control will send you to hell.  And a woman can’t refuse her husband sex even if another pregnancy endangers her life and their other children will be motherless.  You can bet your sweet bippy that religion’s rules were written by men who had never truly loved a woman.   

Hope Is the Seed of Change

A Forty-three year old woman:

What a dark, dark season for our country.

I don’t feel like using my voice. Everything I would say is already being SCREAMED — online, in articles, in the halls of government — and with better phrasing than I could ever put together.

Nobody is listening.

They:

* Expanded gun rights.

* Removed Miranda rights enforcement.

* Removed women’s reproductive rights.

* Funded religious schools, while also saying they’re untaxable.

* Reworded our history textbooks to hide bad deeds.

* Removed parents’ choice about their own children’s biological therapies.

* Are actively drafting now to revoke equal voting rights.

Minority rights and remedies are the next target, and then gay marriage, and then probably gay existence.

Like pre-war Germany. There were document-able steps to that, and we are currently more than halfway through that list. In the same order. We learned nothing. We didn’t remember the past, and we are doomed to repeat it.

We sit here and pretend our country cares about freedom. It doesn’t.

Meanwhile, other nations have actual travel warning alerts declared on the US because of abnormal violence levels. I’ve downloaded and read them; they sound like you’re going as a tourist to 1970s Vietnam. Those outside our borders can’t believe we don’t all have healthcare covered, or that we’re still even debating equality. They don’t look upon us as a goal; we are internationally mocked as being backwards, uneducated, and very limited in individual freedoms.

I don’t recognize this country.  This isn’t where I thought I lived, and what the military men in my ancestral line fought for.  Today, I don’t see any hope whatsoever.

An eighty-five year old: Eileen Norman

History repeats itself. Both the bad and the good. We are a relatively young country. We still have a lot to learn the hard way. Sad for our progeny. But if we have instilled values and concern for others in them, we’ve done the best we can for the future. They will have to be the revolutionaries for their era. My struggle is trying to open the young’s eyes to the difference between Jesus and his “so called” followers. Christianity has over and over been bought by the powerful and then corrupted. But people with values, who experience the love and wisdom and ability to change His world view of Jesus, rise up over and over and renew it. Nothing is perfect and never has been and never will be. It’s a fallible world of fallible people. As a country we have not suffered like the countries we fled. We don’t recognize the seeds of self-destruction. Your voice is important. Every voice is heard by some. Though mostly we are “preaching to the choir,” every now and then if we are not attacking people rather than movements and laws, a few more will question enough to at least not add to the hate. It’s humbling to feel so ineffective and makes it hard to persevere. You are not alone. Speak your truth just as you have in this post. Thank you for keeping on keeping on when there are no ego rewards in it. Love you.

BEWARE!

Airlines Overbooked/ Airports Understaffed:

Flying this summer is ROUGH!!! I feel like as a Flight Attendant I should attempt to share some tips to get you through airline travel for the foreseeable future. ✈️✈️

1. Things are not good….. if its less than 7 hours – DRIVE! I’m not kidding. There is nothing enjoyable about flying right now. On any airline. If you must fly, keep reading. 🚗

2. Download and use the app of the airline you are flying. You can do everything on it – get your boarding pass, track your bags, see your incoming plane, and change a flight. It sure beats waiting in the long line to talk to an agent! Trust me – Usually these apps will tell you a flight is cancelled before the crew even knows! 📲

3. Fly MUCH earlier than you need to – a whole day early if its important!! This week I saw many people miss important things like weddings, funerals, cruises, international connections, and graduations. The tears were very real, for very real reasons, and there was nothing I could do! If you have to be somewhere, spend the extra money, go a day early. Have a glass of wine and stay in a hotel, enjoy your night not being stressed while everyone else misses their events. 🍷

4. ALWAYS fly the first flight in the morning so you have all day to be rebooked if the shit hits the fan. Yes, that means it might be a 3:00 alarm, but morning flights don’t cancel nearly as often.⏰

5. This is not unique to this year, but keep in mind summer is thunderstorm season. A single storm can shut down a whole airport. We can’t fly through them. Storms usually build as the day gets later. Book early flights! ⛈

6. Schedule long layovers – Your 1 hour layover is NOT enough anymore. 30 minutes, not a chance. 3 hours minimum. 🏃‍♀️🏃🏃‍♂️

7. What you see on the news is an understatement. We are short staffed and overworked. Not just pilots and flight attendants, but also ground crews. Without ground crews there is no one to park the planes, drive jetways, get your bags on/off planes, or scan boarding passes. This causes many delays that snowball throughout the day. Sometimes HOURS.(Another reason morning flights are best!) 👀

8. When flight crews get delayed we time out. We can NOT fly longer than 16 hours. Its illegal. So it doesn’t matter if you have a wedding to get to, when we are done we are done. The way things are now, there are no back up crews, so when this happens your flight cancels. (Now you are starting to see why those morning flights are best!) 😴

9. Avoid connecting in Newark (Or any New York airport for that matter). It is literal hell. You have a 50/50 chance your flight will cancel or missing your connection. They have been cancelling flights at their starting points just to keep the planes out, because there just aren’t enough people to manage the planes, so the gates stay full. Also the restaurants are expensive, it is not a great place to be stuck. 💩

10. Be nice. As stated above, we are overworked and tired. We will not help you if you are mean. No one cares that you are going to miss your cruise if you are an asshole. So even if we can help, we will save our help for someone nice. Tensions are high. Our patience is gone. If you make us mad – you will not be flying on our planes. We will leave you behind without a second thought, and laugh about you later. 🥰

11. Being drunk on an airplane is a federal offense, so don’t overdo it. If you drink too much at the bar waiting for your delayed flight you risk not being allowed to fly at all. We are too tired to deal with your drunk ass when we have legitimate issues to deal with. 🍻

12. Get trip insurance if you have a lot of money invested. I hate the whole idea of this, but I also hate the idea of losing money. Example: I was working a flight yesterday that waited over an hour for a gate. A family of 8 missed their flight to Rome. The only flight of the day. They were going to a cruise which they would now miss. They were all crying, there was nothing I could do. (Also a reason to fly a day early!) 🛳

13. Flights are FULL. If you buy the cheap seats you will not be able to sit with your family. It says so when you purchase your ticket!! Flight Attendants aren’t there to rearrange the whole plane just so you can sit with your family because you tried to save $100 on a third party website. 💸

14. Speaking of third party websites and saving money….. Like I said flights are FULL. If a flight is oversold, and no one volunteers to give up their seats, who do you think is the first to be bumped? You guessed it, the family that saved a few $$ by using sites like Expedia, Kayak, Hotwire etc. 🤷‍♀️

15. Pack smart. Don’t be “That guy” Don’t hold up boarding because you have your extenders open till they are busting and you can’t figure out how to make it fit in the overhead. (Passengers are stressed too, they can be aggressive when boarding a delayed flight) 🛍

16. Take showers, brush your teeth, leave the perfume off, don’t eat stinky food (caesar salad and tuna fish I’m talking to you!), and bring headphones. Trust me. These things sound basic, but add to stress on crowded planes. If you are stuck on the tarmac for 3 hours after a 4 hour flight, you will thank me for this. 💜

17. Bring a sweater if you tend to be cold. So tired of half naked girls asking me to turn the heat up. NO. Wear clothes!! Side note: If you dress like this and ask for heat, there’s a chance I will turn the AC up. 🥶

18. Thats not water on the bathroom floor. For the love of God wear shoes to the bathroom!!! 🤮

19. Don’t tell a Flight Attendant they look tired. We are and we know. You may cause us to ugly cry right there in galley. 😭

20. Happy Travels!

Our Tower of Babel

 I hear Einstein’s quote “…my faith is not compatible with science” as saying that his faith is not limited by current scientific knowledge. It seems to me, ignorant as I am, that there is more that humanity  (including scientists) doesn’t know than what we do know.
Isaac Asimov’s non-fiction books are some of my favorites. “Wellsprings of Life” was describing the evolution of the tiniest to the largest things in the universe and showing the correlation between them. It was so awesome, I literally danced with joy at the amazing intelligence behind and in all of it. His book The Human Body and The Human Brain showed how incredibly physically different we are from one another even within our level of evolution. It explains so much that could free us from our cookie cutter vision of humanity.
I do admit that I sometimes see the amazing survival adaptions of animals now looking more like evolution than what I see in humanity.
For me Jesus was a significant leap in evolution from “tribal” to “universal,” from “me first” to “everything is one,” and, from “scorn of those who do not understand” to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” I see intellectual scorn dividing us and setting those we judge’s ignorance in concrete. Those who see possibilities and those who live in the reality of the present moment are two sides of the human coin. And sadly, those who are limited to custom and what they can see physically outnumber those who explore the possible dream. If we cannot find a way to care enough to understand each other and free us all to grow wiser and more understanding, we are building a tower of Babel that will lead to the destruction of all. I love science, but it does not yet have all the answers and many of them are paradoxical. If the person with the high IQ (IQ tests do not measure all skills and knowledge necessary for survival) cannot communicate with the majority across the gap so that they can accept that ignorance is curable, even though it makes us feel and sometimes appear stupid, we are doomed. The whole may be greater than the sum of its parts, but the parts need to work together.

My Pentecost

Happy Birthday Christianity!  Birthdays are for celebrating and receiving gifts.  Pentecost is when the first Christians received the Holy Spirit. So, today let’s pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.!”

In today’s Scripture from Acts, Peter calls it the last days. And these are the last days after Jesus ascended into heaven, whether it’s two days or 2,000 or 20,000 years. Jesus had told his disciples that he had to leave so they would receive the Holy Spirit and do even more miraculous things than he did.  And Peter affirms that the day has come when the young, the old, the men, the women, the slave and free would experience the Holy Spirit in many ways.

Last week, our pastor talked about the older members of our families telling their memories.  Well, I definitely qualify as older, so here’s a short trip down my memory lane.

In my twenties I became disillusioned with myreligion. And since I had pretty much made religion my God, I stopped believing in God and the Bible. Even without religious faith,  I was active in politics, andworking for Civil Rights, because I thought humanity was on its own and we had to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

When I was thirty, I experienced a joyful conversion to belief in God and Jesus through friends working for a non-denominational Christian ministry. I began reading the Scriptures with new eyes and went from believing nothing to believing everything in the New Testament. I joined a prayer group of women from the major Christian denominations along with one Jewish woman.  All, had experienced a new level of faith. We focused on how to become more loving rather than on doctrine. We prayed about our and others’ concerns and read the Scriptures for guidance. When we were praying for one of the women’s mother, I suddenly knew  she was being healed. I shared that and we praised God, but when I got home, I panicked!. What if it wasn’t true? My positive conviction had faded. But it did turn out to be true. So, I asked the Presbyterian woman who seemed to know more about the bible and prayer than the rest of us, how that had happened.  She said that I had experienced one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and there were more. Would I like her and another woman to come the next morning and pray over me to receive the rest of the gifts? That sounded good, so I said yes. But that night I began to worry that I might get off track again, so I prayed for a sign that the Pentecostal experience was for our times and right for me. By midnight I hadn’t received any sign, so I went to bed thinking this was not for me. At around

two in the morning the phone rang. I rushed to answer it, worried that it was an emergency. But when I answered, a man’s voice asked, “Is this the Pentecost’s?” I sort of stammered, “I beg your pardon?” He responded, “Is this the Pentecost’s residence?” I hesitated, but told him “No,” so he hung up. But I decided that had to be a positive answer, so the women came and prayed for me and told me about a  Charismatic prayer group at the Sister’s of Mercy convent. I became active in the Catholic Charismatic movement and witnessed and experienced many miracles.  Not every heartbreaking illness or problem in my life was cured or solved. But after experiencing so many miracles, I knew God was with me and I’d seek God’s grace and guidance in the hard times. There is one experience that I do want to share now. I soon attended my first Charismatic Conference with twenty-thousand people of many denominations in the Notre Dame football stadium. During the worship service people spontaneously began to sing in different languages with  different melodies. Now I can’t sing on key unless I listen to the person standing next to me. So, as beautiful as it was, I didn’t see how I could join in. But suddenly, words with a melody just bubbled up and I was singing in a language I did not know to a melody I didn’t know or hear anyone else singing.  It’s hard to describe how all those languages and different melodies could come together so beautifully and then soften and stop simultaneously.  We CAN all sing together in perfect harmony.  As broken as our world is, the power of the Holy Spirit within everyone of us, is stronger. This memory is my sign of hope that I cling to when the violence and hate all around us, even in Christianity, threaten to overwhelm me.

Pray with me if you wish:

God our Father, we cannot become the people you created us to be or bring your Spirit of love into our broken world, without being filled to overflowing with both the Love of Jesus and the power of your Spirit within us. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on us. Speak to us through the Scriptures. Stir our hearts and empower us to become like your first followers. Free us from whatever holds us back from being completely yours.

Fire and Spirit

Baptism of Fire and Spirit

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. —Acts 2:1–4

In this Pentecost homily, Father Richard Rohr encourages us to recognize and call upon the Holy Spirit, a gift God has already given us!

It is a shame that the Holy Spirit tends to be an afterthought for many Christians. We don’t really “have the Spirit.” We tend, I’m afraid, to simply go through the motions. We formally believe, but honestly, there isn’t much fire to it. There isn’t much conviction. There isn’t much service. We just sort of believe. That’s why in the Gospels there are two baptisms that are clearly distinguished. There’s the baptism with water that most of us are used to, and there’s the baptism “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11); that’s the one that really matters.

The water baptism that many of us received as children really demands little conviction or understanding. Until that water baptism becomes real, until we know Jesus, and we can rely on Jesus, call upon Jesus, share Jesus, love Jesus, we’re just going along for the ride.

We can recognize people who have had a second baptism in the Holy Spirit. They tend to be loving. They tend to be exciting. They want to serve others, and not just be served themselves. They forgive life itself for not being everything they once hoped for. They forgive their neighbors. They forgive themselves for not being as perfect as they would like to be.

Even though we so often pray, “Come, Holy Spirit,” the gift of the Spirit is already given. The Holy Spirit has already come. You all are temples of the Holy Spirit, equally, objectively, and forever! The only difference is the degree that we know it, draw upon it, and consciously believe it. All the scriptural images of the Spirit are dynamic—flowing water, descending dove, fire, and wind. If there’s never any movement, energy, excitement, deep love, service, forgiveness, or surrender, you can be pretty sure you don’t have the Spirit. If our whole lives are just going through the motions, if there’s never any deep conviction, we don’t have the Spirit. We would do well to fan into flame the gift that we already have.

God does not give God’s Spirit to those of us who are worthy, because none of us are worthy. God gives God’s Spirit in this awakened way to those who want it. On this Feast of Pentecost, quite simply, want it! Rely upon it. Know that you already have it.

Richard Rohr

Only When the Peace of Love Begins in Our Own Hearts Can We Begin to Replace Violence with Kindness

Our society has reached a breaking point of hate. It infuses our lives through social media, the newspapers, the television, the computer games, brutality in sports, our literature, even our religions and our music. It’s time to go back to basics. Violence solves nothing. It only breeds more violence. Violence begins in the heart as an escape from pain, fear, frustration, rejection, loneliness, despair. It’s a spiritual sickness and it requires a personal spiritual cure, not a corporate religious one. Let it begin with YOU and with Me. NOW! Not tomorrow or next week. Begin by praying for peace within, take time to reflect on our own condition, ask and seek grace to grow free to love one another as Jesus did. Focus on this inner journey until it frees us in our lives. Both hate and love are contagious.

I found time this afternoon to sit on my porch listening to a gentle rain and soft sounds of windchimes, watching the trees dance and feeling the breath of a breeze kiss my face, delighting in the bright rich colors of gold and violet pansies and enjoying the sweet smell of the wild roses at the edge of my woods. Joy surprised me in a memory of Julian wrapped in his comforter of silence savoring the wind and rain. It was a time for thanking God for the grace of being loved by Julian and family and friends. And a chance to treasure the new stage of my journey with Jesus.

A half of a century ago I danced in joy as I experienced the overwhelming tender Love of God fleshed out for me and all humanity in Jesus. I treasure every moment of awareness of that Love that began to free me from my self-contempt over my many faults and failures. I have celebrated that love in the good and with grace eventually even in bad times. I have pretty much just “wallowed” in it like a happy little pig! To my surprise, I’ve realized that in the last year, I have become more focused on loving Jesus than on his loving me. I have begun to really recognize his humanity and how he grew as a human who was open to the Love/grace of God that nurtured him through so many human stages that challenge us all. Instead of just dancing in the delight of being loved, I am now often just thrilled in amazement and warm tenderness at how Jesus worked at keeping open to the Spirit of God. How he opened his heart to the Roman enemies of the Jews, to the Samaritan heretics, the unclean woman., And how listening to the Spirit gave him the grace to keep on Loving and persevering through all the challenges and trauma’s of his human life. It even carried him through to saying on the cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

He didn’t say, “Throw them in jail. Kill them. Don’t let them into the Kingdom of heaven.”

Oh my! How humanly vulnerable, how aware of human sin, how tender in forgiveness, how infinite in his love. He is the Love of God fleshed out for ALL of us, not just when we are being or even just thinking we’re the good guys. As I write this I rejoice and celebrate the Love of God fleshed out in Jesus. Thanks be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.