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Guest Author: 
Dr. Bruce Tallman

 

God does not have to “intervene” in human affairs, as if God was swooping in from the outside, because God is everywhere and always has been. If anything, we humans are the interlopers, not God. As psychologist Carl Jung engraved in stone above his home’s entrance, “Summoned or not, God will be there.”

When Moses asked God what God’s name was, God said “I Am.” In other words, God is pure being, or “Being-Itself.” But God is also “Becoming-Itself.” God’s love is moving the whole evolutionary process forward toward God’s reign of wisdom, joy, justice, peace, and love.

This is evidenced by the fact that evolution has consistently moved in a spiritual direction: from rocks and water to plants and animals to humans and further to the spread of major religions around the world. So the direction is: matter to life to thought to spirit.

As a thought-experiment, let’s consider that possibly Jesus wanted to take things a further step, to a religion beyond religion — a meta-religion for everyone (“meta” means “beyond”).

His first major teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, starts with the Beatitudes, in which he outlines true happiness. In short: “Happy are the humble, the just, the pure in heart, and the peaceful.” He undoubtedly meant this for all human beings, not just his Jewish listeners.

We can resist his vision and the whole evolutionary process of course, and religious people have sometimes been the biggest resisters. The root of religion is “ligio” which means “to join” (same root as ligament), but religion can be used to hate and divide. Non-religious people can hate and divide people too, so the real problem is the human heart, rather than religion or atheism.

 “Are you becoming a wise and compassionate human being?”

I am not sure if it matters to God if you call yourself Christian, Jewish, Hindu, agnostic, or atheist if you are unkind. God’s key question is probably “Are you becoming a wise and compassionate human being?”

Along these lines, Aldous Huxley wrote The Perennial Philosophy in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, in which he noted that world peace should be possible because the same themes occur perennially in all religions: charity, peace, and kindness. All that is required is for believers to practise these values.

Brother Wayne Teasdale, a Catholic monk, more recently said the same thing in Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (1999). All the major religions in fact have more in common than our differences.

Christians regularly say that God is love, but maybe we could go beyond this and affirm that God is also wisdom, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. These are values everyone can agree on, whether they are religious or not.

Thus there may be a universal spirituality, not just for religious people, but for all human beings. If anyone, atheist or believer, experiences wisdom, joy, love, and peace, they are experiencing God working within them, urging them on to become fuller, more evolved human beings.

This is happening all the time because God is in all our lives, not only in those who are religious but also in the “spiritual but not religious,” and even in those who claim they are not spiritual. All of us want more happiness in our lives, so everyone is in fact spiritual and experiences God, whether they admit it or not.

This meta-religion of universal spirituality, this religion beyond religion, may be similar to what Jesus, Huxley, and Teasdale proposed. Hopefully, it is something we could all agree and work together on. The goal of all education, religious or otherwise, should be to produce more wise and compassionate human beings.

Guest Author: 
Rev. Marcia Smith-Wood

     

 

 

“Look at the bug,” my friend says.

I turn my head and suddenly see not a bug

but a large dragonfly - resting flat against the back of the chair near me

its four huge translucent black and white striped wings spread wide and motionless

in the sunlight,

total stillness,

quiet,

and yet more.

 

In wordless wonder my soul silently asks,

Are you daring me to see you?

I know the answer before I hear it inside me:

      “Yes.”

 

You’re a messenger, aren’t you, daring me to accept a much resisted but holy invitation?

Daring me to stop the distracting busyness of my life?

      “Yes.”

Daring me to learn to rest like you in the sunlight

to finally spread my soul’s wings in quietness and wonder,

totally still and totally vulnerable ...

open, finally listening deeply to the light-filled, life-transforming love of the Divine One?

      “Yes.”

 

Huge round unblinking black eyes.

Narrow long light blue body.

Four huge translucent wings

totally still and totally vulnerable in the life-giving sunlight.

 

I remember that it takes two years after hatching

two years of growing as a vulnerable, fragile nymph

before the nymph’’s final metamorphosis into a dragonfly

Two long years surviving in this beautiful but often brutal world

Two long years before the dragonfly finally is ready to be who it was created to be.

 

“Yes. You are seeing the truth. I am a living invitation, which some call a metaphor.

     If I can do it, so can you.

     What you have been through has taught you much; has grown you much.

     But now this stage is over.

     It’s time. Let go of earlier stages. Let it all go.

    What are you afraid of?

    Have you forgotten the words of the Holy Oneness,

    with which you comfort everyone else?

    - “Fear not, I am with you.” -

 

“Yes. That’s it. Breathe. BREATHE!

      Relax your fear-based fighting muscles.

      Relax your fear-based, please-everyone-else muscles.

      Let go of what other people think.

      Let go of those who tell you, with the best of intentions,

      what they think you ought to be.

 

“ ‘Look at the bug,’ your friend said when he saw me, but never really saw me.

     You saw me.

     You know the truth.

     Dare to be who you were created to be! Dare to see who you really are.

     Dare to become who you were born to be ... even if no one else understands.

     Now! Have courage! Have joy!

     It’s time. Fear not!”

 

"Spread your soul’s wings wide; rest in God’s Presence and be transformed.

     It’s time.

     It’s time to love yourself. It’s time to be your Self in this world."

Guest Author: 
Carissa A. Kane

                                                          

 

It serves us well to remember that while the sun greets each day and the moon bids it farewell, each day is not the same. Though the hours in a day remain the same, each day offers countless possibilities and opportunities. In order to pursue or partake of them, though, often requires one to make a change.While we do need some things to be consistent and to have some structure, it is often good to re-evaluate our routines. Are there ways in which I have become closed off to that which is new or different? Is there room for change?

Guest Author: 
Aprille Jordan

My first experience with Spiritual Direction took me by surprise. I was going through grief and in the midst of transition. During this time, I was invited by a not-so-close friend to meet weekly for conversation and prayer. I accepted her invitation and discovered that although she wasn’t an accredited spiritual director, she was a naturally gifted one. She provided for me what I then came to expect from Spiritual Direction: a focused listening ear.

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell

                      

Guest Author: 
Anil Singh-Molares

 

Editor's note: The executive director of Spirtual Directors International, Anil Singh-Molares, wrote a version of this piece for the SDI newsletter "Listen"  earlier this year. The response from our membership was so positive and strong we wanted to share it here in hopes of widening the discussion and hearing more from the community. Please let us know what your answer is below in the comments. (And for context on the above quote -- check out the cool 4-minute video with Rev. Vaccariello.

What is a spiritual director?

 

One question, many answers.

The term “spiritual director” has many associations and a long history in the Abrahamic faiths traditions, where it has been closely associated with certain strands of Judaism, with spiritual directors referred to as “Hashpa'ah” or “Mashpai’h,” (depending on the strand); Christian and, much later, in particular Ignatian spirituality; and in the Islamic Sufi path, where the spiritual director is known as a “Murshid.” But even within these traditions there is great (and increasing) variability in how the terms are used, defined, and contextualized. The common approach that they share is that in all of them, the spiritual director looks to engage with seekers in an open and non-judgmental way, steeped in contemplative practice and deep listening, to provide guidance and enable seekers to get closer to God.

Guest Author: 
Tessi Muskrat Rickabaugh
 

 

My mom and brother both got married this summer. A second marriage for my mom, in the beautiful mountains of Colorado; a lovely outdoor ceremony for my brother, with just a touch of the melodrama required of a couple who met and bonded over a mutual interest in science fiction epics and theatre. Sharing two weddings with my sprawling and increasingly diverse family has given me a richness of time to sit with the question of what it is that keeps us together, and why it works.

We cover the spectrum by now, my siblings and our families: gun-loving hunting enthusiasts, feminists, counselors, spiritual directors, members of the LGBTQ community, Republicans, Democrats, Mormons, atheists, evangelicals and everything in-between. When we gather, I marvel at the mini-miracle that is this microcosm of America able to come together, fall apart, come together again, and go home still loving each other.

It’s not always easy, of course, but when struggles arise, when hurtful things are said by accident or someone unwittingly steps on someone else’s toes, we keep talking. When beliefs and lifestyles are shared which challenge the comfort of others, we keep listening. We continue to share our story, and listen with open curiosity to the stories of others. We engage with each other’s lives, because in our deepest souls we believe that these relationships matter.

There is no way to say “I’m sorry” in Cherokee, nor is there a word for “love”. If you are loved by someone, my language teacher says, they will show you. There’s no need to use words. We have a phrase in Cherokee—phonetically it is “de tsa da hli yv se s di”—which loosely translates to “Y’all cling to each other.” Cling, my teacher says, as if what you have is worth fighting to the death to keep. A dog, fighting to protect the children it loves, may die in the fight but will never give up. If we value one another with that fierce love, we will have no need for apologies.

U.S. Congressman Rep. Joe Kennedy recently spoke at The Summit, Sojourners' annual gathering of faith and justice leaders. In his remarks, he shared what he believes lies at the heart of the Christian faith: “The belief that we are all worthy, we are all equal, we all count.”” We are all, according to the Bible, sons and daughters of God.

When I ponder what it is that keeps my family together, that allows us to go home at the end of the day with love in our hearts for each other, it is this same principle. The belief that we—each parent and sibling, each spouse and child—are family. Each of us is worth clinging to, is worth fighting for. Our differences are pregnant with the potential for division. Should we choose to let go of our belief in the value of one another—should we cease to cling to one another—we could easily splinter apart. But we chose to remember. We choose to love.

Guest Author: 
Janice L. Lundy, DMin

It was my 18-month old daughter who deepened my experience of wonder. As soon as she could toddle, her chubby little legs carried her outside to explore the big, wide world.

I can still see her in my mind’s eye, crouching down in the grass to point her tiny finger at any number of nature’s surprises: ants busily building a house, fragments of a pale blue robin’s egg, the delicate tapestry of Queen Anne’s Lace. “Look, Mama,” she would say, “isn’t it pretty? Come see!” And she would continue to crouch and wait until I did the same. Every waking moment of her day, all she wanted to do was go outside to explore nature’s handiwork. This little soul lived in a world of wonder.

Guest Author: 
Susan Sevier

Patience as a practice is, for me, inseparable from the activities it makes possible:  waiting, listening, and empathy.  More than any other necessary ingredient along the spiritual journey, I have seen it only as the condiment, never the main course.  That is, until I think about the differences between my two beagles, Gracie and Joy, and the way they approach their favorite pastime – fly hunting. 

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