Awakening

Dawn in March

 

It was still dark when I woke up, more than an hour before my usual time around sunrise. I sat in the darkened living room my curtains open hearing a few sparrows chirping in anticipation of the dawn. In dark living room with my coffee in hand, I wondered why I woke so early.

Than, I saw the glowing on the eastern horizon. I went outside to see sky turn pink, orange with a hint lavender, impossible to describe but breathtakingly beautiful. Apple blossoms in the pink dawn

The glowing-pink background gave the apple blossoms an amazing tint. It did not last long, only a minute, but long enough for me to capture this image. By then I knew why I had wakened so early. I was called to witness this glorious moment.  A few sparrows chirping  heightened the magic of the moment. Awake my Soul, goes the song.

Our days in body and spirit begin with awakenings. Awakening is mysterious. We don’t know why or when it occurs before the alarm clock goes off. In fact, awakening is being roused from the habitual, routine and the ordinary into something thrilling, stimulating and  new. Suddenly, your senses come alive, seeing and hearing something new and inspiring. A mother feels the  quickening of her unborn child. quickening

Three times I experienced it. Words cannot describe what it was like to become aware of life moving within me. Quickening of life and waking up to the life within share in divine mystery. Physical life and spiritual life have in common times of sleeping and waking up. The Psalmist understood our soul’s journey from darkens to glorious light,

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth. Psalm 57:7-11

In Awakenings,, Robin Williams, portrays  the real life account of Dr Oliver Sacks who  worked with people afflicted with  encephalitic lethargica, known as sleeping sickness, and their awakenings after decades of being asleep. That glorious sunrise, like  Lenard in the movie, I realized how magical waking up can be marvelous but may not last long. It is difficult to hold unto the excitement of being fully aware. The moment is gone, the inspiration may fade, chores demand our attention and the day moves on. Yet, the memory lingers captured in pictures are prompts me to seek out wakefulness. My reflections on “awake” lead me to the verses where the Psalmist pleads with God,

22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression? Psalm 44:22-24

Job’s dark reflections are anything but glorious, his words speak of the soul’s desperation in the midst of utter misery,

But a man dies and is laid low;

Satan Going Forth From the Presence of God

Satan Going Forth From the Presence of God

he breathes his last and is no more.

11 As the water of a lake dries up
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
12 so he lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, people will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.

13 “If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
and then remember me! Job 14:10-14

Jesus warned his disciples to “stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—“  Mark 13:35 “Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 Gardenof  Gethsemane by Radojavor

Staying awake, synonymous with being alert, being on the lookout.  is hard to do especially when we are weary. We read in the Gospels that the disciples could not stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane,  “…. Jesus went back to his followers and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “You men could not stay awake with me for one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation.”” Matthew 26.

I am left wondering what stirs us to wake up from a comfortable slumber. How do we suddenly see with new eyes and hear with new ears and feel life within us? Swedenborg describes waking into spiritual life after death “as though we were awake; all our senses are as alert as they are when we are fully awake physically-sight, hearing, and strange to say, touch. These senses are more perfect than they can ever be during physical wakefulness.”

The last frontier probed by Psychologists, human consciousness, addresses human awareness of both internal and external stimuli. This can refer to spiritual recognition, psychological understanding, medically altered states, such as the wakeful state brought on by dopamine, administered to Dr. Sack’s patients. Getting back to what happens when we have an awakening, an “aha” moment; we are transformed, somehow changed and motivated to make changes in our life. We become more ourselves than we have been before.

The study of consciousness is a thriving field with many different theories. I am at my very best in the morning before I begin my daily tasks but that is not what awakening or quickening is about. New purpose, new way of being, insights are only in a potential state and do not come into our consciousness until the moment of “awakening”. I knew I was carrying a baby several months before I actually felt the ”quickening”. The sensations I felt confirmed I was carrying a new life. That is awakening, it is a knowing beyond thinking, it is more real than anything we can think about.  Awakening may usher in a new level of consciousness. Many psychologists researched various levels of consciousness. In Psych 101 I learned about Sigmund Freud who described three facets of the psychic apparatus: the unconscious (id) or instinctual facet, the preconscious (ego) or rational facet, and the conscious (superego) or moral facet. Many other theories and descriptions of levels of consciousness take either the medical or pathological perspectives to determine consciousness using the Glasgow Coma Scale,

Glasgow Coma Scale

Glasgow Coma Scale

lean toward ancient Indian Vedas texts take a view of unified consciousness, with a key difference in the purpose of human ascension from stage to stage. The ultimate being to attain pure knowledge and intelligence. The Seven Chakras

chakras describe the gradual progress toward the spiritual level. Surprisingly, the Vedic vision of consciousness in stages resemebles the developmental stages in the groundbreaking work provided by Jean Piaget.  He provided e foundations for understanding the evolution of the brain’s capacity throughout the human lifespan.

Beyond Jean Piaget, Erik Erickson and Lawrence Kohlberg developed theories about moral development in stages.

Piaget, Erickson & Kohlberg Stages of moral development sumary

Piaget, Erickson & Kohlberg Stages of moral development sumary

Piaget, Erickson, Kohlberg brilliant researchers in the field of human development did not delve into the field of consciousness nor did they shed light on how sudden bursts of inspiration or insights occurr  in human consciousness. James Fowler

a developmental psychologist at Candler School of Theology, proposed stages of faith de development throughout the lifespan.

In his seminal work, Stages of Faith though closely related to the work of  Piaget, Ericson and Kohlberg regarding aspects of psychological development in children and adults, Fowler steps into the world of spirituality. However, in spite of dabbling in spirituality, Fowler remains firmly in the idea that everything happens in stages and barely touches upon the sudden, unexpected incursion into the unexplainable transformative experiences.Fowler's Stages

Understanding human development in stages is perfectly logical and reasonable because we experienced being small barely walking, beginning to read, learning our multiplication tables, a new language or new skill from our early years to our present stage in life but stages of development do not explain how we can jump into a whole new way of being. Suddenly aware of inward realities. Being awake to new realities does not fit into stages because it is another level of consciousness and this level of consciousness is not measurable by any test.

We can be more watchful and alert to receive new insights. Prayer and meditation tried and true pathways for Spirit’s presence. Mystics and saints appear to have access to higher levels of consciousness and awareness of the spiritual realms. Hildegard von Bingen, (1098 –1179), a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess and  a visionary was one such a person .  From all accounts, Hildegard experienced “awakenings”, spiritual rousing throughout her lifetime. Her works of art and music are all inspirations from the spiritual realm.

Hildegard's awakening

We do not have to saints to  become aware of all that is in and around us. We only have to ready to experience consolations, insights and inspirations.  We must be awake to the stirrings of Spirit within. Spring is the season to tune into the new life around us.

Palo Verde in bloom

Palo Verde in bloom

Taizé Worship

Taizé Worship

The Taizé worship is not simply a style of worship but humble way of connecting to the divine involving the whole person in prayer chant. The distinguishing marks adapted from Taizé include simple melodies, repetition of phrases, prayer, and silence and responsive readings. Repetition is not a new phenomenon nor unique to Taizé. The use of repetitive prayers and responses are vital part of Christian spirituality and liturgy (for example, in the Jesus Prayer; Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me). What is unique to Taizé is the adaptation of the repetitive form to simple musical lines and core biblical texts that can be sung by a whole assembly of various nationalities, languages, and denominations.

Circle Community joins with Rincon UCC located on 122 N Craycroft Road (just N of Broadway on the E side of Craycroft) Tucson AZ 85711 for a special Wednesday Evening Worship.

Taize Worship

Taize Worship

 

Service is at 6:30 PM.

 

 

 

 

One of the chants sung at this Service  Bless The Lord My Soul

Find out more about the origins of the  The Taizé Community, an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. It is composed of more than one hundred brothers, from Protestant and Catholic traditions, who originate from about thirty countries across the world. Taize France has become a site for thousands of people from all countries who gather at this unique community to renew spiritually in a confused and chaotic world.

Taize worship invites you to join with others who seek a revival of Spirit.

Spiritual Nourishment

Becoming

In our courtyard orange and grapefruit trees bear flowers and fruit at the same time. It is amazing and wonderful. The scent of the orange blossoms draws me outside to delight in the warm sunshine and the fragrance perfumed air. Flower & Fruit

The purpose of the oranges and grapefruit is all there at the same time; shiny green leaves, white flowers and bright orange and yellow grapefruit. In most other plants and trees, we see the progress, from seed to seedling, leaves on a growing tree, flowers and eventually the ripening fruit. LifeCycle of a FruitTree

But Citrus are evergreen trees grow all year-round. Though they produce flowers in the spring in AZ, blooming now, the long season required to produce the sweet, juicy fruit  we love so much means that the fruit I see on the trees began last year and is still ripening at the same time the new flowers are blooming.

These oranges and grapefruit are always becoming on the same tree. The flower knows what it is becoming.

Oranges & Flowers

This sense of knowing who we are is the essence of becoming, it is the journey of self- discovery and the fulfillment of our special purpose. Agnes Sanford, (1897-1982) was an unconventional Christian mystic and a healer. In her biography, Sealed Orders, she chronicles her gradual realization that she was commissioned by God to be a healer. She preached and lived her commission. She became a world renowned healer.

Agnes Sanford' Autobiogropy - Sealed Orders

The Lenten season compels us to find new meaning for our lives. Like the spring season it can be a time of spiritual flowering and bearing fruit. A time for being lead from an inward knowing and becoming. If we choose to be in the process of growing spiritually, this is the season for continually seeking and finding God’s presence in our daily affairs.

It is good to reflect on the origins and traditions of Lent. The Gospels do not mention Lent so we can presume that the origins of Lent did not begin with them. The early Church Fathers initiated a time of preparation for baptism, . (See Baptism as Illumination in the Early Church — St. Justin Martyr, Justin Martyr’s apology)

By the early third century rituals and practices of preparing for baptism on Easter Sunday morning became the accepted practice for becoming a Christian. The three stages of preparation for becoming a Christian were established by the third century. The first stage of coming to faith involved an examination of the circumstances under which the convert came to faith, the testimony of sponsors, and the convert’s promise to live as a believer. I was surprised by length of the second stage:  a full three years of cathetical training. And the third stage also surprised me by its rigorous demands. More examinations (under auspices of the bishop), to determine whether the candidate had lived piously and done good works, took the form of a full week of daily exorcisms, services, prayers, fasting on the final Friday and Saturday, and an all-night vigil of prayer and Scripture reading leading to baptism at Easter dawn. However, by the latter part of the fourth century the church re-defined the preparation or training-time for converts to forty days before Easter. That was a relief. Over time, the Lent season, became a preparation and re-dedication to Christian life and associated with “giving-up” worldly things, denying self. Baptism

Today, Lent is practiced in a variety of ways in different ways Christian denominations. Growing up in a Hungarian neighborhood, I often heard my Catholic friends ask, “what did you give up for Lent?” For me, a Baptist and later a Swedenborgian Lenten “giving up” held little meaning.  To be honest, I felt a little superior and even critical of my friends. “Giving up” something delightful for Lent, like going to parties seemed hypocritical since they could hardly wait for Easter to resume their pre-Lenten activities. In those days Lent made no sense to me. I was not into reflection but now, I question the negative emphasis of Lent. If my focus in Lent is on self-denial, then I should choose something worth giving up; like being critical and just as surely I should not make Easter the day to return to my old habit of being overly critical.  I seek an affirmative Lent, resolving to do some useful and kind acts and doing them with gladness. In this way I am becoming more Christian, bearing both flower and fruit. Then, when Easter comes, I will discover a new love for being kind and patient growing in me. According to the Apostle John, Jesus encourages his followers to become branches on the vine “bearing fruit”, one that always bears fruit.

The beautiful orange I pluck from the tree is juicy, fragrant and sweet through and through. We are meant to become good fruits through and through, inside and outside.  Swedenborg in his Heavenly Secrets, reveals a deeper meaning of “fruitful”, one that I cherish. I feel blessed to be nourished by these sweet fruits. Like the fruit I enjoy this spring, this Lenten season, I dedicate myself  to becoming a blessing like the fruits I enjoy so much.

Fruits and flowers

Fruits and flowers

 

About Bridges

Wherever I walk or happen to be, anything may beckon me to take a picture. Sunrises and sunsets still catch my eye but lately, trails, pathways and bridges call to me. I began to ponder why I was so attracted to these images. The answer came quickly and with certainty. During my student life, papers, exams, not even intense discussions with peers compare to my life as I am experiencing it now. Now, is real. Everything before was a rehearsal without costumes on an empty stage. All the studying, discussions and reflections have not prepared me for the real life I live now. I am on bridges over uncertain terrain in between boundaries headed toward the unknown region in myself.

Carolyn Myss in her meditations in Entering the Castle ,Entering the Castle inspired by Teresa of Ávila begins with the Entry Prayer
The Interior Castle“I cross the bridge into the silent bliss of my Castle. I close the drawbridge and forbid all outside influences from entry into this holy place that is my soul. Here in my Castle, I am alone with God. Under God’s light and companionship I discover the depth and beauty of my soul. I embrace the power of prayer. I open myself to divine guidance. I surrender myself to become as a channel for grace” Teresa of Ávila reveled to her community the inward journey of the soul. Carolyn Myss takes a closer look at this journey in Entering the Castle, the journey one takes to be closer to the Divine in our innermost being.
Bridges allow us safe passage way over turbulent waters, deep chasms, and rough terrain toward new places.
vcm_s_kf_m160_160x120 While living in the East Bay area I delighted taking pictures of the Golden Gate while my husband drove over the bridge.

Several years later, in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Bay BridgeI was doing the driving and taking the pictures. Bridges serve as crossovers between boundaries. Take the beautiful bridge over the Rio Grande linking the US and Mexico. HomePageTraffic Bridge

Bridges are also metaphors for crossing from one state of life to another one. Like the bridge between two countries allowing passage between the borders of two countries, a bridge serves as a passageway between one to another stage of life.
I am walking such bridges now. Though crossing the Golden Gate and the Tampa Bay Bridge was always an exciting experience the ones I “walk” now are arduous over uncertain and unfamiliar terrain. I take comfort in the seemingly trivial account of Jacob passing over the Jabbok, a river, the first border leading to Canaan in Genesis 32, according to Swedenborg, this passage over the boundary river signifies the beginning process of living the truths of faith not just knowing them. These steps are taken towards the soul’s ultimate goal: to enter a heavenly state signified the promised land of Canaan. Robert R. Leichtman in Building The Bridge to Heaven: Connecting with the Light, explores this same process. He suggests that the spiritual passage requires us to learn from problems which force us to gain wisdom. Building the Bridge to Heaven: Connecting with the Light
Linda Shearer painting, Moon Bridge represents my present state of in betweeness.
Thank you Linda.
Moon Bridge

Peacable kingdom

Peaceable kingdom

Peaceable kingdom


What a preposterous notion; wild beasts, carnivores sitting with their natural prey without devouring them and a baby petting a leopard who seems to like it. Edward Hicks, the man who found his spiritual home among Quakers who are known for advocating peace not war, portrays just such a preposterous concept in his collection of paintings.
I loved these paintings long before I learned about the artist. I wondered what inspired Edward Hicks. A devout Quaker, his inspiration came from the Scriptures, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11 unfolds the Peaceable Kingdom.
Edward Hicks' rendition of Isaiah 11:6

Edward Hicks’ rendition of Isaiah 11:6


I remember learning about Quaker attitudes toward violence from the movie, Friendly Persuasion I watch it every time it is shown on TMC. The acting performance of Antony Hopkins adds to the movie’s appeal.
Today, we are surrounded by pictures of violence. You cannot avoid seeing violence committed against men women and children shown in every media. We may have become jaded or perhaps we tune it out. Yet, we long for a peaceful world. How can we bring it about? Is there anything we as individuals can do to stop the tidal wave of violence in far off place in our communities and in our homes? In 1661, George Fox, made his declaration against wars and strife to Charles II. His declaration is known as the Peace Testimony. He is reported to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Quakers and people holding to non-violence look to Jesus at the time of his arrest when one of his companions cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, He said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Quakers and many Christians do not believe in taking up the “sword”. Read more about it here: http://www.quaker.org/peaceweb/pdecla07.html. See more about Quakers and peace
I am awed by one woman’s effort to stop violence in her community. She saw children captured and forced to become soldiers, her neighbors raped, violence and brutality destroying her community and she acted to change the course of history in her Liberia. That woman is Leymah Gbowee a social worker, she began a movement with other women by praying and signing in a fish market. Leymah Gbowee was able to bring about a change in her community. I am captivated by these brave courageous women. Surely they were lead by Spirit to Pray the Devil Back to Hell Learn more about this movement here Pray the Devil Back to Hell
I am inspired by all the men and women of peace. But I am confused by the events a few Sundays ago when Pope Francis delivered a message from his window The fate of the Doves of Peace is in doubt. In the company of two children, he urged a peaceful resolution to the violent clashes between protesters and police in the Ukraine. He released two doves, long held as symbols of peace, above the crowds. The two doves were attacked by a seagull and large black crow. The shocking incident recorded by many, went viral. It is not natural for human beings to live in peace and harmony.
Peace must be chosen over violence over and over again. Lions and leopards cannot stop hunting smaller animals. It is how they survive. We human beings do not have to devour each other. Killing, brutalizing, raping terrorizing another human being or condoning and supporting such behavior is a choice for evil. Perhaps the women in Liberia have the answer; praying the devil back to hell. Praying for peace, living peacefully begins with me, with my words and my actions with the choices I make every day. What do you say?

“Eye for an Eye”

I learned many things about the ideas and people who influenced Dr. Martin Luther King this past week.
Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Mahatma Gandhi’s influence Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr. adopting “passive resistance” and “non-violence” as grounding principles for his civil rights must have solidified during his visit to India in 1959. I was surprised to learn that Gandhi’s attitude toward British oppression was inspired by the Russian Christian Anarchist Leo Tolstoy’s writings particularly the book first published in 1894 in Germany but banned in Russia, The Kingdom of God Is Within You

Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You

Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You

As I delved a little deeper, it made sense that Martin Luther King a Baptist Minister inspired by the non aggressive attitudes Jesus taught during his life on earth would be inspired by Gandhi who lived those very principles of non-violence. Gandhi not only preached non-retaliation he lived it, he put his own life in jeopardy to stop the violence that threatened to destroy the brand new India following British withdrawal. Martin Luther King showed the same kind courage facing racial hatred and violence. Acting on the impulse to take revenge, is our first instinctual response. The “fight” response feels good and righteous. “Eye for an Eye” is deep in our psyche. “We ought to compel ourselves to resist evil”, says Swedenborg in his seminal work, Heaven and Hell “and to do good as of self but at the same time acknowledge that it is from the Lord.” Hitting back, firing the gun and dropping a bomb may be our first response but it never leads to peace; it only fuels more violence. Resisting the impulse to take revenge is the way to peace and reconciliation. Mahatma Gandhi’s defining moment is captured in this clip. He refused to validate the raging impulses of his people burning for revenge. Eye for and Eye
How do we respond to the violence suffered by millions of people across much of the world? Are we able to see our own violent tendencies and resist them the way Jesus taught us? Do we hear his words, “it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:38-40.
Living a non-violent way of life is as much counter culture today as it was in the time of Jesus. But today, great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and others’ exemplary lives of non-violence can inspire us to live in a way that does no harm to others. The film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”
Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

documents a peace movement called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. Organized by a social worker Leymah Gbowee, the movement started with praying and singing in a fish market. Leymah Gbowee organized the Christian and Muslim women of Monrovia, Liberia to pray for peace and to organize nonviolent protests.

Checking-in

We are accustomed to “checking-in”, a task we perform to get our boarding pass on the flight for which we have purchased a ticket. It’s an easy task to check in on my home computer and print my boarding pass for my departing flight. However, away from home, checking in and especially printing a boarding pass can be a bit more complicated. Airlines offer apps to check in on your smart phone. Never the less, you must check in at the security gate, a process that can be tedious. Signing your name, getting your packet at a seminar and name badge is another familiar activity. Arriving at a hotel, checking in at the registration desk or picking up a prepaid ticket at the admissions desk involves checking in. All check-in involve some form of identifying yourself.
checking-in
Nowadays, many of us check-in with our friends on Facebook. In fact, Facebook invites you to “Share how you’re feeling or what you’re doing.” Most support groups counselling groups begin with an invitation to share your feelings and what is happening with you In an individual counselling session the counselor or therapist may start the session asking you to share about your present circumstances.
Group session
A far deeper checking-in is a part of prayer, a going inward process. Though formal and public prayer could involve a checking-in with God, individual prayer by its very nature involves going deep into our innermost self. A prayer that begins with checking-in involves a humble request, “Search me, O God, and know my heart,” Psalm 139:23. Checking-in involves putting aside pride, ego and above an attitude of knowing our needs. Surely God knows are needs. More than we know ourselves.
Checking-in at the onset of prayer is identifying yourself, who are, where you, how are you feeling right now, what bothers you. Checking-in part of prayer is like going through customs at an international airport. Not only will your baggage be checked, but you will be asked questions about what you are brining into the country. Checking-in when you pray is like that, only you are the one going through you baggage asking yourself, what am I brining into prayer today? How do I feel? Is there anything I need to declare? Asking these questions is the invitation for God to search into our hidden places to illuminate the dark places in our hearts. “[T]ry me and know my thoughts try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me,” urges the Psalmist further in Psalm 139:24.
Prayer Prayer should not be a list of our requests but rather going into your inner room, closing the door and praying to our Father who is in secret, who sees our secrets. Jesus taught, “when you pray, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:7-13
Listen to The Prayer
Our busy lives can become a barrier to spending time in prayer. Like the airlines apps, prayer websites can help us check-in with our soul’s needs.
The Angel of the Hour is my favorite prayer website.Angel of the Hour
I love closing my day with Compline Compline

Inventory

Do you remember the big signs across store windows in January, “Closed For Inventory”? Nowadays businesses rarely close for inventory. Inventory is on going and often done at night. Taking inventory is a necessity for if you own a business.

inventoryb

Inventory

 

You must take great care to manage and account for your inventory, because it’s the source of your income. The proper collection of taxes, depends on an accurate assessment of your sales revenue, inventory value and cost of goods sold. Although inventories are often done on a laptop nowadays, still, someone must make assessments and create action plans.

While I took inventory of my cupboards something I do before going shopping, reminded me of business inventories. I planned to make chili but wasn’t  sure I had the ingredients. Looking for cumin, chili powder, garlic, onions and of course tomato sauce and beans was my first step. A quick inventory dictated my shopping list.  Shopping, preparation, cooking chili for dinner was my action plan.

Much like taking inventory in your business, in your cupboard, a good idea might be to take a “personal spiritual inventory”. What is a spiritual inventory you might ask? A spiritual inventory will reveal your spiritual needs and resources. Spiritual inventory is an honored spiritual practice in Christianity. People of faith invite God’s presence when involved in doing spiritual inventory.

Cupboard

“Examine me, oh Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart,” invites the Psalmist, “For Your loving kindness is before my eyes” Psalm 26:2  Taking time for self-examination is an ancient practice for Christians. What better time to do it than in the beginning of the New Year? Noticing where you are needy in your spiritual life, taking stock of our spiritual resources will lead you to an action plan. We are all spiritual beings with spiritual needs just as our bodies need nourishment our spirits also need replenishment.  A healthy body and spiritual health depends on being aware of our needs and replenishing the lacking areas. Doing a spiritual inventory in the past days, I discovered some of my own deficiencies.  I made plans to fill the voids in my spiritual life. I am learning more about myself and the barriers that keep me from God’s presence. Spiritual inventory is an ongoing process for me. To be in touch with more than my external self requires the continuous spiritual practice of self-witnessing, in order to create an action plan. As in any inventory we discover what we have on hand, our present status, and our needs. We discover the self in need of God’s infusion of love, forgiveness and guidance.

People familiar with the AA’s Step Four, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our selves”, understand the urgency of working on this step.

spiritual inventory book

John Baker’s Taking an Honest and Spiritual Inventory is one of many books about the path to recovery   involving “spiritual inventory”.  Long before AA, Emmanuel Swedenborg was keen on self-examination. He    claimed that interior Christian life is possible only for those who cultivate self awareness for the purpose of discovering habits of character that ought to be modified or reformed.

Thus, self-modification techniques must be learned along with self-witnessing in order to participate in God’s plan for us.

Spiritual inventory is not only a Christian practice for the faithful. Recent studies reveal that many people come to realize a deep need though they may not understand what that need is. PsychoMatrix a spiritual inventory may be a good start for discovering your spiritual nature.

 

Psycho Matrix in art

Happy New Year and may blessings be with you as you become aware of your innermost longings.

Rev. Gabriella

Hope

Hope

Emily Dickinson imagined “Hope” as “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.”

Hope is one of our most commonly used phrases. We say, I hope it won’t rain, I hope I can make that train, I hope I’ll pass the test; our expressions of things we “hope” for is endless. But what does hope really mean?  John F. Kennedy’s quote springs to mind, he said, “We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.”

We really do not understand hope until we find ourselves without it. When we are hopeless even for a short time our world becomes dark.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow must have understood this. He said, “The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone.”

I love taking pictures of sunsets and sunrises. It intrigues me that sunrises and sunsets appear very similar. Looking at pictures I took a long time ago, I am the only one who is certain whether the picture is of a sunset or sunrise.  Friends may guess but only I know whether it was beginning or the end of the day.  Sometimes, hope is like  like that, we can’t be sure in what guise it will return. When the glow of sunset turns to darkness, we hope for the sunrise.

sunset6-1-05c

No biblical story illustrates better a state of utter desolation and hopelessness than that of Sarah’s maid[GC1]  Hagar in Genesis 21 (KJ21). She was sent into the desert with her son Ishmael for mocking her childless mistress illustrates utter hopelessness. Hagar had every reason to fear her son would die of thirst. We, who live in the desert understand better than most the consequences of being without water and shelter in the desert.  Her wailing was interrupted by the angel’s greeting, “Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the child where he is”. Once fear dissipates,  “hope is at hand” .

“Fear not,” is often announced by angelic beings to human beings in desperate times.Their message always offers hope. When fear is taken away, hope is born; For Hagar, hope of life came when her eyes were opened to see the spring nearby. Hope is there for us when we perceive things in a new way.  The darkness of hopelessness gives way to light when we see our situation in a new light. The message of hope may come to us in many guises. Hopelessness may be lifted by prayer, meditation, witnessing a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a flower, may bring hope and comforting in our time of distress.

Meister Eckhart‘s poem gets to the heart of the matter. We become hopeless and fear the most when something we love appears lost to us.

The Hope of Loving

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?

I think it is the hope of loving,

or being loved.

I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey

to find its source, and how the moon wept

without her lover’s

warm gaze.

We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither

like fields if someone close

does not rain their

kindness

upon

us.

 

Patiently we must wait for the darkness to give way to the glow of day, reach out for the hand offered in kindness. open our eyes to new possibilities.

Inspiration and Prayer for 7/28/13, offered by Rev. Judith Vadergrift posted each week on the On-line Swedenborgian Community

Your inspiration this week is to find a place where you can be alone in silence and listen for the voice of God. Take your journal with you, and any books for inspiration you like. Write, pray, listen, Love Enjoy! ” Dear Lord teach me to take your Love deeply inside my being. Teach me to keep my focus on you. Let me be the observer only, of this world. Thank you for my soul’s rest and renewal each day. Gratitude fills my heart for all I have been given both good and bad. The good uplifts me and the bad strengthens me. My heart fills with love for all beings. Let me walk in deep peace with you knowing your love fills me completely. AMEN.” With Love, Rev. Judith

 

20130709_194113 (1)


 

Vessels

I recall several lectures at the Pacific School of Religion focusing on the work of the versatile scholar, geologist, theologian and Biblical archaeologist   William Fredrick Bade. He carried out excavations at Tell en-Nasbeh  in Palestine. Much of the artifacts are housed in the Bade Museum, located on the Pacific School of Religion campus. There, we learned about vessels, pottery shards, coins of antiquity that  confirmed biblical accounts. Much has been learned about the lives of the people of ancient times from the pieces, shapes, colors textures of vessels and the environment in which they were found. Ancient potteries were containers and vessels for holding some type of liquid, grain or manuscripts. Recall the Dead Sea Scrolls found in jars?

Pottery in which dead sea scrolls were found

Those jars were most likely used to hold many other things before they became the repository of ancient’s texts hidden form the uninitiated. No one could have guessed the contents until it was opened.

It is like that with us. We, like vessels hold many things; but we are not the vessel itself; we are not our bodies, not our thoughts and we are not our feelings. Life-energy pours into the sacred spaces of our being and from the outside into our minds, and bodies.  Like ancient pottery, our minds and bodies hold secrets. Shouldn’t we examine what we contain, what we hold in our minds, bodies and spirits? Like the pottery in our homes, ancient pottery was designed for all kinds of uses. Archaeologists study the form/color/material, but only guess  what the vessel may have held because the contents changed. Basically, we create our reality when we become aware of our changing thoughts, feelings. What we do, say and think changes us. After all  isn’t that learning? Our awareness of what is happening changes us.

Every cell in our bodies and  minds is in constant motion and therefore constantly changing. Think about how you are affected and changed by what you have seen and heard about the tornadoes in Oklahoma and its aftermath. You may have already donated or are planning to help survivors and communities affected by the tornado. You may have relatives living in the areas, your thoughts and feelings are deeply affected. We respond to events and circumstances.

 

Tornado cleanup

Tornado cleanup

Tornado Damage

Tornado Damage

Shattered homes, broken pieces, damaged goods may not ever be be mended but people may be healed. Unlike the smashed pottery of ancient times and the trashed tornado sites of today, people can mend and heal. Our loving thoughts and actions can help bind-up broken lives. We can be like the The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37  who helped the wounded traveler.

Compassionate caring response does not originate or end with us. It flows in and around us to others creating a new reality. We decide to help others and we are changed from within.  Max Planck, one of the most important German physicists, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918; considered to be the founder of quantum theory delved into the innermost secrets of the life, His famous statement, “all matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force  which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume’ , asserts Plank, that ‘behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”  Not being a scientist I interpret to mean that the inflow of creative energy is not accidental, the love we sense when we respond with compassionate care is the intended purpose of creation. The inflow of love is unceasing constant and eternal though the vessel itself, our bodies are temporary. When the body and spirit suffer all is not lost. We recover slowly but surely in the outpouring of compassionate care. Life itself, is becoming always renewing from within.

A few websites for donating:

Samaritan’s Purse

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/oklahoma-tornado-response/?utm_source=Ggl&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=m_YGOT-013V_GGLOT&gclid=CMnvkbaTsrcCFeU5QgodXSwAgw

Billy Graham Crisis Response:

http://www.billygraham.org/CrisisResponse/?QR=168&BA=2704&SOURCE=BY130DPGG&gclid=COyQttaTsrcCFWXZQgod1REAuA

The American Red Cross:

https://www.redcross.org/donate/index.jsp?donateStep=2&scode=RSG00000E017&itemId=prod10001&subcode=grantdonations&gclid=CL7FqpGVsrcCFUQ6QgodCQMArw

A hug changes everything for a survivor

A hug changes everything for a survivor