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Spirituality fulfills the Law: The Beatitudes

Spirituality is foreign to us, because it is paradoxical and few of us have had training in grasping paradox. We’re faced with the challenge of choosing to lose so we can win and die so we can live. And that takes grace rather than logic, morals, or ethics.
Opening to grace requires admitting we need it. And that’s the leap of faith that jump starts our spiritual journey.
The following are my paraphrases of the Beatitudes. I have translated the word “blessed” as meaning “open to grace.”     The originals are in Matthew 5:3-11
The Beatitudes
Graced are the poor in spirit for they are not filled with self-righteousness, so they are able to be open to God.
Graced are those that accept the pain of loss for they will find the Comforter’s joy within instead of settling for  pleasure to escape pain.
Graced are those who do not need to own or control anything, for they are free to enjoy the beauty of everything.
Graced are those who know and regret that they are imperfect, for they are free to accept Jesus as their righteousness.
Graced are those who recognize the log in their own eye, for they can accept the unconditional love of God and grow more and more able to love imperfect humans, including themselves.
Graced are those who are focused on God, for they will see God everywhere.
Graced are the peacemakers, because no cause or group owns them; they belong only to God.
Graced are those persecuted for Jesus’ sake, for they know Jesus.
Graced are the falsely accused and rejected, for they learn to need only God.

These are the truths Jesus taught that fulfill the law.

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The Commandments: Humanity’s Keys for Survival/The Beatitudes: Our Handbook for Freedom to Love

I’m pretty sure that law and the concept of sin and consequences were created to try to help us live in the groups we need to survive and prosper. Society is a two edged sword. It keeps us from having to do everything for ourselves from fighting off wildlife, planting, harvesting, to creating clothes and shelter, thus giving us time to think, create, explore, and ask questions about the why, not just the how. But, since humanity is a work in progress…..the old adage, that there’s both a goody and a baddy to everything, holds true for society. Society helps us survive physically, but it also challenges us to learn to love.
The commandments were first of all, simply practical. The laws were aimed at keeping us alive, both as individuals and humanity, long enough to become loving. Whatever the Intelligence called God is, that created and nourishes life, it lives within each of us. It is a source of grace to become more loving, than competitive and combative. And we are like cells in a body. Each of us not only affects those closest to us, we affect the whole for better or worse, even the generations following us.
Self-honesty and understanding, rather than guilt, are the beginning of learning to love. And those take courage and grace. The divorce rate makes it obvious we haven’t become enough like Jesus to even love those closest to us, never-the-less those different from us or even “against” us. The commandments are the basic tools of survival for society. But, Jesus showed us the next level through teaching and living the spirituality of the Beatitudes. They call us beyond the fundamentals of the Commandments and just survival. They call us to freedom, the freedom to love others.
Caring is prayer. Prayer is in the intention, whether expressed in words, thoughts, feelings, candles, symbols, acts of kindness, or forgiveness. There is power in prayer. But both wisdom and love are needed to use the power for others, to understand that all creation, without exception, is one.
Jesus is a turning point in humanity’s journey. He fleshed out a love that sacrifices for not only the weakest physically, but the weakest spiritually. This is not survival of the fittest.
His resurrection also illustrated that this life span isn’t all there is. Jesus is the living example of the potential of God’s grace even within our own humanity.
His resurrection shows us death is simply a door to eternity. When we believe this, it gives us a very different value system than death as the finish line. And His openness and love for all show us the way to overcome the finality of death.

How Free is our Free Will?

A seriously spooky, but incredibly affirming and helpful tool for gaining a better understanding of both ourselves and others is the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI).
I came across the MBTI several decades ago. My first response to my results from taking it was, “How could anyone possibly know all those things about me?” I hadn’t even recognized some of them myself until I read the MBTI’s description. It was amazing, but almost scary, how well its description fit.
It gave me greater self-awareness and both an appreciation of my strengths and an understanding of why some aspects of life were much less appealing and even difficult for me. And gradually, as I moved past learning about just my own personality, it explained the challenges in my relationships with people having a different set of both strengths and other aspects of personality that were less natural for them.
That was thirty-two years ago and I am still being helped by this tool in my relationships, particularly with my husband, whose strengths and subsequent ways of being in the world are the exact opposite of mine. In fact, understanding about personality differences  has probably been one of the most significant reasons our marriage has lasted and grown stronger over almost fifty-eight years.
Different personality types focus on different aspects and therefore actually “see” the concrete world differently. The information we take in on any given day, even in the same environment, will vary drastically. Also how we respond to it, personally or theoretically, emotionally or logically, will differ greatly.  Even our dominant focus, whether inward most of the time and only outward on a few people or locations close to us versus mostly outwardly and on the larger world including the future of the whole planet, will also be extremely different. An example: My husband will fight to save a beautiful old tree on a specific site, but isn’t particularly concerned about the rain forests in distant countries.
Personality differences have implications for every aspect of life, not just relationships. I became a consultant on the MBTI and gave workshops on its significance for Marriage Relationships, for Teaching/Learning Style Differences, for the Variety of Approaches to Spirituality, and even for Corporate Management Styles and Employee Responses.
At seventy-nine, I haven’t been professionally active in this for some years, but the MBTI seems to have stood the test of time in both the educational and professional worlds. And I am still discovering areas where it sheds light on our personal human journeys. I am not going to attempt to teach about type. The Association for Personality Type is the professional site for learning about type. However, there are many people writing about type on the internet without sufficient expertise in the subject, so take care in what you accept that isn’t backed up with some credentials.
One of the issues that the reality of inborn personality differences raises questions about, but also sheds some light on, is what degree of free will we have. I’ll begin to explore that in my next post.

Freedom of Speech and Freedom from Listening on Face Book

Regarding homosexuality: I want to free any friends and family to un-friend me that are offended by gay marriage. Homosexuality runs in my family at least all the way back to my great-great aunt who was brilliant and courageous enough to manage to become a pediatrician in the 1800’s and loving enough to start a clinic for the poor, but was never mentioned in our family because she lived with the same woman all her life. I think the purpose of life, including the Christian life, is to learn to love unconditionally and to serve others. The best, though not the only, school for learning unconditional love is marriage  (But NOT abusive marriages).

Living with another person and learning to truly love that person, even someone of the same gender, while also serving others meets my criteria for spirituality and I believe with all my heart that it meets God’s. I respect others’ opinions and do not want to offend their sensibilities. I will not be hurt by your choosing not to see my posts.

As to politics: I think any organization, corporate or governmental that gets so big that it is no longer able to be concerned for the individual, even the least of our brethren, will become demonic. There are corporations like AT&T, Banking Conglomerates, Insurance Companies, Oil companies and it’s beginning to look like, Obama Care,that are simply too big. I think the mildest of us has wanted to do physical harm to someone at times when we have had to deal with a bureaucracy of robots. The problem is that when a multinational corporation becomes more powerful than the government and richer than many nations, there are no checks and balances. Very few human beings can make a billion dollars and not fall into the trap of thinking they are above the law (in other words,  equal to God). The government isn’t the only entity that has become too big and powerful. The major problem that needs solving includes, but isn’t limited to the size and complexity of the government.

Regarding the role of religion: Christianity is about using our gifts for others, not about power over others.

I have no answers, but as much heartbreak as irresponsible sex can cause through unwanted and abused children, abortions, or deadly viruses that infect innocent unborn babies, greed is what is our worst enemy. Greed infects CEO’s, politicians, people on welfare, and middle class people who teach their children from childhood to feel entitled to everything anyone else has without any effort of their own. The external trappings of Christianity, such as public prayer, are not what is at the core of our faith. It is love and the willingness to not only lay down our lives for others, but as the very minimum, to be kind. I both respect and struggle with both polarities of political opinion, but think that is the exact problem, polarities. We push each other into extremes instead of working together to find the right balance between personal responsibility and government assistance, corporate or government growth and the value and rights of the individual, personal or corporate freedom and accountability. And finally, the reality is that the viciousness and misinformation used by both ends of the political spectrum do not help or change anyone.

I love and care about all my face book family and friends, but I simply cannot support or be a conduit for the kind of political expression many are choosing to use today. I will not un-follow you, because if I am not willing to print and publicize either the style or the content of your communications, you shouldn’t have to do that for me either. I will happily accept your un-friending me and will also feel free to do the same. I think this is an act of lovingkindness.

The Heart of True Religion

The heart of true religion is spirituality. Then and only then can it become communal. If our faith communities are not made up of people with a humble personal relationship with God based on our own ongoing needing and receiving forgiveness, our faith communities will become legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, about pride and power, and ultimately conflict ridden.

The heart of the spiritual life is a personal journey from recognizing our human weakness and failures, then experiencing forgiveness and unconditional love, to an ongoing response to this grace of becoming more and more able to love others in the same way. It’s an ongoing cycle of repentance and grace and growth in the freedom to love.

The heart of unconditional love is forgiveness. No one is perfect. We all need forgiveness and new beginnings throughout our lives. Truly accepting forgiveness and forgiving others are interdependent. And forgiveness and love are inseparable. We can’t accept or give one without the other.

Each day we are called to open our hearts and minds to God, to find God’s grace in: a first cup of coffee, morning birdsong and sunlight, star filled darkness, storms, fear, difficult people, beauty, a tearful child, a faithful pet, sharing our daily bread, our own and others’ brokenness, sorrow, joy, forgiving, laughter, loss, love, every moment, every human experience, every human relationship, and every human being. When we have “God” eyes, we see God and God’s love everywhere. When we are filled to overflowing, God’s love can pour out for everyone, even those who need our forgiveness.

My Tiny Personal Creed

There is a place of grace within each of us that I and others call God.

God is NOT a very old man with a beard, but the creative spirit or force both within and without us that can free us to begin wanting to live as one and can show us how to draw on resources not limited to our tiny personal part of the universe.

For many of us it is reached only in surrender either when we “hit bottom” or when we finally just recognize that we can let go of our ego without losing our unique place in the universe.

So the heart of Spirituality is about letting go of our illusion of being separate/better than the rest of humanity or even of the rest of creation and realizing we are only one tiny unique aspect of an awesome whole and that we sink or swim along with that whole and the rest of the tiny parts.

Since I am a relational kind of person and God and the universe are pretty much beyond my understanding, Jesus is my translator for learning how to grow in a creative relationship with what is beyond my grasp.

The Spirituality of the Beatitudes (Paraphrased)

The Beatitudes Describe Spirituality rather than Religion or Law. The word ‘blessed’ is translated here as receiving grace.
The Beatitudes
Graced are the poor in spirit for they are not filled with self, so they are able to be open to God.
Graced are those that accept the pain of loss for they will find the Comforter within instead of seeking an escape.
Graced are those who do not need to own or control anything, for they are free to enjoy the beauty of everything.
Graced are those who know and regret that they are imperfect, for they are free to accept Jesus as their righteousness.
Graced are those who recognize the log in their own eye, for they will seek the love of God and become able to love the unlovable.
Graced are those who are focused on God, for they will find God everywhere.
Graced are the peacemakers, because no cause or group owns them; they belong only to God.
Graced are those persecuted for Jesus’ sake, for they know Jesus.
Graced are the falsely accused and rejected, for they learn to need only God.

Spirituality is foreign to us because it is paradoxical and few of us have had training in grasping paradox. We’re faced with having to lose to win and to die to live. That takes grace more than intelligence, morals, or ethics. And opening to grace takes admitting we need it. That’s the leap of faith that jump starts our spiritual journey.

The Originals are in Matthew 5: 3-11 These are my own paraphrases.

The Journey through Disillusionment to Meaning

I’m pretty sure that anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a big God and Jesus and Holy Spirit fan. What not everyone knows is that I was an agnostic for some years and a big Madalyn Murray O’Hair fan.

When in college, I visited Nursing Homes, in my mid twenties I taught ballet at a Children’s Psychiatric Ward, in my late twenties, I worked at the NAACP offices for Project Equality, and also wept while watching battles in Vietnam on TV. It was hard to find God in those situations.

In 1963, my dad, Pope John 23, and John F. Kennedy all died. It seemed like all my heroes of hope were gone.

It isn’t very comfortable to hate God, so I simply stopped believing in Him.

My journey to personal faith ultimately took several years spent in a serious search for some sort of meaning to life. That search was motivated by having my own children begin asking me hard questions. And though it is still obvious to me that life is not fair and that life is often hard and miracles are rare, I have found purpose, meaning, and great joy in life through an ongoing growing relationship with Jesus Christ, who made life and God understandable for me. It was a journey starting from faith in religion and faith in heroes, through disillusionment with those, on to a first hand experience of the love fleshed out by Jesus and the call to pass it forward.

I worry about the young people who are being exposed to both the hardships of life and its dark side in so many ways long before they have their love for their own children to motivate them to seek meaning in life instead of escape.

That seems to be the crux of the problem. Whenever we become aware that life is going to be hard sometimes for everyone, will we have the maturity to search for meaning rather than to seek escape?

Everyone’s journey is different, so all I can do is share that the search is well worth the effort and struggle and pain. My way may not be your way, but ultimately the truth will set you free for joy, hope, and love.

Who Is This Aliveness I Am?

Notes from Path and Pen, A weekend conference on writing as spiritual practice.
Created and facilitated by Rabbi Rami Shapiro

God is a verb in Hebrew. God is what’s happening; everything is an expression of God.
God is the ocean, we are the waves.
Ours is narrow mind, God is spacious mind.
The point is transforming consciousness from ego wave to ocean.
Narrow mind is safe and inoffensive, ocean is wild and raw and true.
Wild God is in the wilderness.
Spiritual practice is about learning ways to get out of the way of God’s indwelling Spirit.
We don’t write, we just write it down.
We are not writing what we know, but what we need to know.
Writing is a way of becoming whole.
Writing is a practice, not a hobby.
Kabalah is to receive transformative grace from God.The test is not in altered states, but altered traits. We need grace not to be freed from want, but freed from need. Centering in the present moment can do that.
Spirituality is not a feeling, but a quality of being, the quality of being awake to God present in, with, and as all reality.
In writing, form is not as important as the right intent…..something done for its own sake. When you write simply to write, not to achieve fame, fortune, or even enlightenment, then whatever form you chose has the potential to awaken you to the presence of God.

Quoted from Rami Shapiro, an award winning poet and essayist.  He is an ordained rabbi and holds a doctoral degree in religious studies. Two of his recent books are: The Divine Feminine, Annotated and Explained, and The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness.

I Weep for Jesus

Spirituality is personal faith based on an ongoing, growing relationship with the source of life and love.

Religion is faith shared by a group. Unless religion is based on spirituality, it becomes a  country club, or worse, a desire for power over others, rather than the power to love others.

Jesus wept for his people, the Jews, because they could not hear the Good News of being loved, because they feared the cost of loving.

I think now, he weeps for those who gather in his name.

And I weep for Jesus, this awesome God filled, human expression of God’s Love for all creation, who the Scripture’s tell us grew in truth and holiness.

I weep for Jesus, who was even able to allow the lowest members of his society to challenge him to see that his mission was to share the Love of God with the whole world, not just one race, nation, religion, or economic group.

I weep for Jesus, who was able to grow into accepting that before life is over, not after, Love demands letting go of everything, our lifestyle, our image, our religious security blankets, our power,  our self-centeredness, our very self on the cross of Love.

I weep for Jesus who died to teach us how to love.

I weep for Jesus and I weep for us, who claim to be his people, but do not hear, because we fear the cost of Love.