Archive for theology

Feelings are not dangerous and unreliable

feelingsquotesIf you have been raised in church or spent a longer time as a member of some sort of church, then I am sure you have been told not to trust your feelings. I was certainly told time and time again that feelings are a roller coaster, they come and go and cannot be trusted.

It is not strange that this is our teaching as we live in a society that prizes the mind over everything else. We have bodies and hearts but it is in the mind that we live and exist.

“Cogito ergo sum”, I think therefore I am. We repeat Descarte’s mantra over and over again and shut the lid tighter on the container that holds our hearts and all our feelings.

However in our sacred text we read “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov 4.23 NRSV) We have long put the mind on a pedestal and shoved our hearts and feelings as deep and as far away that we can manage. Rationality has almost become our religion. We cling to dogma and doctrine and we practice apologetics like it was our life saver or saviour. The Bible has become our source for proof texting and so it is our idol. Some say that we, in the evangelical stream of Christianity, have made the Bible a fourth member of our trinity. We have gone so far as to actually teach that the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jer 17.9)and therefore needs to have a very short leash, while the mind is being glorified and relied on fully.

If we look at the portrait the sacred text show us of the divine, god is not primarily a thinking god. Do a search in your bible program and compare how many times you can find that “god thought” compared to how many times you can find “god felt.”

Our god is primarily a feeling god, a god of compassion, our fellow sufferer, who chose to feel what it was like to be human and suffer with a suffering humanity. If god is our role model then maybe we also need to unlock the strong box we have locked away our heart and feelings and carefully coax our abused and frightened heart back into the forefront.

We have been told that it is weak to be emotional or feeling, probably because when we feel deeply and show it we remind others that they have feelings that they are trying so hard not to feel.

To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living. (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly)

 

We need to bring back (and sometimes revive) our emotional bodies. It is not only ok to feel, it is essential. If we are to find our true selves, it is not our mind but our feelings that will guide the way, if we are to find our way to the divine source it is our deep longings and desires that will open the gates and find the paths.

Your feelings are always true, when you feel anger, you are angry. Sometimes you are all confused and deceived by your mind as to why and sometimes your mind serves you the most incredible stories and reasons, but whatever the reason it does not change the fact that you are angry. Acknowledge the anger, move the energy and let it pass and it will clear a path in your emotional body that will make way for other feelings like joy, pleasure and bliss.

Renowned shame and vulnerability scholar Brené Brown tells us that we cannot mute emotions selectively. If you suppress anger, anxiety and pain you also limit your ability to feel joy, pleasure and bliss.

Do you want more joy in your life? Do you want more pleasure and bliss? Then you must allow yourself to feel and feel deeply. There is a treasure hidden there in your heart, your heart already knows and loves both yourself and the divine. It is there in the tangle of feelings and emotions that you will find the door to the divine source. There is a reason we keep saying that we are to invite Jesus into our hearts …. that is where the truth lives.

We are not going to get anywhere until we start trusting what is within us. You are afraid and doubt what lies deep within you, but what lies deep within you is your salvation and the salvation of the world. (Jim Palmer, Inner Anarchy)

So let us start listening to our feelings, honour and acknowledge them, they are not dangerous or unreliable, your heart will not lead you astray but rather follow your heart and you will finally find your way home where your true self and the divine are waiting with open arms to greet you.

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.

Loving the earth is not satanic

Canticle-print-smallIn the beginning when god began creating the heavens and the earths manifestations of god’s self of gods love, and god saw that it was good. And god created humans as embodied manifestations of gods consciousness, god’s glory and god’s love. God charged humanity to be stewards of the earth, to love it and care for it.

It should not be a big surprise to us that we as gods image bearers also have a deep love for the creation that we are a part of. We are hardwired to be awed and swept away by god’s creation. The forests and the oceans are part of us, or we are part of them, they are our external lungs and without them we cannot live. At the core of everything we are connected, we are one with all of creation and it’s divine source. All is one. because in the end there is only the divine source and the source is love.

How is it then, that as soon as we express this deep devotion and love for the manifestation of the divine, the Christian tribe quickly labels it as heretical, pagan, new agey and even satanic?

Wouldn’t it be natural for us to join in with saint Francis in the canticle of the sun?

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

There is a clear connection between our embodied state and our spirituality, this connection needs to be honoured if we are to truly manifest missio dei, god’s dream or god’s kingdom.

Thomas Merton makes this connection clear when he writes:

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.

C.S Lewis also beautifully describes this heavenly music of the spheres in his space trilogy. So can we be still and hear the music of creation humming and drumming deep within us, can we feel the connection to the earth, to the sun, to the moon and stars, to all of creation, without being afraid that we are becoming pantheist, pagan, wiccan, or as some Christian tribes would have it, thereby satanist? Can I honour and love the divine in mother earth, in sister moon, in father sky and in brother wolf, without thinking or worrying about being heretical? All is one with the divine source and I want us all to have the freedom to honour the divine in all. Because loving the earth is our task, it’s in our DNA and it is a sacred connection with the divine source.

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.

Life is not a warm-up for heaven

imageThe whole idea of heaven, while hope inspiring, often corrodes and hollows out our everyday life. It is interesting to note that Jesus rarely spoke about heaven. To him, it seemed much more important and urgent to deal with life here and now. Heaven in the here and now.

“Repent, for the kingdom of god is at hand”

So what did he mean?

Turn around, because you are all about to die?

No, Jesus clearly instructs his followers that “the kingdom is not here or there so one can point at it, rather the kingdom of god is inside of you”. We also need to understand that the kingdom of god and the kingdom of heaven is the same thing, it is not a place we can move to but a reality we can wake up to.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there is nothing there after we die, there may very well be some elevated, transcendant reality after this life. All I am saying is that that is not the point. The point is that the kingdom is here and now and if we are completely focussed on then and there we will miss it!

Not only do our choices matter eternally they also matter right here, right now!

Another word used in the New Testament for the kingdom of god/heaven is life or eternal life (aionos zoe). This is primarily used by the author to John’s gospel, who hardly ever mentions the kingdom at all. Rather John’s Jesus offers life and life in abundance. This is the gospel, the good news, that we do not have to wait for pie in the sky when we die. We can have it now, it is accessible here.

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the holy spirit?”

You are the container, the channel of divine love into your community. You are the kingdom, the church, the body. You are it! Right here and right now.

“Above all guard your hearts, because from your heart flows all of life”

So if we are to understand this proverb in the light of John’s high Christology and immanent eschatology then we understand that the point of life is living it. When we simply live life, life flows from our hearts, or to substitute the term: Heaven flows from our hearts and encloses those that are around us. Life is not a warm up for heaven, beacuse, to quote the song “heaven is a place on earth”. This life is it, this life, right here right now, is where we find heaven or hell, where we live through divine bliss or diabolical misery. We just need to wake up and smell the coffee (or in my case, smell the Roibosh Paradise).

There is no dress rehersal, no trial run, no qualifying round; Whatever you are living right now is the main event, the real thing, your grand performance.

So today, on this unique beautiful day in all of eternity, let’s choose to love!

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.

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.

Falling upwards or sin is not that bad

sinSo this week we are talking about sin. It doesn’t happen a lot around here. I abhor the notion of sin, not because of what it means but because of the cultural baggage that we have attached to the idea.

Let me just say outright that the whole concept of a catalogue of sin, certain actions being in themselves sinful, is a very unhelpful way of thinking about sin.

Sin in the scriptures

In the holy texts there is no one word for sin! This is important. We believe that sin is a single thing. But reading the New Testament we find 10 different words that derive into 33 different notions of sin.

One means to refuse to listen to the prompting of the divine. One means to fall when one should have stood up. One means to not arrive with full measure. One means to miss the mark.

Missing the mark

The most important or at least the most frequently used word for sin in the new testament is hamartia which means to miss the mark. This word is used 147 times in the books of the New Testament. The word is what would be used at an archery competition for a shot that didn’t hit the bulls eye in the middle of the target. So this tells us that the New Testament idea of sin is almost but not quite, it’s close but no cigar, it’s simply put ‘not perfect’.

Seen from this perspective, sin, is just all the attempts before we get it right. It is the stepping stones towards success, it’s every dropped ball as I learn to juggle. It is every misstep on the way towards the ultimate goal.

What then is the goal?

See that is the ultimate question, isn’t it. If sin (and this seems to be a major focus in church these days) is missing the goal, what then is the goal? Jesus seems to summarise the goal by quoting the Shema, Love the lord your god with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself. In the light of this the goal is love. From the perspective of the perennial tradition, the goal is to be reunited with the divine. In my eyes tees two perspectives focus into a single goal, unity with god, immersed in love or maybe being divine love.

Sin shows us the way!

So from this perspective, missing the mark, falling when one should have been standing or showing up without full measure, sin is simply the indicator of how far from hitting the mark we are; showing us when and where to keep standing; showing us when we are holding back and not being ourselves fully.

Like Paul says about the law, it only shows us that we ‘are not there yet’. Sin then simply is life’s feedback, it is the ego popping up saying: ‘Hey, I am still here’. It is simply the absence of divine love in our thoughts and actions.

 

Shame or guilt?

If sin is simply how far we are from perfect then it’s not something we should beat ourselves up about. Here is where a healthy view on guilt and shame is very helpful.

To be guilty is to own your thoughts and actions. It is to say, Yes! It was me I did that, or I thought that. Guilt shouldn’t have to carry any enmotion with it. You can also be guilty of good things. Yes, I did that, I did the dishes, I am guilty! Guilt is the healthy confession to oneself and to others, it is the owning of ones thoughts and actions.

Shame on the other hand is a diabolical feeling. Instead of acknowledging an action or a thought and owning it, shame morphs into self hatred with: I did it, I am an awful and disgusting person, I understand that you want nothing to do with me.

If there is such a person as the devil, then shame is the only weapon that the devil ever had. The deception of shame is to transform guilt (owning the action or thought) into self hatred and self abasement, thus creating self made barriers between oneself and love.

So we need to let go of shame and let self awareness and self critique show us how we have missed the mark, not fully been our true selves, and then autocorrect, do over and do better.

Falling upwards

When we can simply observe our daily shortcomings own them and learn from them, they become the stepping stones towards wholeness (holiness). Therefore it becomes evident that the one that falls often and gets up again, grows much. And so step by misstep we fall upwards towards wholeness and divine love!

Science is not secular

machinery-of-the-stars-2We live in a secular society, which for most people means separation of church and state. We have this idea that church simply should not be political or involve itself in matters of state. In the same way we have this notion that church has nothing to do with science and that science have nothing to do with church. Christians in most peoples minds are a backwards people not interested in or even working against science.

The word secular comes from latin seculare which means temporal as opposed to eternal. So originally secular means everything inside the time and space continuum, the Christian religion was supposed to deal with things eternal, that is, things outside time and space.

As above so below

What we are finding though, is that the temporal that which is bound to cycles of birth, ripening, wilting, dying and rebirthing is the way of the eternal. Jesus, who is our image of all things eternal, was born, matured, died and ressurected. So we are finding that this earthly or temporal cycle is the way of things eternal. We are finding as we are gazing into the heavens with better and better telescopes that what we see out there is the same thing we see in our better and better microspcopes. With the advent of quantum physics we are learning that the study of our world is the study of the eternal.

The theopoesis of science

The finer detail science tries to paint the more the language of the scientist starts to sound like the language of the theologian, it is riddled with metaphors and poetic language. This because language is not adequate to express the eternal, no language, not even mathematics.

FlammarionWoodcutScience, while studying things temporal has always uncovered things eternal, science has never been secular in the sense of separation (although many scientists have tried). Science was from the very beginning the art of discovering god through studying the creation. Since “the enlightenment” science has tried to break up with religion with varying degree of success. Like disgrunted lovers, science and religion have wrestled and fought, ignored each other, engaged in heated arguments only to fall back in each others arms. Because the study of god’s creation will always lead to the discovery of the immanent divine presence.

Science is not secular

So here we are, try as we might to make clear distinction between disciplines, the lines will always be blurred because you can never analyse a pice of art without at some point take into account the artist. You can never truly digest a poem without picking up the resonance of the poet. You may do so unknowingly, but the true scientist will never stop at unconscious knowing but will always relentlessly push deeper into truth, into reality and at the very core of reality at the very center of truth, there rests the divine source, the source of love.

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