Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, November 18, 2017 - The Mechanics of Forgiveness

This is a big one. It hits us below the belt, forgiveness. It feels like giving in, sometimes even like losing. We preach forgiveness because we don’t know how to practice it. If a smoker tells you not to smoke, are they still right?
We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the mechanics of forgiveness. How does it function? How is it achieved? What is its purpose? Is it a goal, or a state of being? Why are we taught about it?
Much of western spiritual practice hinges around the idea of forgiveness, of letting go, being at peace. We think the act is limited to forgiving other people for things they have done to us or our loved ones. If I asked you–are you a forgiving person?–your first thought would likely be of someone who has wronged you and how you responded to it. So, are you forgiving of other people? Is that all we are expected to forgive? Others? How do we learn to do that?
In Christian, Jewish and Islamic scripture we are taught that God forgives us our sins. We are also taught that God knows us deeply enough to already understand exactly why we do the things we do. It knows our hearts. Is there a line where God ends and we begin? How can that be?
We are taught to ask God for forgiveness. Is that really the end of it? We are being encouraged to participate in an act of verbally expressing our remorse and acknowledging our wrongdoing as well as its consequences. It takes practice for a civilization to learn how to acknowledge wrongdoing. Rituals assist us in developing relational practices. God says to us: Look to me first so you can develop the practice of learning how to truly see others. Learn to see others as I see them. Learn to love each other as I love you. Learn to forgive yourself as I already forgive you. Nothing you ever do could make me stop loving you.
If there is a God, is It trying to teach us how to recognize harm and heal it? Is this part of the practice of saving us from ourselves? Is this part of the practice that eventually disrupts the cycles of violence in our world? Is the real reason we are taught to ask God for Its forgiveness of our transgressions so that we can learn to forgive one another's?
Now that we’ve been surfing the cosmos, let’s come back down. How do you feel in traffic? How do you feel about your health? How do you feel about your boss? How do you feel about commercials? How do you feel about the news? How do you feel about not flossing?
These are the real classrooms of forgiveness. These are the micro-aggressions we maintain against ourselves and others and things which silently erode our sense of peace as well as our ability to transmit it. It is in the minutiae of our lives that we best understand. We are our own best parable.
Forgiveness is a life practice. It is something meant to be practiced all day, every day. Yet do not be tempted to connect it with forgetting. We are not at all being encouraged to forget. That is a lie repeated by those for whom it is much more convenient when you don't remember their wrongdoing. Forgiveness is about growth from knowledge and experience. Forgiveness is the practice of wisdom. We either forget or we forgive. There is no and.
Notice how you feel. All the time. Wonder about it. Use your imagination to reach for a higher thought. That person tailgating you might really have to pee. What happens if you pull over rather than slow down? Have you lost something or gained something? Wonder about it. What does it feel like to not get angry in the first place? From what have you just saved yourself?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, November 11, 2017 - What Is Prayer, Anyway?

    Why are we encouraged to pray? I know why religion says we should do it, but what’s the deeper reason? The reason that informs the doctrine. What’s the reason underneath religion’s advice? What is the intrinsic human need, or capacity, being addressed here?
    Not long ago I saw someone requesting prayer on social media for the victims of a recent tragedy. I see it often of course, especially lately. But on this one occasion, several people reacted angrily. They said prayer doesn’t help, God doesn’t exist, if prayer worked so well we wouldn’t need it now, etc. I understand where they’re coming from. Prayer often feels like talking to a wall. And it’s easy to blame God, or claim It doesn’t exist, because why would a so-called loving God allow for harm or illness or tragedy in the first place? Suffering is viewed as proof that God either doesn’t care or doesn’t exist.
    It’s worth noting that some of us have a very hard time with the loaded word, prayer. For some it has deep connections with an abusive experience of religion. Of being coerced into performing a religious act with which we have no understanding or connection. Or with the apparent futility of ritualized prayer we have struggled to memorize. Some are reminded of their anger with God for ignoring them. They have been led to conclude by the culture of praying itself that they didn’t believe hard enough. That they’ve failed. It’s implied that it is their own fault their prayers weren’t answered.
    A famous quote from scripture is “Ask and you shall receive.” But on what levels of our consciousness are we asking and receiving? I would think all of them. If scripture is hinting at a truth here, what is it? It can’t be as cut and dry as ‘ask and you shall receive’ or else I’d be a millionaire right now and my best friend would still be alive. Am I a failure at prayer?
    That’s where the flaw in the thinking comes. It must be that prayer doesn't work like that. We must be thinking of it too literally. Or following advice about it which is now outdated.
    In the metaphysical world the act of prayer is described through the philosophy of the law of attraction. Simply put, we tend to attract what we are putting out. It has a fairly logical ring to it. Scripture might look at this also as ‘you reap what you sow.’ Business would say ‘you get out of it what you put into it.’ Essentially, the mindset we maintain informs the view of our surroundings as well as what comes to us. Or what we allow to come to us.
    What happens when you decide something? When you decide you are going to have a job that makes you happy, or when you decide to get out of debt. What happens? I do not despair at the seed below the surface simply because I cannot yet see a green shoot. Still, I water. I do not give up. We spend so much time in a state of lacking confidence that we don’t even realize how often we sabotage our desires by giving up on them too soon. In my experience, when I’ve made a definitive decision about something and remain steadfast, I begin to notice slight changes in not only my attitude, but the attitudes of the people around me. I notice little coincidences and synergies that appear to align with the decision I’ve made.
Is this the act and answering of prayer? Perhaps.
Prayer may have nothing to do in particular with the existence of a deity. It may be that the belief in a deity gets us out of the way of our own self-doubt because we don’t realize how powerful and magnificent we have been created to be. We give credit to “something higher” than we are. As part of a learning curve, that’s fine. But we are sophisticated enough to realize now that we are a part of the great “I Am.” Not separate from It. As such, we should frame our desires accordingly. And believe one thing, if nothing else: We have been created to thrive, and given the power to accomplish it.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hopeful Thinking- Saturday, November 4, 2017 - Recalibrating the Protest Movement

            We need a new approach to protesting. The word protest comes from two Latin words meaning public witness. It originally meant to make a public declaration, a solemn vow. But over time the word eventually took on a new meaning as a label of discontent. To protest came to mean a declaration against something, rather than for.
How did this happen? It would appear to be the polar opposite of its original intent. Even the prefix pro- implies to be in favor of. Some online sources say that the change occurred around the mid 1750s. But Martin Luther and others launched the protestant reformation in 1517. He was definitely protesting the Catholic Church in the way we currently define the word. Did they themselves refer to what they were doing as protesting, or did that come later? At what point in history did the word change from declaring something positive to resisting something negative?
Mother Teresa is famously quoted as saying that she would never attend an anti-war demonstration, but would accept an invitation to a pro-peace rally anyday. On the surface they appear to want the same thing. But they aren’t asking for the same thing. One is a declaration in favor of peace and frames its desires along those lines. The other is an unwitting cosmic request to perpetuate the systems that need more war to exist. It appears Teresa understood the true origins of the word protest, but more likely she religiously understood what Star Trek fans also know: resistance is futile.
As hard as it is to accept, to change something you must put it on your lap and love it right where it is. Love is what transforms, not hate. Not resistance. It seems I’m inviting white supremacists and tyrannical dictators for a good, long hug. Not exactly, but close. We need to rewire our thinking regarding the transformation of our world into the state of peace we expect from it. Excluding people and silencing voices—especially the ones we don’t like hearing—is the reason we are here in this uncomfortable, even painful, moment of history. We have resisted people along with their ideas and have painted ourselves into a corner with flawed methodology.
Of course our culture is built on a history of resistance. We have succeeded to a degree in displacing old ways by so-called protesting them. We have thrown tea into Boston Harbor and we have painted signs upon signs blaring our resistance. But our relative success has been in spite of our methods, not because of them. How much more peace is available to us if we could only recalibrate our thinking?
There is a church group I shall not name which publicly demonstrates nationwide God’s so-called hate. The communities in which they demonstrate react in a variety of ways. Sometimes with violence. But sometimes they do what world scripture actually teaches, they love their enemy. They surround hate with love. Literally. Protesters—in the original sense of the word—publicly declare their love and project it toward those who fester in hate by encircling the church group with signs and flags and songs of praise and love. They pray for those who are blinded by their fear of others and who twist scripture to justify their acts of hate. They love them right where they are.
Does this work? Maybe. Probably. But surely it prevents hate from expanding on that particular streetcorner any further. And for those who pro-actively test-ify in this way, how might they feel at the end of a pro-test such as this? Are their spirits lifted or are they bandaging their wounds? Because we all, those who love and those who hate, testify as an act of personal salvation always. We speak to save ourselves, to unburden ourselves, to be heard. This need is universal, remember that. But which thinking brings more love into the world?
We must listen honestly to those we would rather silence. They are always telling us a truth of some kind. The hateful few of our age are angry and afraid because they have been silenced. Their education has been cut, their jobs have disappeared, their healthcare has been used as a political pawn. And they have been manipulated by their own history. How else are they expected to react? What other tools do they have but their hate? Pray for them. But more importantly talk to one. Listen to one. You don’t have to validate their positions to validate their humanity. Listen to them. Not because they are correct in their hate, but because hate is only a symptom of deeper wounds. Read between the lines. Heal them where they are.
Send love to those who hate you. They just might get it.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sunday Message - October 29, 2017 - 500th Reformation Sunday: Shift Happens... Every 500 Years

Meditation
    How shall we know world peace? How will it come when it does? Do you have faith enough to believe that humanity will survive our worst fears? Do you believe that we will survive this age? Think. Do you believe world peace will eventually come? If you do, how might it happen? If we were to use our imagination to write a story about the peace of this planet what would be our storytelling device? How does corruption become unprofitable? Because it will, you know. How do the refugees find a safe haven? Because someday they will, you know. How does hunger end? How does pollution end? How does the world step off the self-destruct button? Because it will, you know. We will know peace someday. We give thanks and honor to that future age. Namasté.

Message: 500 Years
Do I have your attention? Because this is going to be a journey. Let’s peel this back like an onion.
On what levels are we aware of things? What do we consider consciousness? We know about our conscious level. The ‘hi how are ya’ level. The things we perceive through our physical senses and conscious intellect. What we are most of us comfortable calling “reality.” We are also aware of our subconscious level, although we only indirectly experience it. We then see the autonomic level, our heartbeat, our breathing, our digestion, things that operate entirely on their own, but upon which we can also make a deliberate, conscious impact. We can hold our breath or make our heart race by a thought alone. And breathe.
We know that within us there are systems beneath systems which operate together and give us the freedom to animate our bodies. We each have an entire digestive community of trillions living within us. Two sets of species, humanoid mammal and its digestive microorganisms, have co-evolved together over millions of years. Our gut biome alone is a cosmos unto itself. A literal Whoville of gigantuous proportions. Does no consciousness exist at this level? Because that’s really the question. Is our concept of consciousness so rigid that there is no room to imagine it? Are we being too arrogant? We see that things are connected but are left to imagine what binds them. What’s holding all the tuna together in this sandwich anyway?
And then what of the levels we might spiritually categorize as energetic? That feeling we get when we know someone. That spark of recognition, awareness. Or how we feel when we go for a walk in the woods? Think about that feeling for a moment. The freshness of the air, the particular noisy quiet. The green. The scent. More importantly, the way it makes us feel. What is there on that level that we simply aren’t yet seeing? Science has no instruments for it yet. But we suspect that one day there is something here to be seen. Perhaps it’s quantum fields. What might exist between humans and trees about which only our eyes are deceiving us? Will we find consciousness there too? When fields overlap there is always a response. What fields are overlapping from which we often feel the effects but have no idea their origins? There is more to us than us. Let the implications of that sink in. There is more to us than us.
And if there is more to us than we can perceive, on which layers of our total consciousness do we really make our decisions? Is there a place among the strata of our various levels of consciousness where most of the work is done? Now go deeper. On what level do we make the majority of our decisions as a society? Is it on the committee level in conference rooms? Or do we work together on other levels of consciousness? On what levels are we really, really planning for the future of humanity? Because when we look at history, we see plenty of correlations between what we need and what has been prepared for us, both synergistically arriving together on time. We see major world inventions being thought of at the same time in multiple places across the globe simultaneously. The telephone and the airplane among them.

Trees in ancient forests communicate with each other. They share nutrients among themselves, swapping them back and forth according to seasonal need or infestations, even across species. They communicate and share resources with each other through the layer of fungi beneath them. This is proven. A vast network of fungi throughout the entire forest floor connecting every living thing above it.  Do the trees know about the fungi or do they simply make unwitting, symbiotic use of it? Does the fungi know of its purpose? Not just to the trees but the entire planet? It could be argued that this system is a fractal model of consciousness. Or perhaps it actually is consciousness. Out of view, but omnipresent. Thinking of it this way, just what is the interdependent web of all existence? What layer is that on? What is the fungi layer beneath the surface of our perceived reality and what is accomplished upon it?
Do we know each other beneath the surface? Do we collaborate with each other behind the scenes? Are we like actors in a play having a friendly conversation backstage while we are pretending to kill one another for the audience? Upon what level does the majority of our consciousness exist and operate? I want to know. Because it doesn’t feel like I consciously know as much as I subconsciously know. But if what I consciously think is reality is actually only the tip of the iceberg; if there is more to me than me, I can let go. I can leave a lot of it for the rest of me to deal with. The part that probably has more information. Why should I try to lift the world with only my pinky? It’s enough to consciously decide that I will do my part to enlighten the world and then assume that all of me—especially the parts about which I know nothing—are on task, 27/7 toward my soul’s intent.
Is this God? Is this behind the scenes collaborative network what we’ve been calling God? Have we been naming the interdependent web of all existence, the layer upon which the likely vast majority of our consciousness operates and works in our favor, as God? Not some separate and forbidden apple on a tree, but the fully pervasive layer beneath it all? Is the argument between theism and atheism ultimately about the choice of words we use to describe the same thing? Our deepest unity? Probably not. But I bet it’s part of it.
If we are collaborating behind the scenes, what about? When we ask for change on the thermostat, what action is taken in the boiler? It becomes a vast chemical collaboration resulting in your warm bum, and your empty wallet. Because there is always a give and take. We like to be warm but we still have to pay the bill. We ask for change, while knowing change is an absolutely terrifying process. Have a look at the top ten list of stressors and they’re all about change. Moving, divorcing, finding out about Santa. Humanity would never consciously ask for such upheaval. Not consciously.
But what if the conscious level is not where the majority of the decision-making is done about HOW to accomplish that change we are asking for on the surface? The thermostat is not part of the chemical process, nor the engineering of the water heater. But it sets them into motion by its intent to warm. It ignites a process begun long before the thermostat even knew it wanted to change.

When we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and proved to ourselves that we could finally build the ultimate weapon, the red button was born. Humanity changed that very moment. My parents grew up hiding under their school desks to prepare for an atomic blast from which their desks could never protect them. It was from the hearts of those who hid under their desks in the 50’s that the peace movement was born. When we asked for peace in the 60’s what system, what greater system, was set into motion? Or, might have already been co-occurring all along and we simply moved into alignment with it? What did we plug ourselves into when we started to insist that We will get along. We will have peace. We will do whatever it takes for peace. We will get to know one another. We will buy the world a coke.
We know what happened on the surface. We know that as the atomic age was followed by the peace movement we decided to radically get to know one another in that moment. And now we have the Information Age. The Age of Emergence. When did that begin? The first email was sent in 1969. But the systems required for that to happen had been co-evolving with humanity beginning in the early 50’s. Less than a decade after the atomic bombs were dropped the process toward our eventual peace had already begun. A process we are still in today and will continue for some time. But notice that without our conscious awareness, the tools we would need to get to know one another grew up alongside us. If world powers had any idea what humanity would do with the world wide web they would have kept it to themselves. But we have it now. We know we are not alone now. And it’s only a matter of time before we complete this uncomfortable expansion we are suffering under to emerge better than before.

When we prophecy, into what are we dipping for our information? Into what network are we peeking? Are we purposefully changing ourselves from behind the scenes? Are we whispering into our own ears? Is what we call prophecy merely an awareness, on the most subconscious of levels, the backstage conversations we have been having all along? Everything from the Mayan calendar to Nostradamus to the Broadway musical Hair has told us this will be a time of great shift.
This is the question we ask ourselves as we reach a pretty big anniversary of the last time history suddenly expanded in this way. Symbolized in Christianity by the day Martin Luther publicly shamed the Catholic Church for selling real estate in Heaven exactly 500 years ago next Tuesday. A day we now celebrate, for even democracy itself has ultimately developed from that great moment civilization realized that authority is questionable. But the Renaissance was already underway. Carving a new awareness in the human mind. Cultivating it, preparing it, readying it for the moment when a new idea would be introduced. All the tools needed to expand and express ourselves were already being developed, namely the printing press. Luther didn’t invent the Renaissance. It had been brewing behind the scenes getting ready for him and others like him who would change the world with it.
Every 500 years or so, humanity gets a little bombshell dropped on it. An historian will tell you better. But I can say that 2500 years ago the Buddha was born, ushering in the concept of a deeper relationship with the peaceful self. Next was the birth of Jesus, with a relational practice for humanity. Tools to help save us from ourselves. Then, five more centuries later, as the Roman Empire fell and humanity was emerging from the dark ages Muhammad was born bringing with him a message of relationship with God. 500 years later the Church split into eastern and western traditions sending shockwaves throughout the world over which humans hold supreme religious authority. Fast forward 500 more years to the Renaissance and Martin Luther and the Reformation. And now today we are in an age referred to as the Great Emergence. Where does that cycle come from?
How much of us is out of view? How much of us, what percentage of each of us as individuals understands exactly what’s going on here? Is it more than the part of us which doesn’t understand? Because that’s the only part I have to work with. How do I use my intellect to make use of or take comfort from a system I don’t understand? That’s the ultimate consideration of faith. We can’t see the fungi layer.
If there truly is more to us than us, what can we do but try to take some measure of comfort from it. What can we do but act as instruments of peace? What is our responsibility to the world?
Let us pray.
Great source of all that is, thank you for the cycles of expansion and growth. Bring us a measure of comfort now as the world rearranges itself once more. Give us hope that the upheaval we see is part of a larger process toward peace. And grant us courage fed by a deep, intuitive awareness that all truly shall be well.
Repeat after me if you will:
May I find peace within myself.
May I see the patterns of the universe and take heart.
May I be an instrument of peace.
May I be a comfort to this brand new age.
And in the name of love we say, Amen.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - Shift Happens

    We have to accept the fact that within the span of a single lifetime the world of spirituality, religion and tradition has changed utterly. Faster than any shift has been accomplished in literally thousands of years. Our heads are spinning. Everyone older than forty can attest to the difference. Many younger as well. In the span of only a few decades our freedom of religion has grown to include the words ‘and from’ as well. This is a good thing. Some may argue it’s the best thing that has ever happened to organized religion to date.
    In Fitchburg it was once compulsory by law to attend—and tithe—weekly. If for some very good reason you were unable to be present in church, not to worry. The city provided well-wishers with wicker baskets to walk the streets on Sunday morning and collect your offering.
    It is soon the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther tapped his protest of the Catholic church to the doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral and the protestant reformation was officially begun. This second great schism of Christianity eventually gave birth to the many denominations and expressions we see today including Baptists, Congregationalists, Seventh Day Adventists—the list continues into the hundreds. Luther and his contemporaries gave humanity the permission and the tools to question supreme authority. And for the last five centuries we have changed the world with it. It is a revolution that has ultimately begotten democracy itself.
   Every 500 years or so world spirituality makes a great shift. It is often noticed by our western culture through the lens of Christianity, but these grand evolutions were not exclusive to only one faith or culture. Martin Luther’s protest sat against the modernizing and far-reaching backdrop of the Renaissance. Today, 500 years later, we are in a time which has been referred to as the Great Emergence.
   A second renaissance has now occurred with the advent of the Internet in the same way the printing press accomplished it 500 years ago. Information is power. It connects us and our shared experience. We are changed by it every time. Each successive layer of new awareness we reveal about our neighbor changes every single thing about our society from our laws to our DNA. It is a terrifying process for humanity each time. And people do terrible things when they are afraid. Pray for them. Comfort the afflicted as we afflict the comfortable.
   Our children have twice as many nationalities in them as did our parents; twice as many cultures and languages and facial features. The lines between white and black and brown have all become a bit more beige than some people are comfortable with. But that is the very indicator we should be looking at for comfort regarding our progress toward the inevitable unity of all humanity.
The same is true of church. The most inclusive spiritual thinking is plural.
   Now that church is no longer compulsory, we are free to express our spirituality in any way we see fit. Sunday morning or no Sunday morning. We are free to explore and learn about other cultures. In the process, we ultimately discover what is intrinsically human about their various customs, beliefs and rituals. That is the prime directive of all systems of human faith. Look for God in the places where all religions overlap.
   So what becomes of Sunday morning church? We see the numbers declining, but does that mean we are no longer spiritual beings having a human experience? If we are not, then we never were. But if we are, then our nature has not changed simply because the customs have. We still crave spiritual community. We still need the freedom, and most importantly the opportunity, to explore things together which are larger than ourselves.
   For me Sunday morning church is a communal, contemplative experience. A time when my heart both rests and fills. But Sunday morning is only one component of church life. Committee work, visioning for the future, even basic maintenance are opportunities for mindfully practicing the teachings to love one another, even when you don’t always like one another. It is a classroom for the world outside. A place to practice the practice.
   To collaborate, to listen, to remain humble, to remain open. These will always be the intrinsic spiritual needs of humanity. We will always devise ways to express them whether church continues to exist as we know it or evolves into something new. We will be fulfilled by life. We insist.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - Cut Yourself Some Slack


  People often think I’m quite a busy person. I do tend to give that impression. Although I’m certain it’s more indicative of a lack of efficiency than actual accomplishment. Looking busy isn’t the same as getting stuff done. People see me driving all over town in my ramshackle red minivan and they don’t realize the reason they keep seeing me is because I keep forgetting where I’m driving. The only truly busy thing about me is my mind.
    I remind myself, however, that with my busy mind comes both good and less-good. The people who love me remind themselves the same, thankfully. But that’s how we all remain loving and hospitable. We choose to accept both the good and the less-good, even the bad sometimes in those we love. Yet we don’t grant ourselves the same grace or mercy that we often give to our loved ones. Or worse, we give it to no one.
    I was at the box store the other day chatting with my friend Linda. She asked me how I survive it all. My answer was to play a little hookie every day. It’s the slack I cut myself on a daily basis to balance out the general stress of a busy life, efficient or otherwise. I don’t check out of life, but I do try to keep my priorities straight. Keeping things in perspective is a spiritual task all to itself.
    I actually try to think about what is best for me while simultaneously aware of who I am, who I love and what my calling is. I include it all together in  an attitude I think of as ‘mindful selfishness.’ I think about what I need in order to be the most healthy, loving version of myself. Sometimes it’s hookie, sometimes it’s cookie. But it’s always being mindful to take a regular and intentional step back from the heavy expectations I place upon myself. I try to remember that not only do I sometimes deserve respite, I also sometimes deserve reward. Hence, the cookie.
    We think we are selfish people, and in many ways we are, but we often feel pretty guilty when we think of ourselves first. Even when we need to. However, we must think of ourselves in relationship with the ones we love. Not them first, not you first. We are not islands. We are boats in a harbor. When we think of only ourselves, that is quite different than thinking of ourselves first.
    The third option is thinking of everyone first. It’s the hardest because it starts with us, but with a mindful awareness of how our actions affect others. It’s not my boat first or your boat first, it’s the harbor. I place my energy on the needs of the harbor and I end up personally with the best result. But so does my neighbor. So do all the boats in the entire harbor. Even the ones I don’t know personally. Even the ones that don’t deserve it. Not my call.
    So as an act of greater faith toward bigger accomplishments I play a little hookie everyday. A few moments here and there. If a meeting gets canceled I don’t fill it with something else. Even if I have a huge list that day. Because the fact of the matter is, the world will get a better version of me if I cut myself a little slack on a regular basis. If I recognize that just because my soul doesn’t growl like my stomach, it doesn’t require less attention.
    I try to remember that I must not resist my nature, but work with it. I must be forgiving of myself. Compassionate to the wounded parts of me and the way those parts take over sometimes. I need to remember that radical hospitality begins with being radically willing to know myself, warts and all. I endeavor to have faith enough to know that when I make myself better, I am a better neighbor. I am equipped to be a better human. And if I play just a little hookie everyday, I am a much better servant to this world.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 14, 2017 - Ah, to Belong

Those that know me find it hard to believe, because I appear to be quite an extrovert, but I’m actually a fairly self-conscious and shy person. Especially in situations where I don’t personally know anyone. It has always been quite difficult for me to accept invitations. But I noticed a long time ago it was holding me back from life. It was holding me back from a potential inside which I believe each of us has.
I was hiding my light because I was afraid. Not an unusual amount of fear, just the standard stuff. But that’s the tenor of fear we tend to disregard because it sits just below the surface largely not bothering anyone. It does its work quietly. Hinting that it would be so much nicer to just stay home tonight. Thanks anyway.
           Many years ago I made a secret pact with myself. I made it with God also, but we each have different responsibilities in the deal. My end is harder to keep. I promised to accept invitations. I asked God to keep them relevant. Don’t wash me in a tide random invites, but carefully select them for me. I asked to be guided and communicated to through the character of the invitations themselves. I assumed I might glimpse a bit of my life’s secret purpose by observing the various things to which I was being invited.
           An invitation is a sign of acceptance. It’s a welcome. Our part of the bargain is accepting them. Make a pact to accept the welcoming of others and have faith to believe the invitations themselves might suddenly start to become more specific, more targeted. Even revelatory. A theme starts to become noticable. Do you believe that God is still speaking to us? It’s not going to arrive via email. Be open to what the Universe is whispering to you.
There’s a reason for this. It’s about belonging. Belonging is the mayo. It’s what makes the sandwich tasty. The catalyst. It’s the difference something that is merely food and something that is nourishing. Unless we are willing to be brave we will rarely find it. Belonging is the root of human happiness, prosperity, even survival. It is the completion of our instinct to bond with others. It is equal parts anthropological and spiritual both. Our bodies and souls each crave it. Stop resisting.
The world today is rife with a lack of belonging. More specifically, it is loaded with a culture to exclude others as a way protecting ourselves. We determine who is not worthy so that we know who is. And then we belong to them. But that’s not to say when one door is closed we don’t continue to seek belonging from whatever is available. Violent gangs would not exist if they didn’t cultivate a sense of family and belonging as a recruiting method. Likewise if their members had felt a sense of belonging elsewhere in their lives, they might not have had to turn to the gang culture to fulfill their nature in the first place. Humans do human things always.
Where do we exclude ourselves? From what are we holding ourselves back? How much baby are we throwing out with the bathwater? Accept invitations on purpose. Especially random ones. Break the cycle. As you get stronger, help others to do so as well. If you have faith enough to believe that we are not alone, not unloved, not purposeless, then start acting like it. Connect with the fullness of what it means to be human by existing in a state of welcoming and hospitality. It will help complete the circuit of your humanity. It will reveal the character of your true purpose over time. It will heal the world.
As the teachings of all world faiths begin to welcome one another, they will see their similarities and forget their differences. They are so few by comparison. The same is true for each of us. All religious teachings are ultimately relational practices meant to systematically introduce us to one another, to create belonging and thus, security, salvation. They are literal behavioral systems designed to initiate the act of hospitality among us at God’s behest. They are invitations. Accept them. Together they have a character visible in them. Together, their existence draws us a picture, vague at first, but clarifying as the ages proceed. Step back and look. We already belong to one another, all of us. We need only open our eyes to what is already true.