Last night, I dreamed I was running a marathon. I was going completely against the grain. The race started in the late morning, but I had been running since the early morning alone or with one other person. The runners were supposed to go on one direction, but I was running in the opposite direction. At times, I joyfully hopped along on one foot. Eventually, I took a left turn and joined up with the more conventional runners. Almost immediately, the race became very difficult. It felt as though I was running through sludge and it became hard to breathe. Then I woke up.
It seems that at least half the time, this site is a dream journal, so this morning, I’ll just go with that.
Last night I dreamed I was a maid in a huge, gorgeous mansion. I had previously been offered the opportunity to work in a smaller, more humble abode, but had turned it down because I loved the architectural beauty of the mansion. Soon after arriving, though, I realized that I had trapped myself. There was so much work in this mansion that I could never get it done.
There were rooms upon rooms. The bathrooms were stopped up, with filthy stagnent water sitting in the showers. The kitchen was filled with so much candy and other treats that the cabinents would not close. Candy was spilling all over the floor.
Knick-knacks were everywhere, gathering dust, falling on the floor and becoming broken. Piles of dust and dog hair were on the carpets. Cat litter boxes were overflowing, and the vacuum cleaner was clogged with filth.
The people who occupied the mansion were very spoiled and continued making a mess. They raised spoiled children who only thought of themselves. Stuff was everywhere. Piles and piles of stuff. Nice stuff, but too much. Of course, the people who had all of this stuff were completely miserable, and made others miserable as well.
I decided to leave. I encouraged other servants to leave as well, and we snuck out the door. I think this dream, like some others I have had in the past, is a reminder to keep things simple so I can navigate this world relatively unencumbered by things that are not important.
In another dream, I had the opportunity to travel to the “God Dimension.” It was another world, another reality with different rules. It didn’t feel heavenly, really. I don’t really remember it. What I remember is my traveling partner saying to me, “Hey, you’re getting to hairy. It’s time to leave. If you stay here too long, your body hair will get thicker and thicker.” I looked down at my shoulder, and sure enough, black hair was beginning to grow there. I didn’t really care all that much, but he insisted that we leave.
We arrived back to our world, and tried to unlock the door to the entrance. While in the other dimension, our fingers had thickened, making it too difficult to open the lock, another side effect of being gone. I’m guessing that too much time in other worlds makes it harder to fit in to this one…
1. The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See Richard Rohr’s book was like a breath of fresh air for me. I rarely read books twice, but this one got two readings within a six month period. Here’s a snippet from the book: “In the West, religion became preoccupied with telling people what to know rather than how to know, telling people what to see more than how to see.” This book focuses on the path to a true awakening, as opposed to a mere statement of beliefs. You begin to see Jesus and his teachings in a different — dare I say, even more relevant — light. Also, I love his definition of “sinner”: “The word signifies not moral inferiors, so much as people who do not know who they are and whose they are, people who have no connection to their inherent dignity and importance.” Rohr is my spiritual homeboy.
Speaking of mysticism, it was illuminating to me to read some of the sayings and legends of the early Christian desert fathers who lived around the 4th century. Much different than Christianity these days! Sayings of the Desert Mothers and Fathers.
2. The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life Besides the tagline of this blog, my favorite part of the gospels is the Sermon on the Mount. A huge pet peeve of mine is that it is not taken very seriously by the church today. Emmet Fox breaks it down where you see the metaphysical truth behind every word that Jesus said in his address. Again, the emphasis here is not on right belief, but on authentic spiritual development and growth.
3. The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Perspective on Christ and His MessageThis was one of those books that made me feel as though I wrote parts of it myself. I felt so happy knowing that another Jesus-follower views so many things in the same manner I do. An example: Discussing Philippians 2:5 (Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus), she says, “The words call us up short as to what we are actually supposed to be doing on this path: not just admiring Jesus but acquiring his consciousness.”
Again, experiential knowledge discovered through “intuition and revelation,” not logic and doctrine, is given precedence. She also gives lots of space to some of the logions from the Gospel of Thomas, such as “Come into being as you pass away.” Spiritual transformation is the goal.
4. Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters Series) Bede Griffiths is another contemplative who has a fresh perspective to bring to the table. He builds a bridge between East and West, Christianity and Hinduism. And when both are looked at from a mystical perspective, they have more in common than you might otherwise imagine. Yet Christ is most certainly at the center of it all: “Never has humankind experienced more appallingly than at the present day this sense of separation from reality; the world has become a nightmare from which there seems to be no escape. Where then is the clue to the center? Where is the Golden String to be found? The Golden String is Christ; he is the clue to the center. The sacrifice of Christ is the central event of human history; it is the event which alone gives meaning to life. It was in the resurrection of Christ that the illusion of this world was shattered, and humankind was set free from the bondage of space and time.”
5. Radical Forgiveness: God’s Call to Unconditional Love Brian Zahnd is the first non-Mennonite pastor whom I ever heard interpret the gospels in a manner that promotes peace and unconditional forgiveness. “…the cross is also the place where God forms a new humanity — a humanity saved from hostility.”
6. Essential Sufism Sufism really strikes a chord within me. Reading the works of Rumi and about Sufi beliefs gives me a sense of having come home. I see so much Jesus within Sufism. It has been a joy to learn about it, and I believe that anyone who is interested in following the way of Jesus could learn from it as well. Nevermind the bit about it being a branch of Islam — the gulf between Sufism and radical Islam is so great that it probably surpasses the gulf between Quakers and Westboro Baptist. Sufis have much more in common with contemplative Christians, it appears, and believe that all religions are potential paths to the transformation of consciousness. This book is filled with sayings and stories that go back centuries. Here is an example of the wisdom: “Do not commit yourself to lengthy discussions of religion — such talk only succeeds in making religion a complex and confused matter. God has made religion easy and simple.” As someone who has a pronounced tendency to try to “figure things out,” I get SO much comfort from reading those words.
7. The Essential Rumi Rumi writes, “Be empty of worrying. Think of who created thought.” Every time I read him I feel the Spirit wrapping his arms around me and I rest.
8. In Arabian Nights I happened across this book at a garage sale, and oh what good fortune! It is an account of Tahir Shaw’s time living in Casablanca. While he’s there, the most magical things happen. I was about 50 pages into the book before I realized that it might not be fiction. His father, the Sufi writer Idries Shaw, instilled in him a love for stories. Woven throughout the book are tales from Arabian Nights, and I realized that I am not the only person to find wisdom in fairy tales.
“You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!”
In my latest dream, I wandered around from place to place.
The first place I went was to a fancy hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, where there were many pools of water. I was asleep, and a preacher I knew lovingly set me in the shallow end of a pool, carefully covering the deep end so that I wouldn’t wake up. Once I did awaken, however, I saw that some people were in pools that were almost entirely shaded from the sun. Others were in a pool fed by a glorious, towering waterfall, but when I drew near, I saw that the waterfall pool had been encased in glass, given artificial lighting, and had slowed to a mere trickle. There was an uninspiring choir singing on a stage in front of the waterfall, and a couple of people were watching. It was blah, so I left.
Then I went to a chapel. It was dark inside, and the church had their own bibles in a translation that doesn’t exist outside of my dream. The people were nice enough, but superficial. I told one lady that if “Christians loved as much as they feared, the world would be transformed.” Walking out, I made a new friend. We walked down the street, and I told her that I was glad to have her along because I wasn’t familiar with the city. We made our way to another friend’s house and ate lunch. Then I went exploring in the neighborhood.
I visited a run-down store in an alleyway where a swarthy snake-like man eyed me threateningly as he tried to conceal the dark magic happening in the back of the store. I was afraid, but the friend I had eaten lunch with was there watching out for me. I became even more afraid when I realized that he might judge me for my presence in such a sketchy place, and I went and hid. He came and found me, comforted me and didn’t judge me at all. We walked along together in companionable silence.
Then I went for a boat ride in an underground river. It turned out the river didn’t actually go anywhere but in a circle, like an amusement ride. At the end of the ride, the operator told me that I was worthy of a Koran, and handed me the book. I got out of the boat, and my friend was waiting for me once again.
I felt such angst over all my searching, but my friend simply looked at me with bemusement. I couldn’t believe how accepting he was. I tried to justify why I was exploring all these things, but he didn’t really seem care one way or the other. He was the kind of friend who is there for you no matter how much drama you create.
Thinking about the dream, it was pretty obvious what it was saying about religion. But I couldn’t figure out why I kept dreaming about this friend who kept popping up everywhere. Soon, however, I realized that the friend was Christ. I was running around like a lunatic in this dream, filled with such anxiety over finding the “right” belief, but all the time, Christ was there. (Rumi calls God “the friend,” and I read him a lot, so that helped me to figure it out!)
It was really cool to realize that God loves me no matter what direction I find myself wandering in, and that if I want, I can just hang out with Him, take off my shoes, and not wander — or wonder — at all.
Persecution Is a Sign You Might Be on the Right Track — Fight ‘Da Power
I’m not one to jump on the “Christians are always being persecuted” bandwagon, but in China (as in the Middle East), it is a reality.
I think the fact that Chinese Christians are being persecuted is a good thing. (Don’t confuse this with me liking the fact they are being oppressed.) I think shows that they’re on the right track. The true cross is an enormous threat to existing power structures. The fact that our government embraces the Christian religion ought to tell you something. Christianity in the United States supports the existing power structure rather than defying it.
Christians Don’t Have Rights
I just read someone on Facebook saying something about “standing up for our rights as Christians” against gays, Muslims and atheists who would take those “rights” away. Really? What rights? The right to walk in the power of the Living God? NO ONE can take that away! No one! Jesus never said we should have the “right” to pray in schools, etc., nor did His early disciples. They were put in prison for crying out loud, and kept on keeping on anyway in JOY — not righteous anger over losing some perceived “right.” Wake up, people!! The true power of the Holy Spirit has NOTHING to do with where we are permitted to pray or whether or not Chick Filet is a popular eatery. :-/ And anyway, don’t forget that there was plenty of “prayer” in schools when black children weren’t allowed to attend those schools because of their perceived inferiority. Why fight for the right for what must have been empty, repetitive words?
The Log in My Own Eye
So yeah, this sort of blindness is aggravating me to no end. I wish I felt more love than judgement about this. I suppose it comes from a couple of things: my despair at seeing the world in this state when the gospels so clearly state it could be otherwise if we truly followed Jesus, and my frustration at being told how to believe by Christians who themselves are not living a life of Light. I want to scream, “You whitewashed tombs! You are blocking the WAY!!” I mean, when my church split up because of a vicious marital breakup and I watched everyone take sides while cruelly maligning others, it completely blasted me into the reality that most often, Christianity is nothing but a bunch of blah, blah, blah that doesn’t hold up to the test. And that infuriates me, because I believe the Way of Jesus is the closest we will ever get to absolute truth in this dimension.
But then I remember that NO ONE on Earth really and truly knows what’s up, and that we’re all looking for a leader of some sort to follow. For me, of course, that’s Jesus. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt hopeful that a Christian preacher, yogi or monk had the absolute answers so I wouldn’t have to impatiently wait to be taught by the Spirit. So I need to ditch the anger about other people being on the wrong track, because shoot, we’re all on the wrong track to some extent.
I know I seem fanatical about all this, and I am. I have my reasons, which I’ll likely write about in my next post.
Until the next brain dump, Cheers!
So what are terrorists? Could they be, perhaps, a group of people who go around stoning people who disagree with their beliefs? Who imprison others who publicly voice different spiritual opinions? Can we agree that at the very least, living under this oppression would be undesirable? That we should, perhaps, do whatever it takes to keep such individuals far from our shores?
Wouldn’t it be better to bomb such people rather than risk yet another innocent person getting publicly murdered in a gruesome fashion?
Two thousand years ago, some folks in the Middle East had an awful problem with such people. These folks were called law-abiding Jews. The book of Acts does an excellent job describing the oppression that the early Christians of the day suffered living under these folks. The apostles were imprisoned, whipped and stoned.
In Acts 8:4, the writer describes how Peter calls for retribution after the stoning of Stephen. He talks about how it would be unjust for even a single other innocent to be killed, and how the Christians, as God’s new chosen people, should not allow a group of religious fanatics who worshiped God the wrong way to limit their rights.
I got a little carried away there. That must be out of my Americanized version of the Bible. Here, let me check out a traditional translation. Let’s see. The NIV says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
Hold on a minute.
They didn’t engage the these crazy Middle-Eastern religious fanatics in warfare? They kept on preaching Jesus? Stephen’s last words asked the Father to forgive them for gruesomely stoning him? What the heck kind of book is this, anyway??
Something is wrong here. This book I’ve been reading is anti-American. No God-fearing person could possibly be okay with Middle-Eastern crazies running rampage all over God’s people without putting a stop to it, right? Shoot, these people don’t know what they’re talking about! Didn’t they read the scriptures with all the smiting?
They preached Jesus. What unrealistic nutcases. Totally out of touch with reality, they were. Didn’t they know that they would end up being dead?? That their loved ones would suffer as well? Talk about fanatics!
It’s a good thing that we have better wisdom today. That we can stop terrorism in it’s tracks with a few well-placed bombs. Those folks two thousand years ago had no idea what was up, obviously. Maybe all they really needed were better-developed weapons. Today, there wouldn’t be a need for all that wimpy forgiveness and passivity. They could press a few buttons, roll up in a tank or two, and BAM — problem solved.
That must have been the reason, right? Why else would they have let these terrorists run right over them like that? Weren’t they afraid of DEATH?
Or were they just naive? Conquering terrorism and oppression with nothing but preaching and prayer — LOL.
Or maybe they knew something we don’t.
Just a thought.
I was reading the book of John this morning, and I came across something that hit me like a ton of bricks. You know how Pilate asks the Jews who they want to be pardoned, and they choose Barabbas over Jesus? Well, Barabbas was an insurrectionist — a likely Zealot who had committed crimes against the Roman Empire in an attempt to gain freedom from Roman oppression for the Jewish people. He was a man who was a Jewish nationalist.
What is really, really interesting about this story, however, is the name Barabbas. Bar Abbas, in Hebrew, means “son of the father.” As if that wasn’t strange enough, the original manuscript of Mark had his name as “Jesus Bar Abbas.” The early church father Origen had the name “Jesus” removed from the text in the second century.
So, you have two Jesus’s being held by Pilate. Both are named “Jesus Son of the Father.” One is crucified, one is set free. The one who was set free was the nationalist who fought to protect the national interests of the Jewish people. Does anyone think that perhaps the gospel writers were trying to make a point here?
Barabbas sounds like a noble guy — a person you’d like to have on your side if the country was in trouble. Yet, the gospels clearly show that his approach was not the God approach. The God approach was self-sacrifice. The God approach healed the soldier’s ear after Peter cut it off defending Jesus.
One argument against non-violence that I hear quite often is, “What if an innocent child was being attacked, what would you do then?” While I don’t have a good answer to that question, I can say with confidence that Jesus was most likely the most innocent person ever attacked. Yet when this was happening, He told Peter to put the sword up, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
I’m guessing the gospel writers had a good grasp of the tempting pull of nationalism over the Kingdom of God. After all, it seems right. Yet, we see who the mob persecuting Jesus chose to free — the brave nationalist who would preserve their state and way of life. He must have been a real hero! Jesus the Christ, on the other hand, wasn’t at all interested in preserving national interests or a particular way of life. “Pick up your cross and follow me,” he said.
Christians are being told that “Jesus died for your sins. He went to the cross and was resurrected after three days, and if you believe in him you will be saved.” The thing is, how on earth can anyone believe in Him if they don’t know him? And how can anyone know him if they are following Jesus Bar Abbas?
It’s something to think about.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
If I believe that Jesus actually said the words above, and believe that he meant them and that He was telling the truth, then I have some things to think about. We all do,actually.
Anyone who knows me remotely well knows that I am anti-war. I believe it is a complete hypocrisy that people call the United States a Christian country while we are warmongering gun idolators. In my mind, a truly Christian country would have extended an olive branch after 911, seeking reconciliation. To those who argue that we had to “defend ourselves,” what we did was not self defense, it was retaliation and political opportunism. Self defense is more along the lines of the increased airport security we implemented. Anyway, that is beside the point when your defense is the Most High who created the amazing universe.
But I really shouldn’t be worried about what the nation or, in fact, what anyone else is doing. The focus right now needs to be getting the darn log out of my own eye.
What I am concerned with is digging the roots of bitterness and hatred out of my own heart. Change starts with me, right? In ourselves, in our families. Then our communities, then our nation, and then the world.
Who among us doesn’t harbor animosity toward another person? You know, the kind where if you read on Facebook that they got a bad haircut or gained 50 pounds, you wouldn’t be exactly sorry. Who hasn’t sat ruminating about the unkind words another person has said to them? Or talked about how messed up another person’s attitude and behavior is?
The thing is, we’re not supposed to do that.
At all. I don’t see any exceptions. Jesus never says, “Love your enemy except when they talk trash about you.” He doesn’t even provide an exception for when the enemy murders your entire family. Or invades your nation. Nope. He says, “Be perfect.”
It’s all well and good for us to talk about the atrocities that ISIS is committing, for example. Once again, someone has provided a convenient way for us to get the focus off of ourselves and onto a “bigger” sinner. We don’t get to do that, though. Jesus says, Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Not just ISIS. He means me when I think hateful thoughts about someone who hurt my feelings or behaves in a manner that I don’t agree with.
Jesus knows the nature of reality. In the spiritual world, there is little (if any?) difference between murdering someone physically and murdering them in your spirit with your thoughts and words. Our entire universe is constructed of energy, and thoughts and words have their own energy. They are REAL. We must not hate or entertain the demons of hate.
We should pray for ISIS. We should say a quick prayer for the harried person who cut us off in traffic. For the friend who betrayed us. For the parent who didn’t meet our needs. For the husband who cheated. Everyone.
If we truly believe in prayer, how could we doubt for even one second that it’s more effective than bombs or any of the other fallout from hatred?
Sometimes I feel like life here on Earth is like a video game. When you overcome one obstacle, another one takes its place. And if the obstacle is too big, you can be busted back several levels and have to struggle through some of the same stuff again.
It is fun reaching new levels, though. When you do, just like in a game, there’s all this new stuff to see along with the new things to overcome.
I don’t feel like I’m close to a new level, though.
A few days ago, someone tried to provoke me by calling me an assortment of unflattering names. It felt like a little demon sailed through the air with each word, like a succession of witches on broomsticks. I felt weighted down all day. Sage helped me. He told me I was the most awesome mom ever, and what mom doesn’t live to hear a compliment like that? A couple of the demons lost their grip and fell screaming to the ground. Then his friend told me how much he appreciated something I had done for him last summer. Another one bit the dust, having been poisoned by the surge of blessing I got from this kid.
There’s still a couple hanging out, it seems. One of them is fairly indistinct — an almost translucent gray figure hanging around me like a cloak that could almost go undetected. That is, if I wasn’t hip to the spiritual nature of depressive episodes.
It feels like I had reached a life force of 12,300 in the game of life and got busted down to 8,000 for not having had the skill to cast off the hurt before it dug its greedy claws into my soul in its attempt to plant a seed of bitterness in my heart.
I can’t emphasize it enough. Spiritual attack is real. Paradoxically, however, the key to overcoming it is not focusing on it. It’s much better to choose to focus on stuff you’re grateful for. Then the stuff clinging to you will feel nauseated and go away.
It feels like gratitude builds up your life force, helping you to increase your points so that the next time you get blasted, you’ll have a bit of a cushion.
The thing is, though, the more you play the game, the more skilled you get. There’s always something to learn, even when you make a mistake you’ve made in the past. I’m trying to summon gratitude for each lesson, even when I’m struggling through a level that has a fog of hopelessness along the path that I must strive to see through.
Putting ideas into practice is hard. It’s easy to lay around and whine or indulge in feelings of sadness, but that just has us repeating the same level again ad infinitum, doesn’t it?
Feeling super-glad the the source the game is plugged into never runs out of power.
Note: If you doubt the power of words, I challenge you to watch this most excellent documentary.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
This sounds like a nice enough Bible verse, right? Not really. If we fully recognize what Paul is saying here, and put it into practice, it will be one of the most difficult things we ever do.
If you have a stronghold in your life, you are enslaved to whatever it is that has power over you. For many people, the strongholds are things like anger and a desire for revenge. I think these feelings reside in every human soul. It is normal to have them, but once we decide to follow Jesus, it’s time to take out these strongmen and crush them.
I was reading and wish so very much that people would just GET IT. Whenever someone suggests that we should love our enemies to the point of embracing non-violence, you always get people coming out of the woodwork who say things like, “What if someone breaks into your house and tries to kill your child?”
I can understand this. Here’s the thing, though. First of all, the Holy Spirit is immensely powerful and can give us the wisdom in that moment to fix the situation. I love how Antoinette Huff handled this school shooter. Second, if the person DID kill your family, remember that Jesus destroyed death:
…it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:10
In other words, Jesus put the lie to death. We are immortal souls! God has the whole thing under control. No worries.
Think of life as a dream you’re having. So what if you or someone else wakes up a little bit before you had set your alarm clock to go off? Not that big of a deal, really. I know this sounds flippant, but keep in mind that I am not 100 percent certain that my older son is alive. This knowledge keeps me SANE.
So we don’t have to hate or kill our enemies and continue the cycle that the satan would like to see perpetuated. I refuse to participate.
Of course, it’s easy to sit here and talk about unlikely circumstances or wars that I am at a personal distance from. It’s another thing altogether to talk about REAL enemies — the people in our everyday lives who slander us, provoke us and do other things that make us feel like a spiritual knife is entering our heart. Our normal instinct is to STRIKE BACK, or at the very least, engage in a good complaining session about the person.
But Paul says to take captive EVERY THOUGHT and bring it into obedience to Christ. So that means that if I choose to complain to my husband about someone who has hurt my feelings, denigrating them, that I am NOT being obedient to Christ. Yikes.
So what to do? I refuse to give myself a pass on the grounds that I am “only human” because I’m really trying to transcend my current level of consciousness.
The way that I take such thoughts captive is to implement Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:44, which says to “pray for those who persecute you.” So, whenever I am tormented by a yukky thought about another person, the only thing to do really is to pray for them. And boy do I not want to do that. But you know what? When I force myself to do so, I feel a wonderful peace. And if the thoughts return the next day, I do it again!
I don’t pray that the person will see the error of their ways or anything like that. What I pray is that the person will be most richly blessed and experience God’s joy, peace and love in their lives. In other words, what I want for myself. And you know what? I get what I pray as if I had prayed those words for me rather than the person I have struggled with!
This stuff is really really hard. And it’s not fun to do. And I don’t do it as much as I should. Some thoughts manage to get through in spite of my efforts to kick them back into the darkness. But it’s a journey that I want to undertake. I hate the darkness and don’t want any part of it, really.
The knowledge of God is that we are one, and how we treat our brothers and sisters is how we treat ourselves. I want NOTHING to come between me and this knowledge.