Thursday, January 27, 2011
I say with some laughter that this is the last of the major loose ends in this series of articles…and it comes from my curiosity about the interesting use in the Bible of “Son of Man” vs. “Son of God.” “Son of Man” is used frequently throughout the Bible, 178 times in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament…even Jesus seems to describe himself as "Son of Man." Its a wonderfully rich description, representing our entire race. “Son of God,” on the other hand, is used only 41 times, all in the New Testament, and more often spoken by others than by Jesus.
Easy, you say…Jesus is the Son of God, so of course he is mentioned only in the New Testament. He describes himself as both the Son of Man and the Son of God.
Actually, we have a problem trying to find out how Jesus really thought about himself – or what he really said. You see, the earliest of the canonical gospels, Mark, wasn’t written until about forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Matthew and Luke were written after that, and John was written some seventy years after his death. John is the most reflective of the growing traditions about Jesus rather than about what Jesus said and did. It seems no one was taking notes when he spoke, or if they were, they are lost in the dust of time.
So where does that leave us? Can't we believe anything the Bible says about Jesus?
I offer this: Whether or not a man named Jesus came to say and do these things, its not the man, but the teachings we follow. Those teachings, profound and wonderful, lead to the tradition that says this incredible man came to embody all of those God-like characteristics that we call the Christ Spirit. And, if his teachings are even vaguely reported correctly, he said we are ALL children of a loving God, and therefore we are all sons and daughters of God, carrying that God-substance within us, the Christ Spirit. I know I have the Christ Spirit within me, and so do you. I know it, and I can feel it.
I'll back this up with my favorite Hebrew Bible passage, Jeremiah 31:33, “…This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
There is continuity there, Sons and Daughters of Man. We are also the Sons and Daughters of God. We have the Christ Spirit within us. It is written on our hearts.
 A good place to begin learning about modern Biblical research is the source I just used, Marcus Borg’s “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time.” Fascinating book. He manages to marry a thinking person’s approach and a deep-seated faith without slighting either.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The time has slipped by. I am reviewing some of my classwork before heading off to Missouri, I am in the middle of what seems to be a head cold, and I am still unpacking. You’d think, under the circumstances, that I’d be unable to write…when in truth, I have so much to write about, that I’m too distracted to complete any one theme.
So lets begin with a couple of loose ends from previous writings. The one I wish to address today stems from the first post of the year, where I was talking about how if we were perfect in our realization of the God-spirit carried within, we wouldn’t have things to grow beyond, to struggle for, and so we might be missing some fundamental joy in this life. If everything were perfect, as it is supposed to be in God-mind, would we be bored? Are angels be bored? Is that how we got here?
Popular thinking has God creating this world as kind of a trial run, a test, a learning spot for spirits trying to obtain perfection. However, in order to accept that concept, one has to see God as having human feelings and emotions. One has to see spirits as needing perfection, and living a life that can be separate - distinct entities that can “choose” to reenter this world and live again. Huh? This is not God as Oneness, Divine Mind, or even God as a Supreme Being. That’s not the all-powerful, omnipresent Oneness I know.
And yet, if there is only Oneness, the only reality is that of Spirit, God, and this earthly experience is unreal, like so many faiths believe, then why have this relative world at all? I hear constantly that we are living a dream, we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience…if so, why? Why have this earth, this existence at all? Is there an answer without resorting to the God-as-reflection-of-ourselves with some human-like motive?
Charles Fillmore, founder of Unity, defined God/Divine Mind as Absolute Truth, the Divine idea which encompasses all Divine Ideas. Relative Truth is what we experience in the physical realm, this worldly experience. We learn that the relative realm doesn’t exist without the Absolute Realm or Absolute Truth. As I wrote in homework for one of the classes, "To our outside senses, the relative world is real, yet it does not exist separately from the absolute. Yet to say it does not exist separately from the absolute infers that it is a reality after all.”
Is it a reality? I can understand that I am not my feelings, I am not my thoughts. Something greater is inside me, is my bedrock. But that’s a far cry from calling this gorgeous world “not real.” After all, we have a life outside those feelings and thoughts.
So, OK, what is the truth?
We might never know the answer. We can only guess, and dream up some of the wonderful theories I’ve heard. For myself, I want to keep the question open, and just say that it is what it is. I’m not ready to declare our beautiful world and people in it as being “unreal.” God is everywhere, everything, including me, you, and even that rock over there. Yes, I want to keep the question open.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
This has been an interesting time! I’m preparing for the interviews that will say whether my path is to be at Unity Institute for seminary…and in the process, so many fascinating things come up! I keep wanting to chase them all…for instance, in rereading Mark, the earliest of the canonical gospels, the phrase “Son of Man” kept coming up – “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Now THAT is an interesting thought! We can, should, and sometimes actually do forgive others…and obviously do need to do more of it for peace in the world, in our country, and of course with our loved ones and ourselves.
It also made me ask what other faculties were specifically assigned to “the Son of Man?” And did Jesus talk about himself primarily as such? Or was it a statement to remind all of us that our inheritance as Sons of Man had certain powers and responsibilities even at its primitive level, that it wasn’t just our God-expressing selves that had powers and responsibilities?
I went to the Bible Gateway site online, and did a search on the phrase "Son of Man"…did you know that the phrase comes up 178 times, 82 of them in the New Testament alone? There are only 22 references to the "Son of God" in the four Gospels, 41 in total, all New Testament entries. Obviously there is much research to enjoy here! I’ll let you know the results when I’ve finished with them.
The other major “happening” in my life is the arrival of Mindy Audlin’s latest book, “What if Everything Goes Right?” Wow! I had two copies sent, both as birthday presents for dear friends, but one of them will have to wait…the book is extremely well written, and I’m dying to do a class for our congregation on this…heck, I’m dying to spread this particular concept, period! So stay tuned…
And pray for me, if you would, for my January 31/February 1 interviews!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
For those of you not familiar with some of the basic Unity concepts, this poem probably takes a bit explaining. You see, we believe that God is in everyone, is expressed as everyone. Our responsibilities as expressions of God are not to do as we will, but to do as we should…that phrase from Eric Butterworth’s “Discover the Power” has always meant to me that our responsibility is to do as God leads us, with the understanding that we must always be careful that, in our free will, we choose to do no harm or act in ways not consistent with God’s Goodness. This poem was written as I began to contemplate what being “of God, as God” actually meant.
I’m meeting You on Your turf today.
I know that I am worthy because of You.
I know that You within me
Is equal to anything the world has to offer.
I accept your challenge –
To have my self-worth come from being You
While loving You as You are expressed around me.
I know that every rock and tree,
Every person I meet is you,
Whole and complete, as a different expression.
I live, aware of You Within as well.
Blessed with faith and power,
I go toe to toe with Your Infinite Love.
Yes, I’m meeting You on Your turf today.
Of course, that’s the way its always been, hasn’t it?
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
|Sandstone Overlook, New Mexico|
“Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird, could show you the way back to God, to the Source, to yourself. When you look at it or hold it and let it be without imposing a word or a mental label on it, a sense of awe, of wonder, arises within you. Its essence silently communicates itself to you and reflects your own existence back to you.” Eckhart Tolle
What the renowned Mr. Tolle is talking about is much more than a label for an orange…he is talking about seeing something broader, the acceptance of something for what it is and not based on how we label it. Is a name a label? Of course, and if one stays with just the name, it is a barrier, and a poor sharing of nature. Yes, we must reach beyond the name.
When I look at his specific example, however, I admit gain more pleasure knowing the name of the bird or the stone, and thrill to what it is doing in being itself, how its life is being expressed…and the fitting within of the huge pattern of life that we cannot see just looking at it in the moment without knowledge. Awe, indeed! But then, I have an intense relationship with nature. It doesn’t hurt my recognition of its essence to identify that beautiful song as being the spring song of the chickadee, or listen to the fish slurping their evening meal. I see more, not less, of their spirit this way. Is the condor below any less majestic because he is #73, one of a very few California Condors gaining a foothold in the Grand Canyon area, reintroduced there by man? No, one afternoon a friend and I saw sixteen of these marvelous birds wheeling through the skies above and below us on the old bridge at Lee's Ferry. We were awestruck by their majesty, their splendor, and the recognition of what a special occasion it was to see so many of these endangered condors in a single hour.
A similar phenomenon occurs at Hawley, my favorite lake, when confronted with not just that profound earth feeling of the lake, the water, the skies, the land….but also with the implacability of it, which is very powerful. The land is eternal, uncaring, changing with its own rhythm, even as it thrills us with its beauty and stillness. We are but part of it. In that sense, it really does reflect my own existence back at me, and I am grateful to share it.
And it all brings wonder, peace, and a communion with God on the most primitive level, the pattern that connects everything, the pattern that is woven through us, in us, as us. The pattern that is God expressed.
Monday, January 10, 2011
There are a couple of loose ends from previous posts that I should catch up on with you. One, in particular, was posted from my Burning Bowl experience on New Year’s Eve, where I talked about having a “victim mentality.” I know it probably surprised some of you, and I wanted to talk further about it.
We all tend to play victim whenever we give our responsibility and control over to someone else. You don’t need to have experienced intensive peer bullying or an abusive first marriage like I did in order to feel like someone or something else has control over your life. You express that “victimhood” in lots of small ways, too.
Let me give you an example. I knew from the bullying (they have a name for it now) and my first marriage that I felt inadequate, unloveable, inferior, or just plain wrong. Self-confidence was a daily battle, although in later years I won the fight more often than not. What I glossed over was how in little ways I continued to see enemies everywhere. I would see obstacles in some ridiculous bureaucratic rule which stood in my way, someone important I had a difference of opinion with who could screw my future, or even scenarios I would set up in my head that never happened! Ever plan what you'd say to that nasty co-worker? I think we all do it to some degree.
This stuff isn’t always easy to change, for victimhood has its advantages…sorta. We wouldn’t be this way if it didn’t. We get attention and pity, and don’t have to be responsible, to strive. Its easy, very enticing, sometimes very subtle, but I don’t want to live that way, and in the long run, I suspect you don’t, either.
The key to overcoming victimhood is the basic understanding that there can truly be no one and nothing against us. Through our Christ nature, we have the power to shape our lives. We can change, not perhaps the outer circumstances, but what we feel and do about it. We really do co-create our own lives in partnership with God.
A very, very good and full explanation of this can be found in Gary Simmons’ “The I of the Storm” and “The Art and Practice of Living With No One and Nothing Against You.” I recommend both books heartily. Charles Fillmore spoke of this in his definition of the four “V’s” of levels of self-awareness: Victim, Victor, Vessel, and Verity, where we move from being a victim (“done to me”) to victor (“done from me”) to vessel (“done through me”) to verity (“done as me”). We must travel through these levels of awareness in order to fully express our true nature.
I urge you to take on the journey. Its worth it.
Friday, January 7, 2011
|Photo by Lloyd Pentecost|
Recently, I was very fortunate to catch Unity FM, where one of my very favorite teachers, Rev. Tom Thorpe, was discussing one of my very favorite authors, Eric Butterworth. It’s a great series, and I urge you to “stop by.” There were even clips of Butterworth’s lectures, and it was interesting to hear his human personality through his voice - quite different from the voice of his writings…
Eric Butterworth’s “Discover the Power Within You” was an immense inspiration to me very early in my spiritual journey, and I have enjoyed his other books as well. The recent segment, “Who do you think I am?” talked about the “Christ spirit within,” and how we approach this Allness that is so much a part of us from our often less-than-confident point of view.
The big takeaway for me was his statement, “Christ is the God-possibility within every person.” Wow! That statement in itself frees us to reach for our greatest potential, does it not? What is my God-possibility going to look like as I proceed through life? What if knowing of my God-possibility inspires me to reach for great heights? How can I best fulfill the expectations of my own Christ nature?
Do I dare think that I can personally achieve such greatness? Jesus did, and was. But I’m not Jesus! What is my true potential? Its funny: we look at ourselves with our perceived shortcomings, and fail to miss Jesus’ big message! That we will be able to do all that he did, and do greater! As Rev. Tom says, its one of the portions of the Gospels that is inconvenient to look at, and so we often don’t. Rather let Jesus be the only one with that huge role, right?
Sometimes we have to achieve greatness, even if we don’t think we’re capable. We are an expression of God, created in God’s image. What a shame to let it be wasted!
Lets look at a poem by Marianne Williamson that captures our dilemma – and our strength:
Living from Greatness
Our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we’re powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the Glory of God that is within us.
Its not just in some of us, its in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Monday, January 3, 2011
God speaks to me in a thousand voices
On the trail.
The woods, so silent-appearing
Murmur softly, richly bass,
Each tree and bush adding its note.
I feel them in the soles of my feet,
My heart lies open to them.
I put my hand on the tall snag,
Bare of bark and leaf.
It resonates with immense power,
Thrumming stronger, deeper
Than I can feel from those that live.
It will have its season, too,
And some time future will be
In the cycle of life.
This world is magnificent,
Filled with the blessing
Of holy presence.
Even the rocks know
God is here.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Yesterday’s year-end closing was full of drama, as the storm continued on, with more snow, cold, and whiteouts making travel frightening and dangerous. This morning, the new year dawns bright with full sunlight illuminating the frozen landscape, promise of warmer times ahead.
Our Burning Bowl ceremony last night produced, as it does every year, some personal surprises. Through a recent class at Unity, I already knew that being a victim wasn’t serving me and happily released that through the burning. I'll discuss this in another blog later, as its something that happens to many of us.
What surprised me was how lack consciousness also showed up as something I needed to release. I have always been aware of the “down side” of every situation, and have happily embraced the “What if Up” concept, yet my “lack mentality” is deeply embedded. I have released it through the ceremony, but will wind up chasing down all its expressions for awhile.
I think that’s the way these things work: we get the concept, take a stand, and perhaps a huge step forward, but much of self improvement still takes practice, self-love, and awareness of the ramifications and remnants of the old ways as well. Anything less than an eyes-wide-open look is fooling ourselves.
There is another aspect of self-improvement that needs to be added here. It’s the most important step: replacing the old habits with new ways and a new world view. The White Stone ceremony held in many Unity churches the Sunday after New Years Eve is a good example of how that can be incorporated in a ritual. It comprises, essentially, the search for new thoughts and new behavior that can replace the old. My white stone contained the words, “Freedom. Triumph. Riches of God’s Kingdom.” Those words will be seen by me every day during 2011, and will be guideposts when I find myself losing my way.
If we lived our lives in perfect knowledge of ourselves as the Christ Spirit, Oneness, expressions of God, we wouldn’t have things we need to let go of, improve, and triumph over. In a way, that would be too bad. It seems to be part of our human, this-life experience founded on what we do with our free will that make this existence the full, rounded experience it is. In a way, we appreciate God and our Divine nature more because we don’t always achieve perfection.
I wonder if angels get bored?
Oh, my. Take a deep breath...
My thanks to Michael Fox of Knowth.com for permission to use his wonderful image of the winter solstice sun rising over the Irish landscape.