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Darkness before Dawn

If this quote is too obscure, read on down to my translation.

When you get hooked into emotional reactivity, an opportunity has come to cleanse your perception.
From the perspective of wholeness, triggers are a special form of grace. Not the sort of grace that is sweet, peaceful, and calming, but the kind that is wrathful, fierce, and reorganizing.
When it gets tight, claustrophobic, and you are burning for relief, the invitation is laid before you. To lay down a new pathway. To turn into the disturbing energy and flood it with presence. To infuse the vulnerability underneath the storyline with warm, empathic attunement.
And with the earth as your witness, to commit to the radical path of non-abandonment.
These triggers are not obstacles to your path, but are the very path itself. While they may disturb you, they are eruptions of creativity and aliveness, and guardians at the threshold. In this way, they are worthy of your honor, your care, and your holding.
While it may appear otherwise, they are only love in disguise, appearing in infinite forms to guide you home.
~Matt Licata   From the Blog: Make Believe Boutique

My translation:  When life throws you down and defeats you and you are reeling in pain and railing against fate, go with the suffering.  Enter it and feel it. Curl into a fetal position and weep bitterly, if you need to, but accept the grace of the pain. Don’t run from any part of it.  Don’t project blame on others.  Don’t use anger as an escape. Don’t sink into self pity or self justification. Don’t seek revenge. Don’t play “what if….?” Because this is a doorway to rebirth.  This is a cross you die on, so that you can become a new person, with new wisdom, new strength, and a new ability to love more deeply, both others and yourself.

 

 

The Delicate Dance of the Balance and Harmony of Paradox

To me, this is the key to personal and universal healing, transformation, wholeness, and peace. This is where grace can take us if we let go of the prejudices, fears and idols of our ego.

“The dichotomies of imagination and rationalization, intuition and intellect, heart and mind, heaven and earth, feminine and masculine need to be viewed less as polarities than as partners in a delicate dance of balance and harmony. Only by embracing all parts of ourselves are we able to know the wholeness of the world and our inherent inseparability and interdependence with it.”    Mini Farelly-Hansen
(Copied from the Blog: Make Believe Boutique)

What If It Only Takes Ten More People Becoming A Little More Loving to Change the World?

I have been reading and learning a lot about forgiveness. We all have different proclivities for how we handle anger and hurt. Recently a blog post about our responses to horrifying acts of terrorism against innocent children challenged me to explore the polarities of love and anger and forgiveness.
I’m not sure about this, but some scriptures and some experiences I have had myself make me suspect that forgiving someone has healing power not only for ourselves, but for the offending person. And here’s the freaky part: it can happen concretely simultaneously across great distances without being communicated. I can’t prove it. I have not read anything much about it, but I have had some minor, but thought provoking, experiences.

Also, years ago, I read a small book called “The Hundredth Monkey” which had some research statistics that claimed that monkeys on separate islands and continents can suddenly simultaneously learn new “human” kinds of skills. Their conclusion was that when a certain level of a population of a species acquire a new trait or ability, it somehow triggers a leap in the species across the world. And the author’s hope was that if we as individuals became peaceful, eventually the critical number of our species would bring about world wide peace.

I kind of liked the idea and shared it with friends, but my logical self was very dubious. And since statistical studies such as this can seldom control all the variables, I took this with a grain of salt.  Until recently when driving, I hesitated to start across an intersection when the light turned green because more and more people are running lights right after they turn red. And sure enough someone did. In the last four or five years I have observed a steady increase in this disturbing phenomena.

Something clicked for me today. Is this a negative example of the “hundredth monkey” theory?

Again, as David Hume taught, cause and effect are almost impossible to prove, which is why we measure statistical probability.  But even a remote possibility that our own small struggle to become more loving, forgiving, peaceable people might have a lot more significance for the larger scheme of things would be reason enough to expend more serious time and effort on that project!

Most of us reach a point in our lives where we recognize that we cannot change others, we may can facilitate their attempts to change, but we can’t make anyone want to change and we can’t magically change them even when they seek change. It’s a helpless feeling and tends to make us feel pretty hopeless about things like drug addiction, terrorism and war, and the gross inequality of resources and standard of living across our planet. And even when we are consciously on a Spiritual journey putting time and effort into becoming more loving, forgiving, and peaceful, there are times it hardly seems worth the struggle, if we are managing at least to avoid breaking the big “TEN” in case there really are a heaven and a hell.

What if it matters a lot more than we can imagine for us to clean up our only mildly toxic act: our cursing bad drivers, keeping people out of our lane when they have ignored the warning that theirs is closed further down the road, turning people against one another through gossip, holding grudges, spending a major part of the rest of our lives seeking vengeance under the name of justice for real harms done us or those we love, or even just blaming everyone else for our own failures?

I tried to teach my children to judge the effect of their actions by the age old excuse, “Everybody else is doing it.”  What will the world become like if everyone else does what you are doing? What will hotels have to charge if every person steals a towel or a pillow? What will driving anywhere be like if everyone drives like it’s a race to beat out all the others?

Or maybe even more pertinent, perhaps everyone not doing the same things you are not doing. Not offering help to someone that hurt our feelings, not reaching across differences, not sharing from our abundance because we assume the worst of others. Not picking up trash. Often we simply ignore our sins of omission.

The infamous butterfly fluttering on the other side of the world isn’t making a moral choice, but we do each make numerous moral choices as to what we do or neglect to do each day.

What if it only takes ten more truly loving people to change the world? Not by their accomplishments, but by their love, forgiveness, and peace? Will you and I be one of that ten?

A Buddhist Christmas

I found this quote on the blog, Make Believe Boutique. It’s Buddhist, but the only difference I can see between this and Christianity is our recognizing that we personally fall short of the glory of God and need the saving grace of Jesus. Otherwise it beautifully describes our human experience, hopes and spirituality.
From Waylon Lewis:
I love Christmas: I love simple, personal presents. I love coziness, and world-quieting white snow, which slows us all down and makes even bustling cities feel like they were Norman Rockwell 1940s landscapes. I love fires, and dinners, and parties with old and new friends and children and elders, people I wouldn’t ordinarily get to talk with much. I don’t see my family, these days, they’re all spread about the US, and money is tight, and that always tinges this time with emptiness. But I love sadness, as my mom’s Buddhist teacher said it’s the most genuine of human emotions though we’re not to covet it. I love, at this darkest time of the year, remembering that life is short, and it progresses quickly, and memory fades and all that really matters is being a good person, and making the better of two iffy choices every step along the way. It’s a wonderful life, after all. So let’s put the ‘holy‘ back in the Holidays. Let’s buy gifts that better the world, and support good people doing good things. Let’s put away our phones and laptops and TVs—if only briefly—and make some eye contact, and say the obvious: ‘I love you, and this is why.’ Or, ‘I’m sorry things have been funny between us. Let’s be genuine, and have a good talk.’ Because, before you know it, one third of your friends will have divorced moved away lost their hair become old people or even died of accidents or dis-ease or, you know, life. I’m still only 35, but I lose a friend a year, whether in China to an avalanche or right here at home, just a month ago, an only-recently-perfectly lovely healthy powerful friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage IV. In Buddhism we say: this precious human birth is fragile. Make good use of it. Think about others as much as you do yourself and you yourself will find that elusive happiness. Meditate a few minutes, at least, each morning, before the ephemeral to-do lists that seem so important, the lusts and the anxieties, clutter up your snowy peaceful dozy mind. Don’t chase after the fast food of life: sex, bad food, money, big houses, cool cars. They don’t make you happy, the only thing that makes you happy is you sorting yourself out…

Conflict Resolution: Just Cutting People Out of Your Life Is Conflict, Not Peace

A women’s group at my church, known as The Doves, is having a Scripture based class on Conflict Resolution. Several people have stopped coming to our church because someone hurt their feelings, sometimes even just because someone seemed to ignore them. But when I invited them to the class, they said they didn’t have any conflicts to resolve.

In the past avoidance was one of my favorite ways of escaping conflict. I have shared before about getting my feelings hurt, then just cutting people out of my life, and even letting them die before ever resolving or reconciling. These people didn’t even know they had hurt me, because it was unintentional. With age I have gained a new perspective on many things, and I deeply regret abandoning these friends.

During the first gathering of the new class, a lot of unresolved hurt came out, even with each other in the class. But almost no one spoke in anger or in judgment. We simply admitted our feelings of hurt and listened when people explained a situation from another viewpoint or when someone pointed out the good in the offending person.

No one is perfect and we all bump into each other. Most times when we get seriously offended, it is because the other person has unwittingly blundered into an area where we feel particularly vulnerable.
Some people deal with the world mostly through logic and fact. And often are unaware of their own or others’ feelings. Since truth is their highest value, they do not automatically understand the effect it might have on another person’s feelings.

On the other hand, many of us simply see the world through our feeling values and respond to it straight from our feelings. Often, we have great difficulty working through them to logic.
For those whose values are truth, fact, and logic, even ordinary everyday conversations with feeling types are like exploring a minefield without a map.

Learning either how to say the truth tactfully, or when it might be more diplomatic to not say anything, is a serious challenge for them.

For those of us who live in our feelings, it helps to become aware of areas of insecurity and try to become free of them, and failing that, to learn to risk telling others how what they said made us feel. At least in a long term relationship, this will give the truth and logic partners a map of the minefield!

I have a friend who told me that when she was about six or seven, there was a rich little girl who came to their Sunday School in fancy clothes and white Mary Jane shoes. My friend was jealous of the little girl and took advantage of every chance she got, to scuff the bottom of her shoe across the pure white top of her Mary Jane shoes.

Sometimes, we really consciously mean to hurt others, but most of the time it is either inadvertent or an unconscious response.

I discovered late in life that I quite often scuff people’s Mary Janes in more subtle and less conscious ways, but it still leaves people feeling diminished. Most times before the last decade or so, I was not conscious of it, and sometimes the victims didn’t even know exactly what made them feel scuffed.

For conflict resolution to become an effective tool, it first takes commitment on everyone’s part and a willingness to become self-aware, even uncomfortably so.

Our group cares about each other and most of us have learned to love even the people we don’t always like. But still it’s a scary venture into our dark sides.

Prayer and knowing we are loved unconditionally, at least by God, will hopefully give us the grace to learn to use this tool for peace. All prayer for grace for us is greatly appreciated.

Peace and the Personal Commitment to Forgiveness

Once again, a miracle: I, of the erratic memory, did remember to join in praying for peace this Sunday evening. I am unexpectedly peaceful about being a part of this. I decided long ago that inner peace is quiet joy. And that is exactly the gift this experience brought me. I got so caught up in prayer and reflection that I lost track of time. Prayer for both my own and others’ broken relationships stretched out as I thought of more and more needing healing. When I reached the stage of praying for peace for all people, because of my own recent experience of reconciliation, I actually felt hopeful that events small or large would begin to happen in the lives of every person to help them become a tiny bit more peaceful. It made me want to not only persevere, but to gather more and more others to commit to praying for peace on a regular basis.

This year, when Kozo, through his ‘B4Peace’ blogging project, invited us all to begin blogging about peace at least once a month, it challenged me to become more open and committed to the healing of some broken personal relationships. My most serious alienation happened about two years ago and had not only gone unresolved, but had caused complications with other relationships. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but if I was going to write about peace, I needed to at least start dealing with my own conflicts.

As I began praying for the grace to let go of my bitterness and allow God to heal the hurts that fed it, I was invited by friends to participate in a Spiritual Growth Class based on the book, Soul Feast, by Marjorie Thompson. I read the book and found it challenging and exciting, but one of the two facilitators of this class would be the man whose words had both wounded me and set off the very painful chain of events that resulted in more broken relationships. It hit me that this might be the answer to my prayer for grace and healing, so I joined the class, but chose a seat safely far down the long table from my adversary.

For several months, we managed to interact civilly, but cautiously. We tiptoed around anything relating to our controversy, while finding shared ideas on spirituality. I could tell that both of us were truly trying to apply the insights in the book.

Out of the blue, a conflict developed between my male nemesis and the female co-facilitator. He quickly became so defensive and verbally combative, that she left in the middle of the class. No one knew what to do, but when he began to just go on with the class, as if nothing had happened, I asked if we could pray for our friend who was hurting. I said that I didn’t believe any of us really wanted to hurt each other, but Christians or not, conflicts happened, and we all needed grace for healing. We said a simple prayer for healing of hurt and then we went on with the class.

Within two days time they had reconciled completely. He had called her after class. Though she didn’t take his call while she was still furious, by the next day, she had prayed her way through to understanding and forgiveness, and so had he when she went to see him.

As I witnessed this, I immediately realized that I should have gone to him soon after being hurt, explained how I felt, and trusted God to give us the grace to overcome our differences. But, I also recognized that I hadn’t, because he had unwittingly blundered into my worst minefield of insecurity. Now, in praying about and coming to grips with that particular personal demon, I finally experienced a greatly needed new freedom. Then, I was not only able to reconcile with him, but to share with our class how powerful seeing the human frailty of our co-facilitators being healed by their commitment to love was.

I don’t think any words in a book or sermon could have had that power. We really are called to flesh out the gospel for others, not by pretending to be perfect, but by our commitment to forgiveness. I am now praying and working on reconciliation of the other broken relationships set off by this one. Thanks again, Kozo for challenging me to do this.

Singing in the Spirit: Perfect Harmony

When the world seems to be a giant simmering pot of hatred and violence, I am able to cling to the hope for peace, because of an amazing experience I had many years ago.

I was at my first Charismatic Conference at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Though ostensibly Catholic, there were Charismatics (Pentecostals) from many mainline protestant denominations. This particular year there were 20,000 of us gathered for Worship in the football stadium. At one point during the sermon the worshippers responded by singing in the Spirit. Singing in the Spirit is when each person sings whatever the Spirit gives them. For some it may just be terms of praise in the believer’s own language, but to an unknown melody given them by the Spirit, for many the words are in a language unknown to the singer and at the same time to an unknown melody. The words, languages, and melodies are all different
For a few moments, I hesitated, since I had never experienced this and I found myself distracted by the differences I heard close to me. But suddenly my own song came bubbling up from deep inside and as more and more voices joined together singing completely different words and melodies, the awesome harmony brought tears of joy.
I cannot normally sing anything without following the lead of a strong voice next to me. But when singing in the Spirit, my own surprisingly high notes stay true to me, yet blend with the whole. That many people singing different melodies in different languages simultaneously in beautiful harmony simply lifts you out of yourself. Somehow, the God within each of us, that is the God of the Universe, bring us together as one body.
I may seriously doubt that any person could teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but I know first hand that the Spirit can.
And that keeps me praying and seeking and listening and learning to love, even when no country and no person, not even children, are safe from violence.

A New Beginning in Forgiveness

I have been alienated from someone important to me for two years.
Everytime I tried to forgive, I just relived the hurt and injustice, and my resentment grew stronger and more entrenched.
Yesterday, I finally looked at it from a different viewpoint: How could I have handled my hurt in a way that could have given us an opportunity for healing and reconciliation instead of letting this fester into a poisonous wound?
I realized that a lot of harm could have been avoided, if I had been courageous enough to simply go immediately and explain how hurt I was and why.
I hope to do this now, but the conflict set off a chain of events that will now be much harder to heal than it would have been in the beginning.

I want to thank Kozo for his challenge to forgive in his blog, everyday gurus.
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bloggers-for-peace-badge                              Peace Begins Within

Conflict is not the same as hatred. Differences of opinion, conflicting needs, and misunderstandings are part of the human condition. But hatred is a whole other ballgame. And where there is hatred, there will be no peace.

Most, if not all, hatred and prejudice are rooted in a sort of primal human fear of being the least, of being at the bottom of our world’s value ranking.  Being at the bottom means being helpless and vulnerable to the ill will of others.

One way we assure ourselves that we are not the least valuable is finding others to consider inferior to us in some obvious way, perhaps morally.

Another way is to focus all our personal or group resources on developing a particular competitive talent or skill, so we can feel safely superior in that area and trust society to overlook our disdain for or even violence toward others.

Or, if intimidated by another person or group’s abilities, like the childhood bully, we can try to cut them down to our size with ridicule, or like Hitler, make them the scapegoat for everyone’s woes.

Hatred is a fear based response. It depends on denying our shared humanity with the “other.”
It allows us to demonize those we choose or are taught to hate, to project on them all the evil that we struggle to repress within ourselves.

I believe the increased incidence of suicide among our soldiers comes from wars that now involve being up close and personal with those in the invaded countries, who turn out to be just ordinary people like ourselves.  Then our shared humanity and helplessness expose wars of today as being murder.  And while fighting for our survival might be noble, fighting for our lifestyle is not.

Scripture says that faith casts out fear. Faith in what? Not faith that we are the chosen and somehow better than others, but rather it is faith that we are all loved by our creator.   In the hymn Amazing Grace, ‘without one plea’ means we are loved for no reason other than being God’s creations, God’s children, not for being good, or right, or a certain religion, or nationality.

Jesus says such extreme things as, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.’ Does that mean that Jesus literally is in those we consider the lowest, those we ignore and avoid, treat condescendingly, or even hate and persecute?

He goes on to say that ‘in the kingdom of heaven, those that were last on earth will be first and those that were first will be last.’ Friends, I’m pretty sure the kingdom of heaven lasts a lot longer than our days on earth. It’s something to keep in mind when evaluating our priorities, particularly those that grow out of a need to not be the least or last in this world.

Paul’s treatise on love in First Corinthians 13 insists in no uncertain terms that without love, we are nothing. If we give everything to charity, if we become the poorest of the poor, but have not love, we are nothing. If we have great spiritual or intellectual gifts, but have not love, we are nothing.

Love is kind. Love is not arrogant, envious, boastful, rude, or resentful. Love does not insist on having its own way.
Wow.
When my need to be “somebody” raises its ugly head, I reread these words, and  I have to  quickly go mentally to the back of the line.

So who are the least of God’s brethren? Those that know that without God, they are nothing. Those that walk humbly with  God.

Mother Teresa was able to undertake and persevere in her calling because she experienced both the unconditional love of God and even His discernable presence in her life before she ever began her mission and also during the times of struggle with church authorities to be allowed to do what she knew God had called her to do. Toward the end of her life, Mother Teresa went through a terrible dark depression. She had succeeded in doing what God called her to do and she had even received worldly honors and fame. But at the last, she no longer experienced God’s presence. And compared to that, nothing else mattered, not success in her mission, nor worldly acclaim.  She felt bereft.

The least are those that know that without God, who is love, we are and have nothing of eternal value. But that with God, we need nothing else.  Only then do we not suffer from the illusion that we are, or need to be, better than anyone else.

Peace begins within each of us as we grow in faith in a God who is love.

Related Article: Bloggers for Peace

Senior Moments

A splash of sunlight

floats lightly on the lake

like dollop of whipped cream joy

on the quiet pudding

of my morning.

Peace, simple as the sunrise

spilling through the trees,

 butterfly streamers

shadow dancing

on the table.