Category Archives: epiphanies
Only Love Is Absolute
This week’s Daily Meditations explore the fruitfulness of interfaith friendships. We begin with Father Richard Rohr reflecting on Jesus’ inclusivity, which has allowed Richard both to affirm and critique his own religious tradition—and invites us to do the same.
In no other period of history have humans had such easy and immediate access to people of other cultures and other religions, often as friends. Once a person has developed any “discernment of the Spirit” it becomes clear that God’s holiness exists all over the place.
The Second Vatican Council gave Catholics some fine official guidelines and freedoms. Nostra Aetate, the 1965 Catholic document on non-Christian religions affirms, “For all peoples comprise a single community, and have a single origin . . . one also is their final goal: God. [God’s] providence, manifestations of goodness, and saving designs extend to all [people].”  Such an affirmation rightly places us all inside the same frame of history and allows no foundational distinction between us. We are clearly from the one God, tending toward the one God, and as the mystics of all religions teach, Reality itself is one.
It is strange that it took us almost all of our two-thousand-year history to get back to the “ecumenical” attitude Jesus had at the very beginning! He goes out of his way to make non-Jews the heroes of many of his stories and teachings. He is quick to point out the failures and fallacies of his own religion, Judaism, while still remaining faithful to it. Jesus held a very critical stance toward his own religion, but for some reason few of us think we can do the same.
On the other hand, sadly, many people think that if they no longer believe in the absolute primacy of their own religion, then it has no absolute call on them and they often give up on it entirely. But I am convinced that the biblical tradition is saying that the only absolute available to us is the faithful love of God, and not any concept or structure—even our religious traditions themselves. God’s love itself is the center and the still point of the turning world. But if we have never actually experienced this love, we will most assuredly look for absolutes in other ways.
What is unique about Jesus is his inclusivity itself! He is so grounded in the absoluteness of the Divine relationship that he is quite free to relativize the Law, simplify the Prophets, and find God outside of his own tradition. He is constantly and consistently inclusive—without denying his Jewish foundation and faith. I believe we can only be inclusive when we have a deeply held and shared experience that we can include people “into.” We have to have a “home” to bring people home to.
What the world wants, and people need, are people who believe in Something—Something that will lead them to the good, the beautiful, the true, and the universal.
Eileen’s Reflections on this.
When seeking God, I explored most Christian denominations and some other world religions. I realized no one has all the truth and nothing but the truth, because that would make them equal to God. After experiencing the Love of God expressed in Jesus outside any religion, I studied scripture and prayed with women from most of the major Christian denominations. We didn’t have conflicts, because our focus was on seeking grace to become more loving. I’ve been on lay witness teams or given witness talks for Methodist, Presbyterian USA, Catholic, Episcopalian and Baptist churches. God is alive in all of them and some people in each “get” that kind of all encompassing love of God. I have experienced that “oneness” with everything and everyone several times. We really are one and everything we do or is done to us effects all, those we love and those we don’t. It changes everything to know that. It’s not easy to love our enemies, but that’s the heart of all religions’ beginnings, before we let our fears control us. And for Christians, Jesus personifies that love for all, even those that betrayed him and those that killed him. Whether we like it or not, this is what Jesus is about. And if we call ourselves Christians, it’s what we are called to keep seeking the grace to do.
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.
To Believe in God We Have to be Able to Imagine Something Infinitely Bigger than Ourselves or Else We Cut God Down to Our Tiny Understanding.
Pleasure is very fleeting. Joy is a whole other ballgame. It leaves a permanent imprint. The greatest joy comes from love. To me, God is Love. The scriptures were written by humans evolving from tribal to universal. They were created by people with different kinds of minds, from literal to metaphorical. They are the footprints of the human journey. From the accounts in the New Testament, you can see Jesus evolving from tribal to universal. I see Jesus as a unique example of human evolution. Some get it, some don’t. Those that do, have a God that is universal and in everything and everyone. God doesn’t need praise. But I have found praising God brings joy and connection to something greater than us. It could be that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. If we ever recognize that love involves more than loving others as we love ourselves, that it involves loving others more than ourselves, then we’ll know what Jesus learned and did and calls us to do. I think Jesus was a leap in human development, a prototype for the spiritual journey. I think the God within us as humans, the God in every cell of the universe, the God in Jesus are all the same and greater than the bread boxes religions try to contain God in. I don’t think truth or God are limited to Jesus, but I think Jesus finally “got it” and his actions speak louder than any words. He’s my “guy” and to me he embodies both the feminine and masculine. I believe that the spirit of God that was in Jesus lives in all of us. But we evolve by inches like inch worms, seeing through the glass darkly, learning to love slowly and painfully. Prayer is a form of caring. Caring matters, particularly when there is nothing in our limited skill set to do to help. It’s not a substitute for doing what we can. It’s a focusing together. I’ve witnessed and even experienced the power of it. See the blog. Laughter: Carbonated Grace and scroll down for a series on experiences of God being in the timing.
I wrote this in response to reading Spinoza’s view of God, some of which I understand and believe. But I have personally experienced more. And I pray to continue growing both in understanding and ability to love until the day I die. Then hope to explode with mind blowing joy right after that.
A phrase I like is, “We are God’s boots on the ground.” But unfortunately sometimes that can morph into the song, “These boots are made for walking and I’m gonna walk all over you.” When young, even to middle-age, I was so emotionally fragile, that I lived fear. In my teens I became funny and outgoing and talked constantly, so no one got much chance to say something that scared or hurt me. I built a wall of words that protected me from the world around me. Experiencing the Love of God expressed in Jesus helped in a way. Instead of just being comic relief, I tried in various ways to share that Love of God, Jesus. But it was a bit of a struggle because I had developed another unconscious weapon against the misery of fear, a fierce ‘no holds barred’ anger. I finally recognized that when I got really, really angry, I wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. It was like a super-power and for a while, I treasured this awareness. Sometimes I even emotionally danced with delight in the power of it. Eventually, I noticed it was also an arrow in the quiver of Jesus. I remembered the money lenders in the temple and even his peculiar zapping of the barren fig tree. But I also realized that Jesus gave it up. He could have zapped the soldiers in the garden of Gethsemane, but he didn’t. He could even have zapped Pilate, but he didn’t. He could have escaped death on a cross, but he didn’t. So, like Oscar, the Grouch, I have worked on my attitude by trying to let myself consciously experience hurt and fear rather than ending up emotionally self-protecting with anger. Praying helps. Reading Scripture helps. Taking time for reflection helps. But most of all remembering, savoring, and just basking in the warmth of the love of God melts not only my need to protect from others, but even the need to deny my own human imperfections and failures. I am unfinished, but I am loved with no small print by the healing Love of God expressed in Jesus.
Fear, Super Power, and Jesus, Oh My.
I feel new.
It’s really sort of weird and funny at eighty-four. But it feels delightful, like a wonderful blessing, though even a tad scary, since it’s a little like being in first grade again. I know the challenges to the new me will come and have to be responded to in new ways. But meanwhile, I am just dancing in my heart with happiness.
I feel more “whole” than I ever remember feeling.
Or course I still need taller people to reach high things. I still need stronger people to pull down heavy boxes. I still need my youngest, Tommy, to rescue me from the insanity of dealing with Infinity/Comcast. I still needed all five of my wonderful kids to replace my ancient computer. I’m blessed that my eldest, Chris lives near me and brings me meds when I’m sick and yummy food from his wife Molly. I still need Steve to come visit from Atlanta and listen to my life story, the good and the bad of it, and to write a list of simplified short cuts for me to use on the computer. (And sneakily pay for a new Microsoft Windows for me.) I still delight in my weekly Face Time call from my Mike and his Patrick in Cambodia. I am also grateful for daughter Julie’s wonderful notes affirming me and that she and Scott have invited me along on an eight day visit in Michigan with my great-grandchildren at Christmas. And I’m grateful to grandson Josh and his amazing Paula, who not only send me videos and photos of my three youngest great-grandchildren, but are including me in their Christmas. And thank God for granddaughter, Carmen, who checked out my tires and warned me that I needed four new ones right away. I still need my friend Rachel, who affirms me in writing, so when I lose my sense of well being, I can read and remember.
And I still need my friend Jenny who can laugh with me at our shared old lady humiliations. The list goes on and on.
But something inside me shifted and either I finally don’t feel so inadequate or I’ve simply accepted the hand I was dealt and can laugh at the recurring Three Stooges Act that I regularly play out. Whatever it is, my underlying fear of being inadequate for whatever life requires that has haunted me for most of my life, seems to have been put at bay, a least for now.
I think this is this year’s answer to my Advent prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come and be born in my heart.” Another Christmas healing like my “Dirty Sock Under the Christmas Tree.” What a wonderful God we have. I highly recommend praying that prayer and then waiting and watching for the answer. Some years, I haven’t recognized it, but many years I have. Pray it. Wait for it. Watch for it.
I am praying for blessings for you who read this post during this season of celebration of God’s unconditional Love expressed in Jesus. Merry Christmas to you all.
I’m 83 and a widow living alone. I’ve recently had some health issues and had become depressed. But then I read a post called: “Choose Joy.” So, when I looked out my window at the gray day, I focused on the gold and violet pansies hanging there, savoring their rich colors, the contrast that speaks to me of the marriage of joy and sorrow, remembering their velvet softness, valuing their resilience in cold gray weather. I looked around me in my warm bright study, at a cork board of cards with beautiful pictures of birds from caring friends, a picture of daffodils that are my sign of hope, a picture of Jesus holding a child and laughing, a favorite one of my husband laughing with that sparkle in his eyes, our wedding photo with my family, my loving sons and daughter at various stages of their lives, my brother and his spouse Rick, who treat me like a princess when I get to visit them, me smiling just five years ago in a Cathedral in France. How blessed my life has been. How blessed it still is. The quiet joy of peace surrounds me like a comforter. And a tiny bubble of joy rises within me. Yes, we can choose joy!
Choose joy. Choose it like a child chooses the shoe to put on the right foot, the crayon to paint a sky. Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow, restless with need for action. Feel the sorrow, take the action, but keep pressing the weight of joy against it all, until it becomes mindless, automated, like gravity pulling the stream down its course; until it becomes an inner law of nature. If Viktor Frankl can exclaim yes, to life, in spite of everything- and what an everything he lived through — then so can any one of us amid the rubble of our plans, so trifling by comparison. Joy is not a function of a life free of friction and frustration, but a function of focus — an inner elevation by the fulcrum of choice. So often, it is a matter of attending to what Hermann Hesse called, as the world was about to come unworlded by its first global war, the little joys; so often, those are the slender threads of which we weave the lifeline that saves us.
Delight in the age-salted man on the street corner waiting for the light to change, his age-salted dog beside him, each inclined toward the other with the angular subtlety of absolute devotion.
Delight in the little girl zooming past you on her little bicycle, this fierce emissary of the future, rainbow tassels waving from her handlebars and a hundred beaded braids spilling from her golden helmet.
Delight in the snail taking an afternoon to traverse the abyssal crack in the sidewalk for the sake of pasturing on a single blade of grass.
Delight in the tiny new leaf, so shy and so shamelessly lush, unfurling from the crooked stem of the parched geranium.
I think often of this verse from Jane Hirshfield’s splendid poem-
So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.
Yes, except we furnish both the grains and the scales. I alone can weigh the blue of my sky, you of yours.
From the Blog: Make Believe Boutique- the Post: around the bend
Standing in the line to vote, I’d brought my rolling walker with a seat to use if standing long brought on pain. Three different poll workers kindly asked if I’d like to go to the front of the line. I said no, because I could sit down any time I needed to. They noticed the woman behind me with a bandaged foot and asked her the same. She also said no, there were chairs every six feet. She and I began to chat about the challenges of aging and life in general right now. She shared some difficulties, but then recounted with a light in her eyes how they had turned out to bring about some good changes in her life. I reacted with delight, recognizing grace and a faith we shared. We bonded there in a line, six feet apart, with masks. It was one of those blessed moments of connection. We parted reluctantly after voting and as I drove away I realized from other things that she had probably voted red, while I voted blue. But I also realized that she went back to her life reaching out in love to those familiar faces whom she understood and trusted, while I went back to reaching out to unfamiliar faces, with lives so different from mine. Both of us doing our best to help others and to share the faith that saw us through the hard times.
The problem with a political solution is that it doesn’t take into account that we are born with very different personalities. And though as we grow through stages of life, we can become stronger in undeveloped aspects of our personality, there’s a timing to the process that isn’t under our control.
I once wrote an article called Aliens in the Nest after recognizing how different I was from either of my parents and how different my five children were from one another and at least one of us, their parents.
It takes grace to love across these differences. It takes both time and grace to develop strengths in our weaknesses. What we can handle with the grace of faith now would not have been possible for us at an earlier stage of our personal spiritual development. God gives us grace for the moment.
We cannot force others to be where we are. I keep coming back to the importance of realizing with heart and mind that I and all others are loved completely at our worst, but are also still unfinished at our best. Legislating for others, no matter how strongly we feel and even if we ourselves would with grace be willing to sacrifice our own life for what we believe, doesn’t work. Our call is to help others find that love that frees us all to grow and risk and accept suffering and die knowing we were loved at each stage of our journey.
“Everything is energy including our thoughts and feelings. If strong and focused could they create reality?”
Maybe we help create what we focus on with either peaceful/kind or angry/violent thoughts and feelings. Maybe in times of national or world wide conflict we even effect the weather? What if when Jesus said we sin if we even look at others with lust (or hate?), he knew we effect all kinds of things with just our thoughts. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of thoughts and feelings that if acted on would put me in jail. Maybe I’m harming not only my own body, but together with others unwittingly creating havoc on a much larger scale? I have learned that resentment really damages my body. And I have experienced incidences where my forgiveness, even unexpressed, has freed the person I forgave at the time I managed it. Humanity, including in our understanding of both Scripture and the science of nature, as Paul told us, sees through the glass darkly. There’s more we don’t understand about nature, ourselves, and God than what we do know. Maybe like Jesus told us, it’s what’s going on inside us that needs cleansing, not just what we act out.
Maybe we are like children playing with electricity, unaware of its power.