expansion

March 9, 2017 4 comments

Mystical moments may be described as a kind of emancipation. If it isn’t an experience of newfound freedom, I don’t think it is an authentic God experience. God is always bigger than you imagined or expected or even hoped for. When you see people going to church and becoming smaller instead of larger, you have every reason to question whether the practices or sermons or sacraments or liturgies are opening them to an authentic God experience.

On a practical level, such experiences will feel like a new freedom to love, and you wonder where it comes from. Why do I have this new desire, this new capacity to love new people, to love the old people better, maybe to enter into some kind of new love for the world? I will find that even my thoughts are more immediately loving, patient, and compassionate.

Clearly, you are participating in a Love that’s being given to you. You are not creating this. You are not generating this. It is being generated through you and in you and for you. You are participating in something larger than yourself, and you are just allowing it and trusting it for the pure gift that it is.

From Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate…

Seeing God in All Things (CD, DVD, MP3)

Richard Rohr, O.F.M

I am not proud of my spiritual markers of development when I was a younger man. Too often the fruit of my labors and thought and projected ego was completely devoid of any notion or influence of love. People were to be impressed, herded, and overtly objectified by my mission to serve God. It pains me at some level still, but somehow I missed that relating to all three persons of the Trinity should have been producing an ever-growing capacity for love and preference for those who were also created from the same place I was. The memo was clear enough. I just didn’t get it.

Although I am no final authority for anyone, I must say for my own benefit that we who define and declare ourselves “followers of God” must evaluate whether we are ever expanding in our capacity to exude love towards our brothers and sisters who share time and space on this glorious globe. Are we ever growing in practical expressions of love, or do we hinder our development by continuing to simmer in a justified isolation that only moves toward what looks, acts, or thinks like me? Yes, that includes our religious preferences, practices, and ideas.

It seems that the majority of us have been trained from birth to be exclusively tribal and loving towards those who identify with our biases and bents. We’ve made some strides, but there are days where I wonder if we’ve become more rigid about who gets our nods of approval. Our God’s love is for ALL of His creation. That includes you, me, and everyone else. It’s probably time we minor in what is minor and major in what is major. I’m convinced that expanding our capacity to LOVE is major.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

image

February 24, 2017 8 comments

Last month Patti and I went to a spiritual conference. I’m pretty sure it’s been almost 20 years since we’ve gone to an event like that. Without exaggerating, I’m guessing I attended close to 50 conferences in the ‘90s. When you get your fill of something, it usually quenches your appetite for that kind of fare for quite a while.

Anyway, I recently fulfilled a desire on my bucket list: I met Richard Rohr. With as many books of his that I have read, and all of the hours I have spent listening to his CDs and podcast, he was just as I imagined (maybe a little shorter in stature, but otherwise spot on). I did get in a few private words and a couple of pictures with him, but there were about 500 people at this conference. The man was spread thin.

I took lots of notes, but one small phrase has continued to lap in my mind-pool:

Our image of God creates us.

It’s messed with me because I’ve never really had that thought before. I’ve always taught that our image of and experience with our parents directly affects our views of God, but this thought by Father Richard is something else. It removes us from being judge and jury in regards to how we think about God. We stop treating God like he’s the critical spectator, and we take it to another level. How we think about God has everything to do with what kind of people we are, and that’s a whole different conversation altogether.

I don’t know if you realize it or not, but we’re prone to keep these kinds of probes into our God consciousness at manageable distances. It’s much easier for us to render a judgment on God’s character based upon our circumstances than to come to terms with a benevolent God regardless. We seem to do it all the time. Many of us believe that God is good only because he gives us what we want… when we want it… how we want it, etc. Yes, this is part of our dualistic upbringing, but it has us all over the board in regards to coping with a “moody” God.

img_6460If Jesus was God with skin (and I definitely believe he was), there seems to be a huge discrepancy with how all the various writers compiled in our sacred text describe God’s mood and disposition. Us deciding God’s overall mood and character based upon a negative experience in our lives or a caustic theological paradigm hanging on a single biblical nail is a horrible tactic. There are a lot of factors involved, but surely we understand that all the stuff in our heads (theology, tradition, religion, trauma, happiness, life and death) trickles down into how we live, how we are, and how we view ourselves and others.

Let me wrap up with this final observation: there should be some semblance between our image of God and how we see ourselves. I can only speak for myself, but my God image is beyond positive. I don’t have an adequate vernacular to fully describe how I feel about His grace, love, and acceptance for me. With that being said, I’m challenged to really evaluate my “way” with those I encounter. If Rohr is right (I am totally convinced he is) there should be proof in the pudding. So, I’m asking myself the following things:

Subconsciously and practically, when people encounter me, do they encounter grace? Charity? Hope? Love? Forgiveness? Acceptance? Creativity? Truth? Kindness? Tolerance? Peace? Joy? Humility? Goodness? Gentleness?

Do they get what is real, and not religious pretense or some bible quote that supposedly fixes everything? Can people smell His embrace from near or far wafting off of my life? Do people sense their own value because the air is charged with my preference for them?

Awkward questions to ask here, but definitely necessary.

If you tracked with these questions, I just revealed the core of my God image. Supposedly… hopefully… it is creating me. The passion for these things is there. Maintaining the right image of Him can only help me do the work. I desperately need the right template for healthy development.

What image do you hold of God? Remember, whatever it is, it’s creating you.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

unfolded

February 7, 2017 4 comments

These thoughts…

 

river2

 

Everything that has unfolded in space and time was present in utero in the universe’s beginnings, so interrelated are we and all things with that initial flaring forth of light.

Teachers in the Celtic world have been saying something similar for a long time. In the ninth century, John Scotus Eriugena said that all things in the universe were made “together and at once.” He did not mean that we and all things became visible at the same time. He meant that we and all things have been hidden in the “secret folds of nature,” as he put it, waiting for the time of our manifestation. We have been latent in the matter of the universe since its inception. Now is the time of our emergence.

Bohm describes reality as “undivided wholeness in flowing movement.” The universe is like a mighty river in flow. From that single stream, smaller streams emerge. These are to be celebrated and cherished, each one absolutely unique, never to be repeated again—that blade of grass, that autumn leaf, the countenance of that child, your life, my life. Then we dissolve, merging back into the flow, our constituent parts to emerge again in new formations further down the river. The universe wastes nothing in its endless unfolding.

Within that flow everything is interrelated. There is a propensity within all things to move in relations, even though we may choose to deny the predisposition or be untrue to it. The law of gravitation expresses it. At some level every atom in the universe seeks to remain in relationship with every other atom. Science observes this propensity without claiming to understand it.John Phillip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle For New Beginnings, (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths, 2014), 7.

 … should draw us closer towards inclusivity!

How else are we to think about it?  The great unfolding of creation, that is still very much happening, originated from a divine singularity. He said, “it is good” and blessed the handiwork. Who has been born among us that didn’t require the hand of God to be involved?  Who chose for themselves to add spirit and soul to our flesh? Who among us was not wonderfully and mysteriously made?

It doesn’t make me feel superior or “special.”  In fact, it challenges me to settle the issues of unrestrained ego and pride.  Family usually doesn’t do ego with each other, and if what Newell is saying is true, maybe the family is much larger than our parental genetics or social parities.  Maybe love and value for God’s creation might be more expansive than just trying to be nice to people because the Bible says so. Wouldn’t it be advantageous to see Him in everything he created?

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

brain gum

January 26, 2017 2 comments

“Oh, I can forgive, but forgetting is my problem.”

How many of us have ever said these dreadful words?

I surely have, and you’ve probably at least had some version of the thought at one time or another. It’s usually an indication of some deep trauma. Somebody showed you his or her dark side. Injustice busted a move in your life like Bruno Mars. The taker took. The liar lied. The thief stole. Trust was violated. And ultimately, whatever it was that happened, you got punched in the kisser with one of life’s nasty haymakers.

Live long enough and you’ll eventually see that wounds and pain happen to all of us. Granted, not all traumas rearrange your outlook on God, life, or death, but there are a plethora of events that can dump overbearing loads of burdens and mental anguish that genuinely qualify as torment to our souls. Talk to any marriage, family, or grief counselor, and they’ll confirm what I’m saying. People carry a lot of pain, and it’s not just a few of us. It’s not just a small isolated demographic. Pretty much throughout all humanity there is more than enough pain to go around. If, for some reason, you don’t see that, then you’re not paying attention.

brainBeing known as a minister or spiritual director seems to open doors by which many people feel free to share their burdens. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. And honestly, it’s what we signed up for. I only mention it because I’m about to make an observation about how we usually react to what has hurt us the most. The offense or wound or pain gets played over and over and over in our minds. It’s like chewing gum in your brain that never loses its taste. We rework the math and fantasize our recalculations, but the bottom line never changes. Again, this isn’t criticism. I genuinely think this is just the normal way we process intense pain. I’m no expert, but it appears to me that the more intense the pain, the harder and longer we work at mentally and emotionally chewing the gum that never changes the end result.

How do we ever get back to some sort of peace?

 How do we ever forgive and/or heal without continually reworking the math?

I am very intrigued with the ideas I have posted for you below. If you find yourself with some margins to forgive, but you’re unable to get the forget part squeezed into your emotional Spanx, it might be helpful for you to consider these thoughts from Father Richard Rohr. I don’t know if lightening will strike and you’ll be able to complete the transition immediately or not, but it might be something worth working towards to resolve the things that have been most difficult for you. That is my prayer. That is my hope. See what you think:

Abba Poemen said, “Teach your mouth to say what is in your heart.” Many of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, as well as the Philokalia in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, have described prayer as bringing your thinking down into your heart. It always seemed like soft piety to me until someone taught me how to do it, and I learned the immense benefits of the prayer of the heart. As a Catholic, I was often puzzled by the continued return to heart imagery, such as Jesus pointing to his “Sacred Heart” and Mary pointing to her “Immaculate Heart.” I often wonder what people actually do with these images. Are they mere sentiment? Are they objects of worship or objects of transformation? You must return their gaze and invitation for a long time to get the transformative message and healing. Such images keep recurring only because they are speaking something important from the unconscious, maybe even something necessary for the soul’s emergence.

 Love lives and thrives in the heart space. It has kept me from wanting to hurt people who have hurt me. It keeps me every day from obsessive, repetitive, or compulsive head games. It can make the difference between being happy and being miserable and negative. Could this be what we are really doing when we say we are praying for someone? Yes, we are holding them in our heart space. Do this in an almost physical sense, and you will see how calmly and quickly it works.

 Next time a resentment, negativity, or irritation comes into your mind, and you want to play it out or attach to it, move that thought or person literally into your heart space. Dualistic commentaries are lodged in your head; but in your heart, you can surround this negative thought with silence. There it is surrounded with blood, which will often feel warm like coals. In this place, it is almost impossible to comment, judge, create story lines, or remain antagonistic. You are in a place that does not create or feed on contraries but is the natural organ of life, embodiment, and love. Now the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart have been transferred to you. They are pointing for you to join them there. The “sacred heart” is then your heart too.  -Father Richard Rohr, O. F. M.

 I can’t help but believe we could all benefit to some level with this kind of spiritual direction and concerted contemplation. Getting out of our heads with all of our endless dialogues has to be better than the brain gum we’ve chewed more than once. It might be worth a shot. Right?

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

ME-ness

January 10, 2017 2 comments

A decade ago, I was confronted with Richard Rohr’s teaching of what it takes to maintain a healthy psyche for a genuine spirituality. I had just turned 50 years old, and it appeared I was ready to courageously face the truth: my over-empowered ego needed some fine tuning. Much like you, I really did want to exhibit some of the essence of Jesus through my life. Church had pretty much been the only venue where I had allowed myself to channel those energies. I was thankful for what I had learned and experienced, but I was looking for something more.

To be completely honest, I’ve never really gotten over Rohr’s suggestion that real maturity hinges on principals of self-denial. To even consider for a moment that life is not about “me” is a punch to the proverbial nose.

We say we want to be like Jesus, but do we really?

I think about this all the time: “LIFE (living) IS NOT ABOUT ME.” Really? It’s the ultimate throw down for followers of Jesus. There are days when I feel like I’ve got this. I think, “It’s under control.” But there are other times when it seems like I can’t let go of what I insist I must have to be content. Entitlement and unmanageable expectations sing their siren song, and once again I march to the doom of my own values and holistic aspirations. You feelin’ that? You get my vibe?

Even when we think we’re living up to “LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME,” how much control have we demanded to protect our environments? Who gets to enter our bubbles? What trials and hardships (that includes people problems) never gain access to our emotional ecosystems because we won’t allow the intrusion to what we can’t control or manage? See? “ME” is not a minor obstacle. It’s a mountain.

I am a Jesus follower, so I greatly respect how He rolled with life-skills over and above any other kind of systematic dogma. When considering His brand of “LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME,” I’m overcome with the simple truth of what is most obvious:

Jesus gave his life away.

narc-kiss

But it was so much more than that. It was how He gave his life away. It was in the midst of what seemed to be a hate-filled world and a religiously sterile culture, that He loved every single person without variance. He still does. He loves betrayers, reprobates, liars, thieves, and cheaters. He loved first and He loves last. Jesus pretty much laid down the only true essence of love.

You didn’t have to be a winner to be “in” with Him. That’s pretty dang amazing if you ask me. It’s actually powerful enough to set people free without our adding any of our religious trinkets or dualistic nonsense to the equation. If His love is anything less than unconditional, we are so hosed! That is definitely a defining element of how He was able to live life so devoid of selfish ambition or over-protective self-entitlement. Jesus proved to us that His life was not about Him. No question about that!

But what might not be so obvious is that Jesus also seemed to be okay with both giving His life away AND a grace-filled allowance that gave permission to others to literally take what they needed from Him. If you want to find out how you’re doing with the whole “LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME” thing, just notice your response when some “thing” is taken from you. Respect, dignity, wealth, opportunity, peace, freedom, glory, rest, relationships, and/or whatever you value most, are all things that most of us would gladly sacrifice for those we love and care for. But our “ME-ness” usually fights to the death at the thought of having those things taken from us by force.

If “LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME,” we probably need to confront how many choices are in effect around us that won’t allow me to be disturbed by “takers” at any level. There is no shortage of “takers”, but not all takers are malicious or evil. Jesus has allowed us all to take what He sacrificially gave, but He was also good with the needy and burdened to call upon Him for their personal comfort and satisfaction. I write this with a knot in my stomach because I like to be in control of where and how I give my time, energy, and juice. I love serving as much as the next person, but there is usually some level of resentment when I’m not prepared to be called upon (without an exit nearby) to meet their needs. I’m more than burdened concerning that truth about myself.

The whole “LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME” mantra is very appealing, but it takes a different kind of heart and rhythm to genuinely live it out. I mentioned a mountain earlier. Our “ME-ness” is a HUGE mountain, and to move that mountain is going to require chipping away at it every single day. I would think we’d do better with asking ourselves honest questions about how we’re managing our lives instead of just broadcasting our intentions. Simple questions might be the most effective probe of how healthy we truly are. Here’s a few questions I’m considering for myself:

* How available am I to my immediate family (presence, influence, hope, and help)?

* How available am I to my real friends (presence, influence, hope, and help)?

* Am I willing to sit on my dreams in order to be the support I need to be to the people (particularly my parents or siblings) who genuinely need my help?

* How honest am I with myself about my attitudes and patience when facing others burdens?

* Can I give my life away without complaint and grumbling?

* Am I still fighting for a self-induced ascent, or embracing my natural descent?

* Am I the embodiment of love, or is it an idea only?

* Can I see (hear, value, respect, and honor) what doesn’t look or think like me?

* What position is “ME” in my decision-making processes?

I’m particularly relieved that my grade for these things isn’t being displayed here. But I sincerely believe that “LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME” is the right path and attitude to living life well and free. We are called to a higher purpose. We’ve just got to get out of the way.

Have a Happy New Year!!!

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

 Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

TIL DEATH DO US PART Book Trailer Video is LIVE!

January 6, 2017 2 comments

If you love this video… Please share it with your friends and neighbors!  We so appreciate the help!

Mike and Patti

Categories: Uncategorized

spit

November 15, 2016 1 comment

I put this up again mainly because I can’t stop watching it. We think our little pile defines humanness. We must expand our hearts and vision for the common union that already exists.

Jesus said, “But remember the root command: love one another.” John 15:17, MSG

Strong’s Concordance tells us that the word “love” is  ἀγαπάω pronounced ag-ap-ah´-o;  to love (in a social or moral sense). The words were intended for more than the few that heard them. He always meant more than we’ve ever understood.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized