Friday, November 21, 2014

Be the Surfboard

I always tell my Tribe kids, “Life comes at us in waves.  You can be either driftwood, or you can be surfboard.  Be the surfboard.”  Since there’s always a steady stream of new kids and adults participating in Tribe, this gets quoted fairly frequently to the newcomers.  But even the veterans need reminding.  

Being the surfboard is a lifestyle choice.  It’s not a concept that is readily digestible in its full form.  Superficially, it’s fairly self-explanatory.  Don’t be driftwood.  Be something better.  It’s inspiring in a pithy way.  But there’s something much more profound upon which to deeply meditate here for there are many layers of nuance in the choice to BE the surfboard.  It’s an intention.  And not just any intention.  It’s a covenant with yourself and the Universe to take the situations of your life—good, bad and ugly—and find a way to not only survive them, but thrive because of them.  

Being the surfboard is a commitment to having faith that there is a win-win solution to every challenge even when you can’t see it.  It’s a choice to be obligated to an idea that you are loved even when you feel alone, cared for even when you feel abandoned, and held even when you feel unlovable.  

For me, as a person living with adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it would be very easy for me to look at my ADHD and see it as a learning disability, a preventative to sitting still, and a host of other “symptoms” to plague my life and prevent my “normalcy.”  I can look at my disorder and view it as an uncorrectable lack of order—a dis-ability—or I can choose to look at it in a better way.  I can make the decision, before the knowing all the facts, that I will be exalted in the process of self-discovery.  As if God is just waiting for me, in love and anticipation, to get with the program.

A beloved cousin of mine once told me a story about a close friend of hers who is an ADHD specialist in California.  Parents of ADHD children come to her in despair that their child is not normative.  But she says to them, “Congratulations!  You’re the future parent of a CEO.”

Children and adults with ADHD are not normative.  And there is no reason we should be viewed that way, or worse, be medically treated with a goal of normalcy.  We have our unique specialness just like everyone else.  We have busy brains that are capable of a style of non-linear, conceptual thinking that is vastly different from normative brain structure.  And in this we are quite gifted.  If we can learn to surf it.  Too many of us are driftwood.

I have not “conquered” my ADHD.  I do not completely understand it yet, and my limited understanding is largely based on medical theories which are sometimes grossly mistaken, outdated, even dangerous.  The field of ADHD research may be taking leaps and bounds in its clinical settings, but it is largely without my knowing it.  Those cloistered findings take time to become part of the larger cultural reality and they are not benefitting me right now.  

In order to surf my ADHD without the benefit of a complete understanding I have to have a degree of faith about it.  Regardless of your personal challenges, you need faith to fill in the gap of understanding.  Faith helps you “fake it till you make it.”   I need to believe that I am perfectly made, exactly as I am.  Inherent challenges are not flaws of creation, they are not birth defects, they are not moments when God was asleep at the wheel, they are opportunities for advancement.

Being a non-linear thinker sometimes makes it a challenge for others to work with me because I skip around from point to point, non-sequitur to non-sequitur, enough to make a linear head spin.  But I also see a beauty of form that others often manage to miss.  I see ways of coming at a solution which defies linear logic.  I don’t merely think outside the box, I don’t see a box at all.  Some would say my way of thinking is foolish, impractical, ungrounded, or worse, unrealistic.  That my head is in the clouds and not on earth.  I daydream, I imagine, I fantasize, I envision.  These are not the pastimes of left-brain, logical, analytical thinkers.  They are the pastimes of visionaries.

We far too often take the ten pounds of shit we each of us get in life and let them weigh us down.  Especially because we are regularly informed by our culture that they are bad things; things for which we deserve pity, not empowerment.  It’s all but impossible to counteract these cultural memes and popular notions.  We trust the people we love to tell us, “Here take this pill and then you’ll be normal just like me.”  We take the pill and wait for it to happen.  It won’t.  There is no pill you can give to a non-swimmer that will teach them how to surf.

I do take medication for my ADHD, but I don’t consider it a panacea that will cure me of all my cultural irregularity.  That pill to me is a physical symbol of a larger, metaphysical solution; one that I need, with prayer and faith, to gently coax out the intuitive ideas and solutions which will help me, over time, to not only survive, but thrive.  A belief that I am both worthy and perfectly made is essential to opening the conduit between God and myself.  A conduit that will carry into my consciousness the intuitive solutions designed especially for me.  On some etheric level, they may have even been designed by me.  I have only to tap into them to discern their presence.

That’s quite a leap for some, I’m sure, but intuitive thinking is not the only way to arrive at the path that will lead us from from driftwood to surfboard.  Logic is also available.

So, let’s be logical for a moment.  Do you want to be a person who lives in the space of your challenges, or do you want to be someone who sees challenge as an opportunity?  Do you want to be miserable and hopeless, or do you want to feel empowered?  A living cell needs challenge in order to mutate and adapt.  A cell needs a jolt or a shock or a sudden, potentially catastrophic change in its environment to launch a healthy adaptation process.  That process and the code to adapt is embedded in its original created structure; the potentials for successful adaptation are already present at its creation.  Cells know this and are unchallenged by the culture around them when its time to manifest change.  When they need to be something else, or need to perform a slightly altered function, they do so without complaint, without fear, and without retaliation for that which made them need to change in the first place.  They don’t waste time suing someone or something for compensation, they merely respond to change in a way that not only ensures their survival, but actually makes them better than they were before.  Now, THAT is intelligent design!

In this, with faith, our challenges become our teachers.  They become the deliverers of our new paradigm, our new way of being.  When we make the decision that something which challenges us is actually manifesting our positive evolution, we become the vacuum of solution.  We literally create a gravitational pull of answers toward us.  The more we believe the answers are there for the taking, the more the scales are removed from our eyes to see them lying at our feet where they existed all along.

How many times have you pondered and worried over a problem only to realize the answer was staring you in the face the whole time?  How much effort did it require to remain blind to it?  How much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth did you have to endure before you finally just let go?  How bad did it have to get first?

How many times have you fought change?  Carl Jung said, “What we resist, persists.”  Stop resisting.  Start surfing.  Start seeing beauty in challenge and in the processes that help us adapt.  Start by giving thanks for your body, your mind, the processes of your cellular structure.  When you are ill, your body has not betrayed you.  It is trying to adapt for your betterment.  It is recalibrating.  It needs help.  It needs faith.  It needs you.  It needs you to hold its hand and believe in it.

Make a radical choice to believe that everything happens for a good reason and then act on that assumption and see what happens.  Be wildly open to possibility.  Be rebelliously optimistic.  Be brave enough to look at others with similar challenges and know that you can adapt when others have not.  And then be their teacher.  They need you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Like a Good Neighbor...

What does it take to be a good neighbor?  Are we good neighbors?  Do we think of what the view of us from over the fence might be like?  It’s a challenge to be neighborly.  We are so focused on our own busy lives and families and interests that to be neighborly too seems an extra burden.  I can remember living in New York City and having no idea who was living on the other side of my brick walls.  People were there, living their lives only feet away from me.  Having private moments and difficult conversations, committing lies, or having dinner alone, all in a space less distant than that between two parked cars.
I don’t regularly quote the Bible, but Mark 12:28-31 is pretty good. It has two parts to it.  The first is about our relationship with God as the Jews saw it, the second is my favorite, it’s about our relationships with each other.  The text reads:  

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that [Jesus] had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’  The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  

It’s all about relationship.  No commandment is greater than being in relationship.  But the crux of this quote is, you love yourself.  How do you rate with yourself?  Do you feel worthy of love?  Do you feel worthy of comfort?  In the general sense, how you think about yourself is potentially how you think about your neighbor.  Be good to you. Be good to the person next to you.   
Let’s take a nice cleansing breath and see yourself standing on the side of a beautiful little road.  It winds up in both directions to your right and left.  It rises and dips like a ribbon and eventually swirls out of sight, but you know it goes on for a long way, toward destinations yet to be experienced. 
Visualize your feet resting on the soil and let the earth give slightly beneath you, drawing you in.  Making you feel welcome there.  Listen to it sigh and settle around you molding itself into what you would have it be, so excited you decided to stop and call it home.  Soon a stranger with a small bag and a smiling face comes by and admires how pleasant your little spot is and your heart jumps when you realize they have decided to become your neighbor.  You are so glad to see them.  Such an honor.  You are so proud of yourself for choosing this spot.  And you wave warmly to your new neighbor.  You smile knowingly as the earth gives slightly beneath them too.  You know this person will be your friend.  Picture that imaginary friendship and the good it brings into your life.  Sit for a few quiet moments now in the warmth of that feeling.  Draw it out and wrap it around you like a blanket, take a deep breath, and just sigh
May our neighbors know us and love us.  And may we, in respect and mutuality, return 
the favor threefold.  So may it be. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, Nov 9 Service - The Unauthorized Gospel of Judas

Sunday Service - November 9, 2014
First Parish Church Fitchburg
Wil Darcangelo, officiant

Opening Words 
And so here we are. And it is right that we should be here.  It is right to be here now.  Give yourself permission to be truly present.  Worldly cares and concerns will still be there when our sacred time is over.  Let's take the time to fill the well together here.  Let's open our hearts to the solutions for the challenges we have.  The worldly concerns which wait outside will be better served by our devotion to these brief sacred moments we have with one another right here, right now.  

Meditation - reading followed by a short meditational silence 
Celebrate when you are disappointed.  I always get champagne when I’m really, really disappointed by something that hasn’t gone like I wanted to or when a sudden change comes along I wasn’t expecting.  I think I started doing it because I prefer to defy my anxiety and depressive tendencies by my actions rather than medicate them.  I’d rather attempt to view the gaping hole caused by the absence of whatever I was expecting to come as an invitation for the wonderful something that’s on its way.  Not a gaping hole of disappointment, but a portal for what’s truly best for me to come.  

How many of us have lost out on a job only to get an offer from an even better one?   Would it have hurt to raise a glass when you lost that first job?  It might have made it suck a little less.  Would it be so bad to transform some disappointments into hopefulness?  

Sure, take your time absorbing the change, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to grieve.  But when you’re ready to accept it and decide what’s next, start by being grateful for the process of your life.  Start by giving thanks for what’s to come.  Ponder your faith and ask yourself if you’re the type who believes you’re not alone.  

Do you believe in God?  If so, do you think God is there for you?  If you don’t believe in God, just be grateful for your intellect and creativity which will help guide you to the solution. Regardless of how intelligent or creative you think you may be, be grateful for whatever you have.  That gratitude will guide you to the solution.  Faith in oneself is just as good as faith in God.  Some would say it’s the exact same thing.  I tend to think I’m not alone.  The God I believe in is one who helps when asked, and sits there loving me quietly when I don’t think to ask.  Which is often, of course, like the rest of us.  

Let’s reframe our way of thinking.  Let’s take a stab at being creative with our grief and loss.  It is not irreverent to bless the fact that every cloud has a silver lining.  Why not celebrate it?  If the Universe provides based on our intent, what favorable messages might we be sending when we raise a glass to possibility?  Take a deep breath and think on that for a few moments...

(Moment of silence followed by chime)

May we find the opportunity to discern the blessings within our challenges.
May we know peace in the midst of disappointment.
May we may we know truth in the face of deception.
And may the glass we raise be filled with love, justice, compassion, understanding, and faith. 

Today I’d like to talk about the relatively recently-discovered Gospel of Judas.  It was found in the 1970’s but not protected or translated until after 2000.  The National Geographic Society published the translation in 2006.  For those of you who don’t know or remember, Judas was the infamous disciple who betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin priests, setting in motion the events that led to Jesus’s crucifixion and reported resurrection.  As the “authorized” Biblical version tells us, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and later hanged himself with guilt.  Throughout the centuries the name Judas has been synonymous with betrayal, evil, and shame.  But the unauthorized Gospel of Judas tells a very different story.

For the record, I am not here to authenticate the Gospel of Judas.  I am not going to attempt to validate the text as either truth or fiction.  Like the Bible, it is whatever it is, provable or not.  These are texts which we may look to for inspiration or food for thought.  They are historical reports and open to interpretation as your own faith dictates.  

I have chosen to discuss this text because it turns on its ear the long-held notion that Judas was evil for what he did.  The Gospel of Judas makes the suggestion that Judas was, in fact, Jesus’s favorite disciple and the only one with whom he shared the real truth about the Kingdom of God on Earth.  The text reads:

Jesus said [to Judas], “[Come], that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, [in which] there is [a] great invisible [Spirit],

which no eye of an angel has ever seen,
no thought of the heart has ever comprehended
and it was never called by any name.”

Jesus told Judas about the creation of Adam.  He told him about the Cosmos, Chaos, the Underworld and those who rule it.  He taught him about the creation of Humanity and the destruction of the wicked.

And when it came time for the foretold crucifixion, Jesus then instructed Judas to betray him, presumably that he might bring about the will of God through his actions.  He told Judas that he would be reviled for his act of betrayal and that he would suffer much grief at the hands of others.  This must have sent a chill up Judas’ spine since Judas had already told Jesus much earlier in the gospel that he’d had a vision of the disciples stoning him to death.  But Jesus also told him, “You will exceed all of them.  For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”

The canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that Judas was acting on his own selfish behalf in turning Jesus over to the authorities.  That it was an act of greed and resentment.  That Satan had entered him.

But the Gnostic Gospel of Judas tells a story about a favored disciple who reluctantly accepts the role of betrayer at his master’s request.   You may believe what you will about it.  The point here is not the veracity of the story.  It’s the suggestion that things may not always be as they seem.

So what might we do with this story?  Some would say, of what particular use is a gospel of any kind to a Unitarian Universalist?  Especially since we usually acknowledge that we are not in a position to validate any of it?  We do not hold the Bible to be the unassailable Word of God any more than we choose to revile any text that was not given its gold stamp of holy approval by the early church.

I lift up this text for one reason: I ask it to examine for us the disparity between our understanding of hardship and the blessings of challenge and disappointment.  Christian culture has reviled Judas for two thousand years while it has also acknowledged its belief that the crucifixion and resurrection were all part of a big cosmic plan.  It contradicts itself wildly in its choice to vilify Judas when according to all stories Judas is the one who put that holy plan in motion.  

So, again I ask, what might we do with this story?

Earlier I suggested to you that we should learn to celebrate disappointment.  Why?  Because I believe that on some level things happen for a reason.  I believe in the Law of Attraction and that what we think we become.  To celebrate disappointment is a way to not only calm ourselves in the midst of grief, but to send a message that we believe better is coming.  That we not become mired in our own struggles, but turn our eyes toward the solutions to them.  And actively attract those solutions to ourselves in the process.

I have had some deep challenges in my life as have most of us.  And I am tempted to resent them.  I am tempted to be angry for what happened to me and to blame all those who made it happen.  And punish them.  Yes, I am tempted.

We live in a society that sues first and asks questions later.  We incarcerate based on a sense of revenge and call it justice rather than make an assumption that things happen for a reason.  Sometimes that reason is because we have let a problem get out of hand rather than deal with it.  We push mental illness under the rug and then shout foul when someone acts out in that untreated, uncared for state.  Sometimes it’s through no known fault of our own that bad things happen, but we then live in a space of anger, hostility, and vengeance.  What will that get you?  Our culture tells us we must defend our honor.  But where is the honor in that?

If you are a person who believes in the Will of God or that things happen for a reason or that some good might very well come from difficulty if only we can choose to see it that way, then Judas the Betrayer becomes something more.  

What are the Judas moments in your life?  Who are the Judases in your life?  When something challenging happens to you, how do you react to it?  Who or what is your authority?  Is God your authority?  Love?  Justice?  The Bible?  Who or what tells you how to react to life’s challenges?  

Let love be your authority.  Hold your life challenges up to the yardstick of love and see how it measures up.  Hold a challenge in your lap and love it and see what love tells you to do with it.  Don’t punch it, don’t strangle it, caress it, and see what happens.

Be open to the possibility that if life’s challenges have served you well, even if on only one single occasion, it might just happen again.  When you despair and don’t know where to turn, give thanks for the solution that is already out there waiting for you to discover it like soul mate you just haven’t met yet.  That solution is out there walking the earth, knowing the sun and the air, waiting to meet you.

Be open to thinking differently about the world and what has made it the way that it is.  Be open to what it may yet become because of the challenges it has seen.  And be open to what it might be that saves us all from ourselves.

Pray with me, if you will.  Eternal and loving Source, give us the wisdom to see the beauty and perfection in change, and in challenge.  Teach us what you would have us know.  Teach us to be strong with a strength informed by love, not revenge.  Guide us toward peace and comfort and help us to be the witnesses of our own salvation.  May it ever be so.

Go now in peace.  Go forth and live the life you imagine.  Free from resentment and anger.  Filled with love and good will.  Shake someone’s hand today and bless them with your kindness and understanding, for they probably need some good news, too.  Amen.