Archive for grace

Shameless!

Brene-Brown-Quote-1A while ago I wrote about the importance of self love and how self love is the first step to loving others since you can only love others as much as you love yourself. Now we know we should love ourselves, and we hopefully feel that it is ok to love oneself. The question then becomes why don’t we love ourselves.

The answer nine times out of ten is shame!

What is shame

Shame is a negative, painful, social emotion that “…results from comparison of the self’s action with the self’s standards…”.[1] Both the comparison and standards are enabled by socialization. … The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning “to cover”; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame. Nineteenth century scientist Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, described shame affect as consisting of blushing, confusion of mind, downward cast eyes, slack posture, and lowered head, and he noted observations of shame affect in human populations worldwide. He also noted the sense of warmth or heat (associated with the vasodilation of the face and skin) occurring in intense shame.

So shame is the act of covering up, hiding your true self based on the (often false) assumption that there is something wrong with you. The definition bases this covering up on the comparison of ones actions held up against ones standards, these standards come from our surrounding culture. If we would let go of the societal norm, there simply would be no shame.

IN Genesis we are told that the first humans had no shame. So from a biblical perspective, shamelessness is our origin and intended way of being.

And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2.25 NRSV)

The first thing that happens when introduced to the duality of good and evil is that the first humans cover up display shame. It is not that nudity suddenly became bad or forbidden but with the possibility of good AND evil comes the comparison and the judgement.

And so even today shame is linked very closely to our bodies, we have all sorts of hangups and problems when it comes to our own bodies and our body image. We live in a world where it is not only normal but also mandated that we cover up and not show our bodies. Shame is built into our entire way of being.

There are so many levels and types of shame but this is surely where it starts. Remember when you where a child when you would run around in nothing but your birthday suit and not have a care in the world. Not caring who saw you or what they where thinking about you? When did this change? What was it that made you suddenly feel the need to cover up and hide? Many of us have deep shaming stories of grown ups shaming us for our nakedness and freedom. And if not the nakedness then it all came with the discovering of our sexuality, whether as a toddler or a teenager, as soon as the body starts displaying signs of sexual awakening or maturity we all cover up in shame. Society at large condemns our sexuality at an early age. We are told directly or indirectly that it is not ok to be sexual and or to in any way display or talk about sexual desire.

My girls have been taught (not by their parents) that it is disgusting to be sexy! To the extent that they have physical reactions to songs with the word sexy in the lyrics.

We are told that people who get naked or show skin are shameless and bad people. It is all interconnected, our view of nudity, our own body image, our sexuality and the shame we carry around it. If someone does not display the proper amount of shame we are quick to shame them with words like slut, man-whore, player, gigolo, the list goes on and on.

It is funny how we all think that people should carry a certain level of shame and at the same time we often do not want to admit our own shame. We cover up our shame. We are ashamed to be ashamed because instinctively we also know that shame is not a good thing.

People often want to believe that shame is reserved for the folks who have survived terrible traumas, but this is not true. Shame is something we all experience. And while it feels as if shame hides in our darkest corners, it actually tends to lurk in all of the familiar places, including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, addiction, sex, aging, and religion. To feel shame is to be human. (Brene Brown, Gifts of Imperfection)

So we carry shame in all these areas of our lives where we cover up who we are with clothes, masks and roles we play in order to fit in and please others. This is the primary job of the EGO and this is also why the EGO employs the inner critic, or the accuser to make sure we stay in line stay within the box and keep carrying our shame. Now Let’s just get this completely straight the biblical name for the accuser is shaitan or as we know him Satan. Just as the divine voice is found within the destructive voice of the accuser also comes from within. We need to understand that this voice telling us we are no good is not the spirit of love, it is not our conscience, it is a gremlin, it is the accuser, the shaitan most often our EGO take this role to protect us from public embarrassment and to keep us streamlined and fitting in with the collective as this is the job of the EGO.

The difference between shame and guilt

So should we just do whatever we want and not care one iota what others think or feel, not caring when we hurt someone else or take advantage? Well no, that is not what I am saying. We need to remember Paul’s sober words “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. ” (1 Cor 10:23 NRSV)

So yes you can do anything you want, but be responsible and know that everything will not be good for you. So when I do something and I realise it wasn’t good for me, should I not feel shame? NO!

This is where we need to remember the distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt is “I did something bad”, shame is “I am bad”. Guilt is the recognition that I have taken an action that was not beneficial and guilt gives the energy and impetus to do right, to come clean and confess what went wrong and then do right. Shame on the other hand is the voice that tells you that you are a bad person bevcause you did this bad thing, shame will steal your energy and tell you to cover it up, to hide it and not let anyone know how bad you are.

So guilt is a positive emotion and it creates healing and positive results like healing, reconciliation and restitution. Guilt is owning your crap and taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions. Guilt is saying “I did it!”.

Shame is a destructive emotion that will drain you, it will create separation between you and your true self, you and god and you and others.

The DNA of shame

Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment. When something shaming happens and we keep it locked up, it festers and grows. It consumes us. We need to share our experience. Shame happens between people, and it heals between people. If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when it is spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story. (Brene Brown, Gifts of Imperfection)

So we are all agreed shame is not healthy and it is something that keeps us from loving ourselves and therefore loving others. Conversely shame also creates masks and roles which prevents us from feeling loved. It creates separation and division. In its ugliest forms it creates self-hatred and harsh judgement and hatred towards others.

Confession then, is the road to healing, openness, vulnerability and acceptance is the antidote to shame. To become more loving and to become more true, to become closer to our true selves and thereby closer to the divine we need to repent. To turn away from this worlds thinking and dive into divine thinking. To do this we need some radical strategies.

Radical is a word derived from the latin term radix which means root, so radical actions means to go to the roots or in this case to your root, core or centre. If the divine is present in our core at the deepest and truest level of our selves then to the deep roots we must go.

Radical honesty

To achieve this we need some truth. We must start with being totally and brutally honest with ourselves. Say it like it is, not in a harsh unkind way but softly with love. Acknowledge all the ways that you are, all the little things and the big things. And then in your communication to others apply the same principle. Speak truth, name the feeling you feel, speak the emotion, put words to the thought.

Just remember that will radical honesty means to always be completely and blunt,y honest, it does not mean share everything all the time. Not everyone has earned the right to hear your story, carefully choose the people you are willing to get vulnerable and emotionally naked with as you would choose carefully who you get physically naked with. Do not hold back out of fear or shame but as a way of caring deeply for yourself. Only share yourself fully with those who accept you fully.

Radical acceptance

The next step is grace, acceptance. Once you are honestly looking at yourself and acknowledging all that you are. Then you can start accepting where you are. This is not condoning or saying that all is good. It is simply accepting what is. No judgement.

A very important part of radical acceptance is to acknowledge and accept your feelings as an important and true part of yourself.  Our feelings carry with them messages from deep within ourselves or important warnings about what our EGO’s are up to. It is important to accept these messages and to allow our feelings to pass through us cleaning out the channels and making room for greater feelings and experiences.

Once you start accepting yourself, you can let it extend to your surroundings, your circumstances, the people around you.

The important thing to realise here is that you can only transcend what you first accept. Whatever behaviour or egoic state you deny is not changeable (what you resist persists) only what you accept to be true about yourself is possible to change. But it is not enough just to admit that it is there (truth/honesty) we must also accept this as a fact without judgement. When we judge something in ourselves we often mistake the action or personality trait with our person and slip into shame. Accepting it is owning it whatever it is. Yes I am hairy, I am loosing my hair, I am afraid, I like brunettes, I can\t hit a note to save my life, etc. etc. The act of accepting something of oneself often allows us to realise that our aversion to this thing is based on others perception or societal norms and not our own idea of what is right for us or not.

Not only does accepting what is allow us to let go of tremendous amounts of shame it will also give us peace of mind as we no longer struggle with fighting against what is.

Radical action/repentance

So with radical honesty and radical acceptance we put ourselves into position of radical action. Once we have truly admitted and accepted ourselves we gain an objective view of ourselves and our surroundings this is the first step of what we in the church call repentance. The second step is action. So we look at ourselves and our lives and realise this is not who I truly am, this is not my true self and then we have the possibility to shed our coverings (whether it is behaviour or personality trait, habits or belongings) and become shameless/uncovered or just becoming our true selves.

In practical terms, metanoia means to “change the way we use our minds”—to think beyond the normal limits of the way we have been taught to reason. It implies that we haven’t been using our minds correctly. (Jim Palmer, Inner Anarchy)

Richard Rohr puts this another way: “We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living, we live ourselves into a new way of thinking”

Taking radical action is to act according to what is and not what is expected, it is to act based on the guidance of the divine voice inside of you instead of the dogmatic teaching of your church, pastor, yoga studio, guru, counsellor or friends. It means acting out from your deepest and truest self as opposed to acting out of your EGO or out of the expectations of others and our desire to fit in.

 

Radical love

When we are able to look at ourselves and our reality with total honesty, when we are able to accept that reality without judgement and when we are able to take radical action from the deep place of our true self where we are really one, with the divine and the other, then we are able to love ourselves fully without exception and hesitation, without holding back this will also enable us to love everyone around us with this same radical, divine love.

 

Radical love, I contend, is a love so extreme that it dissolves our existing boundaries, whether they are boundaries that separate us from other people, that separate us from preconceived notions of sexuality and gender identity, or that separate us from God…. (Patrik S. Cheng, Radical Love)

This is the love at the source of all things the agape that is god.

Christian theology is ultimately about radical love. It affirms the impossibly queer truth that God is love, that God’s very self is an internal community of love, that God’s love spilled forth in the act of creation, that God became human out of God’s love for humanity, and that God continues to guide us back toward the love from whence we came. Christian theology promises us that nothing—not hardship, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not peril, not the sword, not death, not life, not angels, not rulers, not things present, not things to come, not powers, not height, not depth, nor anything else in creation—can ever separate us from the love of God. There is no love that is more radical than that… (Patrik S. Cheng, Radical Love)

When we live from this deep and true place in ourselves, honestly accepting, owning  and acting on what really is. Then  we live without masks, without hiding, without pretending. Living from our deepest dreams and desires unfiltered by dogma, religion, peer pressure, self repression, self censorship and  societal norms. This is what it means to be true and to be truly shameless.

Seeing the divine in all things is not heretical

5415984_-039039-kosmos-039039--1Look around you, what do you see? Are you not surrounded by grace? By walking talking miracles gifted with the gift of life and love?

How is it that within the Christian church, it has become heretical to see and to point out the divine outside of the confines of our little community, outside of our own sphere of theological thought and outside our own tradition? For some it is even hard to acknowledge the divine in other Christian churches.

St. Bonaventure writes:

“By God’s power, presence, and essence, God is the One whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. God exists uncircumscribed in everything. … God is, therefore, all inclusive. God is the essence of everything. God is most perfect and immense: within all things, but not enclosed; outside all things, but not excluded; above all things, but not aloof; below all things, but not debased. Finally, therefore, this God is all in all…. Consequently, from him, through him and in him, all things exist.”

As the song lyrics state “Above and below and all around you are.” God is simply everywhere, in church language we call this omni-presence, this means god is in all things surrounding all things or as the process theologians rightly states all things are in god. However this does not mean that we are dropped into god like rocks in a fish tank but rather that god permeates and saturates all things.

On a quantum level, god is that which binds all things together. Father Richard Rohr writes:

“That is not simplistic pantheism (everything is God), but it is a much more profound pan-en-theism (everything is in God and God can be found in everything). This is Christianity’s great message, which it has, in large part, found too good to be true and too hard to believe!”

Saying this tree is my god, I will have no other god but this tree is pantheism and according to the Christian path idolatry. However to say god is in this tree, I honour this tree as part of the divine is not idolatry, it is worship of the divine and it is in now way heretical. The same goes for any other thing or any other person. Therefore it is not heretical to see the divine in another human being whether that being is called Jesus, Theresa, Gandhi or any other person canonised or not, Christian or not.

It is also not heretical to greet another being with a ‘namaste’ (The divine in me, sees and honours the divine in you. I am divine, you are divine, the scriptures quite clearly state that this is true. It is explained as a Sacrament (latin: sacramentum, greek: mysterion) in for example Col 1.27

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (NRSV)

So let’s honour this secret, this mystery, this sacrament, that the divine is ever present, everywhere and in everyone. Let’s also honour that god who is always present everywhere can also show up on other times than Sunday morning, other places than church, other books than the bible and other people than Christians. Lets remove some blinkers and actively and intentionally seek the divine in everything and everyone.

As you love yourself

As-You-Love-Yourself-Title

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22)

But why should we care? Why is it important what some old law book and dusty old profets think about? One way to answer that question may be to ask ourselves, why did Jesus care?  Why was it important to Jesus what the law and the profets stood for? The simplest way to answer that is to understand that the law / Torah was shorthand for the Jewish way of life. The entire Jewish culture was built on the Torah. And Jesus was a Jew so the law was the single most important cultural marker for him. The profets where the Navi which means messenger from god (or crazy person, and the profets where often both). So if Jesus says that his entire way of life and the ones that speak for the divine all have this one command as their core or bottom line then maybe we should start paying attention.

##The perenial tradition

This command is echoed throughout history and cultures, we find it in every living tradition that we know. All religions, all cultures have in some way echoed this idea. the correlation between self love and loving others, what has been distilled in the golden rule. Don\t do to anyone else what you wouldn’t have done to you or do to yourself.

Let’s look at what the other traditions say:

Confucianism: Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. (Analects 12:2)

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udana-Varga 5,1)

 

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. (Mahabharata 5,1517)

 

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Sunnah)

 

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (Talmud, Shabbat 3id)

 

Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. (Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien)

 

Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. (Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5)

 

How we missed the point

Now I have heard many sermons on this topic … they all meticulously spell out how we should love our neighbours because we love ourselves. The trouble with all these sermons are that most of us do not love ourselves that much. We try to love our neighbour to the best of our abilities and we are dismayed at the results, we are simply not very good at it most of the time.

What if we simply cannot love our neighbour or anyone else any more than we love ourselves? What if loving ourselves actually in the long run means loving our neighbour?

What if love just like forgiveness comes in this bi-directional pipe (like a snorkel) where we by blocking the output also block the input and vice versa?  let’s just for a minute try on the idea that for me to be capable of loving someone else, I must first love me.

Renowned shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown says:

Love is not something we give or we get: it is something we nurture and grow. A connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists in each of them – We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

The second and maybe even more scandalous and never mentioned point Jesus makes when he states the greatest commandment is that the second command is like the first. What does that mean? Is jesus simply saying that they are both commands about love? Or is he actually saying that loving yousrelf and loving your neighbour is actually like loving god? Is he saying that you can love god by loving your neighbour as yourself? However we decide to interpret this scandalous statement have no option but to conclude that loving is the way Jesus insists on. Loving god, loving self and loving neighbour.

Self love

So with this in mind I would like to address the unpopular notion of self love. This idea, to love one self is taboo in Swedish culture it is seen as ego/centric or selfish. We see this in our everyday interactions with people and especially in how we handle such a simple thing as compliments.

“Wow what a nice dress!

What, this old thing?”

“Do you play the guitar?

Not really, I try… I know a chord or two.”

In the Salvation Army we have a culture that will not allow us to take credit for anything. When a musician performs a piece of music or someone preaches a nice sermon, instead of owning the accomplishment we are taught to give a salute, which means not me but god.

The proper, honest response to a compliment is of course “Thank you!” Whatever you may think of yourself, this other person is apparently impressed and maybe if they see the gold in you, maybe we can allow ourselves to do the same.

Berne Brown writes in her book “Gifts of imperfection”:

Loving and accepting ourselves is the ultimate acts of courage. In a society that says: “Put yourself last”, self-love and self-acceptance are almost revolutionary.

Loving yourself because you are loved

Do you need a reason for loving yourself? Here is the reason, you are loved. If it is true that it is only possible to love others to the extent one loves oneself, it only makes sense that god, who is love, loves you greatly because god also loves godself greatly. In his letter to the Romans Paul states that we love god because god first loved us. And if god loves me surely I can love me too.

Listen to the words of Rumi:

I SWEAR MY DEAR SON MY BELOVED DAUGHTER

no one in the entire world

is as precious as you are

look at that mirror

take a good look at yourself

who else is there above and beyond you

now give yourself a kiss

and with sweet whispers

fill your ears to the brim

watch for all that beauty

reflecting from you

and sing a love song to your existence

you can never overdo

praising your own soul

you can never over-pamper your heart

you are both

the father and the son, the mother and the daughter

the sugar and the sugar cane

who else but you

please tell me who else

can ever take your place

now give yourself a smile

what is the worth of a diamond

if it doesn’t smile

how can i ever put a price

on the diamond that you are

you are the entire treasure of the house

you and your shadow

are forever present in this world

you’re that glorious bird of paradise

 

“RUMI, Fountain of Fire”, ghazal number 2148,

translated 19 January 1991 by Nader Khalili, Daughter mother added for equality

Saying that you are bad, unlovable, not good enough is going in the face of god’s proclamation that you are a master piece (Eph 2.10, poema), that god created you masterfully and wonderfully (psalm 139), that we as humans are like gods (psalm 8), That we are created very good (Gen 1), that when god looks at you he smiles, winks and does a little dance (Zephania). After hearing how much God loves you how can you not love yourself…. well, if you don’t the bible is full of examples of people like you.

“Moses, I choose you to lead my people. What me, no I am not a leader and I can’t speak in public”

“Gideon, arise mighty warrior. What me, no I am from the least important tribe and in that tribe I am the gofer”

But listen, if you turn to god, and listens in on gods heart, because god is love, all you will hear and feel is love. God loves you with infinite scandalous love and there is nothing you can do to make god love you more and there is nothing you can do to make god love you less. God loves you with abundant everlasting love and god’s love never fails! In fact in his letter to the Romans Paul asserts over and over again that nothing seen or unseen, nothing above or below NOTHING can separate us from the love of god.

Ok, so god loves me, maybe need to love me. What does it look like?

Lets start with the mind….

Loving me with the mind

Lets just admit that what we call the mind is not infallible, there are all sorts of strange ideas and thoughts rumbling around in there. For example, what where you thinking when I was saying how much god loves you just 30 seconds ago, I’ll bet you anything that for many of you the thought started with “Yea, but….” The mind on it’s own can do come up with the most ridiculous things, what we need to grasp is that the mind is a tool, that we need to use correctly. You are not your mind so don’t let your mind run the show.

In the great commandment we are told to love god with all our mind, it means whether or not our mind wants to, this is what we should do with it. We should love, god, self and neighbour. The kicker is, at the core, at the source of things we are all one, interconnected in this quantum web, god is in me, in you and in everyone and everything so love is always the proper response to everything and everyone, starting with me!

So, think nice thoughts about yourself. Allow yourself to see and be grateful for all that is wonderful about you. Do what you did when you where a child. Look at your own hand and be in awe over how marvellous it is. Look at the Iris of your eye and be mesmerised by the secret landscape and colours hidden within. Look at the curve of your lip, look at how fantastically and ridiculously awesome you are. The things that you can do with your body: Run, walk, swim etc…

Start with affirmations, say them to yourself until you believe them. I am wonderful, I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am smart, I am kind, I am lovely. Only when you see these things in yourself can you start seeing them in others. Fall in love with yourself. Only when you love yourself, can you love others.

Now after all that, I just want to make this clear, don’t lie to yourself here. Do not say I am an amazing guitar player if you never held a guitar in your hand. Stay true. Only by accepting where we really are can we grow and move on from that point. Don\t pretend that you think you are beautiful if you do not think you are. Instead endeavour to see the beauty in yourself and affirm the beauty you find.

It will take time to renew your mind, to repent, that is to look at the ways you have been thinking of yourself and start thinking differently, it will take conscious effort and training.

With the mind sorted (as if) lets move on to the heart.

Loving me with the heart

The good news is that your heart already loves you, and god, and your neighbour, and your neighbours cat and … well you get the drift. This is true because this is what the heart does. It loves. The problem is that we  have been told in kindergarten, in school, in church, in our offices to trust our fickle and untrained minds and to be wary of our hearts. Feelings can not be trusted, we are told in this western society that prizes the mind over anything else. But while our mind can be deceived and can send faulty signals due to cultural conditioning and brokenness our feelings are always true. Our sacred tells us to especially guard our hearts because our hearts are the source of life (Prov 4.22)

When you are scared it’s true, you are scared! You may be completely deluded (by the mind) about what it is you are scared of and it may be completely baseless, nevertheless it is true you are scared. When you are angry it is true, you are angry, you may be deceived, deluded and completely duped by your own mind and thoughts into being angry for no reason but it is still true, you are angry.

So while our minds can deceive us with all kinds of thoughts our feelings are in a way always true reactions to our perceived reality.

Renowned shame and vulnerability researcher  Brene Brown explains in her book Daring Greatly that we cannot selectively suppress feelings and emotions, when we suppress any feeling or emotion we suppress them all. So when we suppress the feelings we perceive as negative (anger, sorrow, pain) we also put the lid on passion, love, joy etc.

Therefore, to be able to love ourselves with our hearts (something our hearts already does) we must allow ourselves to feel the entire range of emotions, we need to be feeling beings. When a feeling or emotion comes up we need to let it, we need to really feel it, (and remember thinking you are feeling it, is not feeling it), we need to breathe through it and see where it takes us. Our feelings and emotions always has something to teach us about our thinking or about our reality.

Loving me with the body

So to love myself fully, I need to come to terms with and accept that I am an embodied being, I have a body and I need to love it and love myself with it. There are so many ways to do this but lets start with some of the obvious ones.

Take care of your body. Your body needs clothes for warmth (at least here in Sweden) so dress yourself, comfortably and warmly. Your body needs food so feed yourself, healthy, nutritious food. Your body needs rest, so take a day of, walk in the sun, sleep long nights and take naps. Your body needs touch, so embrace yourselves, caress yourselves and make love to yourselves.

Seriously, do you really intentionally and with presence feed yourself, do you pick out the juiciest fruits and the most delicious vegetables to make yourself a bountiful treat? Do you pick clothes that caress your skin and make you feel wonderful? Do you put yourself to bed and tuck yourself in and indulge in the softest best pillow and care for your sleep hygiene? Do you hug yourself, caress yourself and show yourself love when you feel lonely or scared and feel the need to be loved and touched? When you are starved for intimacy do you arouse yourself and give yourself the intimacy and pleasure you need?

My cup runneth over

So what is all this self love for, why should I put myself like this in the centre of my own universe? Isn’t this just selfishness? Will I not just become a self centred egoistical human being like all the others running around hoarding my own treasures and jealously guarding them?

In short, NO!

Abundance as god’s intention

When we go to the scriptures we see that god’s intention for us is abundance listen to these words on what it means to be blessed:

Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you; they shall come out against you one way, and flee before you seven ways. The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns, and in all that you undertake; he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you. The Lord will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. The Lord will make you the head, and not the tail; you shall be only at the top, and not at the bottom (Deut 28.3-13a)

God wants abundance for you, god wants to lavish god’s love and blessing on you like a prodigal son or daughter. Because it is when i act out of this abundance that I can truly give.

 

Abundance as the only valid starting point

If I love myself so deeply, so profoundly, so completely that I do not need anyone else’s love, approval or care then I will walk through life knowing that I have all I need, that I am all that I need to be and that what is true in my life is abundance not scarcity. Then I can recognise that while I do not need love from somewhere else I have tons of love to give. and I will be acting with what C.S. Lewis called give-love instead of need-love. I will give because of my abundance and not with the hidden agenda that I actually lack and give only so that I can receive from the other.  When we step into abundance, we step into agape, love with no condition, love for no other reason than love.

We all know this really, unless we have we cannot give. Unless we are filled up we have nothing to dish out. Our problem is that we often walk around and wait for other people, things and circumstances to fill us up, when it is in fact our own responsibility to make sure we have what we need first so that we then can give freely out of our abundance.

Abundance as spiritual warfare

When we act from a place of scarcity we walk around with an empty hole a vacuum inside and we look for love, and things and relationships to fill this perceived lack. And when we indiscriminately take in things, people, relationships, ideas etc. we get a lot of crap or wrong/broken thoughts (what the Aramaic word for demon means). However when we are full, filled up with love, loving ourselves because we know we are god’s beloved, there is no room for anything else to come in, we are full. Filled with god’s spirit, god’s love nothing else will stick it will simply run of our backs like water on a goose. Other peoples negativism, other peoples negativity, neediness and scarcity thinking will bounce of because we are filled up with love.

Love yourself

You are loved, you are wonderfully and beautifully crafted, a masterpiece created in the image of the most high, the source of love. Love is not a lesson to be learned it is who we are at the core, it is our origin and our destination. To become like Christ, like god, to truly reflect the nature of god we must become love and we do so by loving ourselves and we love ourselves by first accepting that we are worthy of love, allowing ourselves to deeply feel what we feel and realise that we do, in our hearts love ourselves and that this love is enough, When we can accept this we embody it by falling in love with ourselves and physically loving ourselves. And when we are walking around in this world fully charged with love it will spill over to our neighbour. When I know I am loved and that I have all the love I will ever need, then I do not need to hoard or pile up on love but can freely distribute the abundance to everyone around me. And by loving myself I now love my neighbour as deeply and scandalously as I love myself.

Only there will I then be able to see that in loving myself I am loving my neighbour, and when I love my neighbour I am actually loving myself and my god.

There is no us and them

imageSomeone once told me that all dichotomies are false dichotomies. And maybe this is the most sinister but also the most widespread of them all. The very idea that there is us and them, the idea that we are somehow different *better” that them, whomever they are.

In what may have been one of the most important books I read this year, Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland, Christena lifts up the dangers of group-think and how we form our identity and belonging based on mutual disdain for them. What really got me was how deeply this is programmed into our lazy brains that work very hard indeed not to work at all. Categorising and labeling people and groups so that we don\t have to take on the hard task of staying open and fluid.

If we could just see on a personal level how we project both the good and bad onto everyone we meet then maybe we could see how we are prone to the same dynamics ona communal level. If we could start by erasing the I and you difference maybe we could start blurring the us and them lines. Most importantly if we could gain clarity and see how we project our own shadow (the parts of us that we are unaware of, often the scary parts) onto other people so that the evil we see in them is really the evil we are capable of ourselves. If we can, like Peter Rollins often have said, choose a level of communication where we can see that maybe we are the monster, then I think we can finally be freed of the dichotomy of us and them.

In the Enneagram the holy truth of the type eight is, we are all one! If we could only take this truth to heart and see that we are all members of the same body, parts of the same organism; If we could see that Ubuntu is not just about our little tribe but includes the entire creation, the entire manifestation of the divine. This I think is the theology of the trinity, the ultimate union and perichoresis where the many are all one.

Jesus message was a singular message of love. Love the other, and what better way of loving them, than including them in us and stating there is no us and them, there is only us. To be known, recognised, seen, heard and accepted is to be loved. and Love is the way of Jesus. Judgement on the other hand is the way of the accuser, the way of the shaitan.

Didaché states that there are two roads, one road leads to life and the other road leads to death. I deeply believe this. We can choose to live a life where we feel more alive with each step, where each desicion leads to more love, more joy, greater freedom. There is also a way of life that makes us feel like we are dying inside, where each step leads to us feeling less free, less alive, contracted and small.

Which way will you chose today?

My take on reality is this: There is no us and them, there is only I and us. Either I step upp and recognise that we are all one or I stay deep in my ego and while I may think that I am part of a small exclusive tribe all that has happened is that I have isolated myself in a very small and contracted ego-I and I live in the illusion that I am an island. An island (sometimes grouped with other contracted islands) isolated from the community of this creation. To open up and join the dance, that is the way of love, the way of Jesus.

Sex is not filthy

wpid-Photo-20-maj-2012-1053.jpgIT’S TRUE!!

Not even when it’s really good! Not even when it’s long or loud, wet and rowdy. Sex is not even filthy when it is public or outside or taped. Sex is not filthy when it is between two men or two women. It is not filthy no matter what clothes we dress up in or not.

Sex is sacred

We need to remember this. our sexuality is agift from the divine source. It is sacred, it is a sacrament, it truly is. The word sacrament comes from the latin translation of Pauls letter to Collosi in the first chapter where Paul talks about a mystery, a secret. The word in latin is sacramentum it means mystery.

Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a girl. (Prov 30.18-19 NRSV)

This describes it well, a mystery, things I don’t fully understand, things that are to wonderful to be properly described; The eagle, the snake, a sailing ship and sex. All sacred, none filthy (no matter how you feel about snakes).

Sex is an outer manifestation of ur inner longing. Our inner longing, our deepest desire is to merge, to unite, to manifest the truth that we are all one, with each other and one with the divine source.

Rabbi Akkiba is supposed to have said that: All the days of eternity are not worth the day the song of Solomon was included in the scriptures, for all the scriptures are holy, but the song of songs is the holy of holies. This about the book in the bible that writes unashamedly and explicitly about the erotic, sexual union of man and woman.

In the song the woman cries out: “Wake up, North Wind, get moving, South Wind! Breathe on my garden, fill the air with spice fragrance. Oh, let my lover enter his garden! Yes, let him eat the fine, ripe fruits.” (‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭4‬:‭16‬ MSG) And the man responds later: “You are tall and supple, like the palm tree, and your full breasts are like sweet clusters of dates. I say, “I’m going to climb that palm tree! I’m going to caress its fruit!” Oh yes! Your breasts will be clusters of sweet fruit to me, Your breath clean and cool like fresh mint, your tongue and lips like the best wine.” (‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭7‬:‭8-9‬ MSG)

What about pornography?

So if sex is not filthy, what about pornography then? Is it also sacred? No, not generally. But pornography does not make sex filthy anymore than beating somebody over the head with the Mona Lisa makes art violent. Pornography often pictures merging without union, it is the longing without the fullfilment, because however much the porn industry wants us to believe it orgasm or ejaculation is not the fullfillment of our desire, it is the union; It is two souls merging at a spiritual and energetical level, it is when the boundaries between our bodies blurr and we no longer know where I end and the other begins. If we think that sex is only carnal we are just missing the point.

Pornography most often missuse or abuse sex, but that does not make sex bad. Pornography contains a mechanical, empty, loveless, commercial version of sex. It is like doing church without spirit and love. Singing worship whithout the words resonating in your heart. It becomes a lifeless puppet theater, a shadow of something real.

Why should the devil have all the good sex?

William Booth said: “Why should the devil have all the good music”, and I want to use this on sexuality (regardless of what you believe about the devil). Not that the “Devil” has all the good sex, I simply don’t think this is true, what is true however is that we as Christians (It may be true of other religions as well, but I am a Christian and this is my path, so it is the only one I can speak from) have generally given up on good sex. Oh sure we say that we are doing it, we say that we think it is a gift from god, but then we draw the curtains, pull down the blinds, shut the lights and fumble aout in the dark. We don’t practice to get better, we don’t study sex, we do not teach our children about their bodies, we don’t teach our teenagers and young adults good sex (we tell them to stay away from it until that magical day when they suddenly should have mastery over it).

It is time for us to reclaim the divine Eros. It is time for us as Christians, as humans to take back this sacrament and treat it as such, as a mystery as something that is sacred and holy.

Making love

It is time for us to realise that god is love and love making is the act of manifesting god in our present moment. To outwardly manifest this inner grace, this inner longing and desire to unite and merge. Instead of seeing our sexuality as something shameful and inconvenient, instead of viewing sex and eorticism as unclean and filthy we need to celebrate it as a sacred part of life, a beautiful gift. We need to also write about it, talk about it, sing about it, simply celebrate the beauty of it.

We need to invite Eros back into the church! God is love, this means god is agape, storge, phileo and eros. As long as we lock eros in the basement and pretend she does not exist we do not get the fullness of the divine.

Why are we so afraid?

fear-not1Those of you who have heard me teach have probably heard me say that joy is the Christian trademark, well that and or grace. While there are a lot of really awesome teaching in most of the world religions, the idea of grace, the completely undeserved, unconditional gift that inspires a no holds barred kind of joy in the believers life.That said, I have to ask, Why are we so afraid?

When I hear Christians speak both amongst themselves and from the pulpit. We are afraid, afraid of other religions and what they might do to us, afraid of the devil and demons, afraid that god will punish us, afraid that we have gotten it all wrong, just afraid.

Isn’t it funny that gods messengers in the scriptures always starts with “do not fear”. Isn’t it funny that Jesus always speaks of love, grace and joy. There simply is nothing to fear. If god is so great then what could possibly scare us? If our god is all that, why are we afraid of Muslims, Mormons, Jehovas, Hindus, Wiccans, of Yoga, of Astrology, of secular music, Harry Potter books, of tattoos and any alternative anything.

Do we not have faith in Christos Victor?

It seems to me that Christians should be able to walk through life, and partake in all of life, fully,  without any fear; Without the fear of condemnation; Without the fear of contamination; Without the fear of the devil and most importantly without fearing god.

“Perfect love casts out all fear”

I think we need to quake with love, we need to be shaken down to our roots with love. So filled with love that wherever we go we bring love to that place, into that which we are doing transforming it in the process. Guided by the spirit of divine love I will transform anything I do into sacrament and worship whether it is a handshake or an embrace, yoga or martial arts, whether it is in a synagogue or a mosque, church or an oak grove.

Greater is the divine source within me than any opposition. If you dare greatly, you may recognise the same divine source of love operating out there in the wild just as it is inside of you and your church.

 

Love is not a theory

heart-love-you-are-here-Favim.com-266077We talk about love a lot, we say that: God is love! The scriptures say it over and over again, they even say that unless you are in love, saturated with love, bubbling over with love, you are not with god. And so we realise that love is necessary, it’s a fundamental part of our Christian faith and lives.

But among all this love talk, how much and how deeply do we actually love? Again in church we teach that love is a verb, love is action, love is giving to those in need. I agree with all of this but also realise that all those actions can be taken without love. It can be done for a myriad of different reasons some related to love and others not.

So among all this love talk and good deeds, I want to ask with the words of the profetess Fergie: Where is the love?

Love is not a theory, but it also is not an action. Love is a reality that we inhabit. Love is our origin, our home and our destiny. Love is what is at the core of our beings when we search for the divine, we find it in love. Love is not something we can accidentally fall in or out of, it is not something that is sparked by good looks or even a beautiful soul. LOVE IS! At the center of everything there is love and when we understand that we are all connected in and through this love, then we will understand that love is not what we feel, not what we think, not what we do, but what we are!

Only love is real!

So how do we enter this reality, or rather how do we wake up to this reality? We must practice love. We must practice slowing down and finding the depth and core of ourselves (so we can find that love within) and then we must reach out and touch the people around us, embrace them, cuddle them, kiss them, love them (so that they can be touched by love from without). And then we need to make love, lots of it, in all our conscious interaction each action should make love, generate love and grow love. Lets stop talking, start making love with ourselves and the people around us and watch the love grow exponentially!

Kiss me, I am a Christian!

thinkgeek-kiss-me-im-elvish-2014-530x627-1So I was looking at one of my favourite geeky webpages when I found this T-Shirt that said: “Kiss me I’m elvish”. Which of course is a rip of of the old “Kiss me I’m Irish” slogan. And it got me thinking…
Today Christians are so afraid of any physical contact, because we have fallen into the gnostic trap of the body and it’s desires are evil and the spirit and things spiritual (that is not material) that come from god  are good. But it was not always so. over and over again the apostles, Paul in particular, but also Peter and others write to the early followers of the way to “greet each other with a holy kiss”. Most Christians are aware of the fact that the kiss was the greeting used by the disciples when they met Jesus (evidenced by Judas kissing Jesus in the garden). But as good Christians we quickly assume that it is a holy (read not very physical) peck on the cheek with an embrace that is actually not an embrace at all.

How wrong we are, and how little we understand of our heritage and in fact how great god is. For who, to quote John Eldredge in Wild at heart, made a kiss so delicious?

Peter and Paul kissing

Peter and Paul kissing

The holy kiss was a full kiss on the mouth. It was the sign of peace (eirene) and a sign of complete openness and vulnerability. It was a mimicking of god’s breath bringing life to Adam and Jesus bestowing the holy spirit through breath. It was the symbol of us all being one in Christ through the mixing of breath and closeness of the body.

Augustine wrote the following in one of his easter sermons:

Then, after the consecration of the Holy Sacrifice of God, because He wished us also to be His sacrifice, a fact which was made clear when the Holy Sacrifice was first instituted, and because that Sacrifice is a sign of what we are, behold, when the Sacrifice is finished, we say the Lord’s Prayer which you have received and recited. After this, the ‘Peace be with you’ is said, and the Christians embrace one another with the holy kiss. This is a sign of peace; as the lips indicate, let peace be made in your conscience, that is, when your lips draw near to those of your brother, do not let your heart withdraw from his. Hence, these are great and powerful sacraments.

Such openness and vulnerability, such love and intimacy. Only by being truly close to Christ and filled with spirit source and divine love could we handle this.

tumblr_static_richard_and_bobThe Irish slogan kiss me I’m Irish comes from the folkloric tradition of kissing the Blarney stone for good luck, if you could not get to the blarney stone, you took the next best thing, an Irish person! What if we would embody the love of the divine so fully and perfectly that we could experience the peace of god through the holy kiss. or if that is to sacred for our modern dulled sensibilities, a holy embrace. As Augustine rightly states, this is a sacrament!

Sinner is not our identity

True-selfI have heard it often spoken in churches, you are a sinner! We most often base this on a handful of verses out of scripture like the famous “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of god”. And so we fall into the trap where we think that we are what we do, that our identity is our personality or our ego is who we are.

It is commonly agreed (among Christians and theologians) that out of the over twenty different words used for sin in the New Testament the most often used is hamartia missing the mark. From this point of view sin is whenever we act, not according to our true self, our essence, we sin. And while it is true that we all do this and sometimes we do this a lot, almost all the time. The truth is that it also means that we are not sinners, we are in fact children of god. We are loved by god and it is when we act not according to this true identity that we sin.

It also means that most of the time our definition of sin is sinful (miss the mark). This is true because it is when we are sad on the inside and plaster a fake smile on our lips that we sin, when we pretend to be strong and courageous, while on the inside we know that we are vulnerable and fearful. It is when we allow ourself to feel what we are really feeling deep down inside and express it that we are being true to ourselves. For example, when you hit yourself on your thumb with a hammer and you let out a litany (swearwords or not) that is a true expression of what we are experiencing in the moment, not sin. when we loose ourselves in lovemaking and we become one with our beloved with no hidden agenda or distracting thoughts we are being true and not sinful. But when our ego getsto dictate our actions and we act based on fear and unnecessary self preservation that is when we miss the mark, that is when we do not express our true identity (child of god, beloved of the divine, part of the oneness of creation).

You are not your personality, you are not a sinner not at your core, it is not your identity. John Eldredge writes in his book Wild at Heart: “Your sin is not what is most true about you.” The scriptures assert over and over again that you are loved, you are holy, you are sacred, you are divine.

This is why holiness is such a relief. Holiness is taking of the masks and relaxing into who you truly are, your essence, your origin and your destiny. It is why Jesus says come to me all who are tired and sick of it (tired of pretending, sick of playing games) because the path I will show you is easy and will give you no burden to carry, no role to fulfil. No more pretending, no more acting, no more grandstanding or posturing, no religious games or shallow piety. It is living deeply out of who you truly are giving your unique gift to the world by manifesting your essence.  Scripture tells us that we are works of art (poema) created for good works that are prepared along the way, nothing we must accomplish or make happen but moments that become beautiful just because we show up as ourselves giving our unique, deep gift, being who we where meant to be as integral parts of gods spectacular creation.

Ministry is not a program

Spirit-of-Ubuntu-photoMinistry is an interesting word for many reasons, the most important reason is that it does not mean what most people assume it means. For me as a Swede it has double significance as it is one of the Christian buzzwords that do not exist in the Swedish language. The closest we get to the the word ministry is “tjänst” which just like the english counterpart means job in the common vernacular but the word actually means service or favour.

In the same way the english word ministry (which for evangelical Christians seems to be a very important word) is assumed to mean my job in the church or the church program/outreach I run/am a part of.

But just like the Swedish word ministry actually means service as in “to serve“. That is why both political leaders and clergy are called ministers because they are called to serve the people.

Therefore ministry cannot be something I do a certain day of the week or between certain hours of the day. Ministry, I think, is part and parcel with who you are: A gift to the world, and more specifically, how your unique gift to the world is presented. Your ministry (your service) happens every time you meet and see another person and love them. It happens each time you care for the planet, the animals or the people around you. It happens each time you are moved by the divine to do something beyond your own sphere of interest but also when you love your self.

As we are all part of the great organism called kosmos (in John 3.16), ministry is the serving you do as a part of this organism. Ministry is the sacramental life (an outward sign of an inward grace). Ministry is life lived in ubuntu, in fellowship and community, recognising that we are all one and all I do, I do, in service, for the one.

 

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