Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Friday, June 18, 2010


I've been reading an interesting book by a psychologist named Laurel Mellin.  Called "The Pathway" it is a book that tries to help people find what they want the most, what she calls "life's sweetest awards."  What I have loved about this book is the author's insistence that we don't find those rewards by looking outside ourselves to external solutions.  Those external things that we try to use to make ourselves happy generally don't work.  Sometimes because they are inherently destructive, and sometimes because in our desperation, we simply can't limit our use of them.  So no matter what they are they end up as "bad news."  

So we are out of balance, feeling sad, angry, guilty, or fearful, and we reach outside to things that might be good, serving others, working, but  we go to excess and we stay a mess.  Or we reach outside to things that numb but don't help, such as alcohol or food, and we stay a mess.

Mellin believes that the way we get back in balance, and find what we need, is to go inside, to look of internal solutions.  Often the reason we don't go inside is because we have neglected the inner life, so that when we do go inside, there is nothing there.  Or it is a space so full of emotional junk that we cannot find nurture and comfort in that place.  

Mellin suggests that we take time to nurture that inner place, which she calls, fittingly, the sanctuary.  She says that we need to do some house cleaning.  Take out the emotional trash,  "clean he cobwebs off a nurturing inner voice," repair the disconnects between ourselves and, well, ourselves.  In short, we need to be lovingly connected to our self, intimate with our self.  

But not just our self, also "spirituality."  Being connected with the spiritual, with God, being "intimate" with God.  Becoming intimate with the sacred, is something else that happens when we go within to the core of who we are. There we find God, and as we are open to that presence we learn to love the sacred, and be loved by the sacred.

I have been using many of Mellin's ideas in my own life.  But what I realized the other day is that this concept has been around a long time.  This idea, that we go inside, to the heart, that we connect there with God and our true self, and thus find joy, and intimacy with others, has been around - well at least since Jesus said "Love God, with all your heart soul mind and strength, and love your neighbor AS YOURSELF".

I like the idea of being what Mellin calls "an intimacy catcher"  -  being so in touch with my God and my self that I can allow others in, that I can catch those opportunities for intimacy, for love, as they come along  --  in the smile of a child, in the laughter of a friend.  I'm still working on it!  But hopeful.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Back to School

In my last blog I responded to some comments passed on to me from a Sunday School class.  It related to "God's Plan."  This week there is more fun ahead, as the class is going to explore how to know God's plan, and follow God's plan.

I have to admit I once again find myself questioning.  Implied in the way the issue is framed is the idea that God has a very specific plan for each of us, and we are to follow that plan, or else!  Or else what?  Be punished.  Experience a horrible life?  Disappoint God?  Lose God's love?

It's hard to tell.  Let me say right off that I think it is almost impossible for us to disappoint God.  Do you think God doesn't know what we are like?  That our propensity for bad decisions, and willfulness are unknown?

And than leads me to my next thought.  I think God is the great innovator.  OK, maybe God does have a plan for us.  But almost from the moment we draw a breath that plan is not happening.  Our parents mess it up.  Then we mess it up.  What other people do, you might say history messes it up.  But mostly it is us.  We are after all children.  And children are strong willed and rebellious.  It is almost as if it is the job of children to frustrate the plans and intentions of their parents.

So there we are, the children of God.  Going through life, stumbling alone.  Sometimes making good choices, sometimes poor choices.  And God?  Well God is walking along with us.  Truly with us.  Experiencing everything we experience.  Feeling our hurt, our joy, our hope, our despair.  And being the GREAT INNOVATOR!

I think God is always having to innovate.  God takes what we offer.  Good, bad or indifferent, and works with us to make the best thing possible occur from that offering.  That takes innovation and amazing creativity.  And so we go from Plan A to Plan B to ... well, how many letters are there in the alphabet?  Not nearly enough

But for that me that is the most incredible gift.  That God does not give up on me, but stays with me and works with me each step of my life.  Never gives up!  Always works with me, to make things work together for God.

Can we know God's plan?  Probably not, it may well be always changing.  Can we follow God's plan?  Perhaps, momentarily, yes.  Does that mean we freeze?  Never.  God wants us moving.  God would rather have us moving and making mistakes, that sitting still going nowhere.  As one old Irish rancher once told me.  "It is a lot easier for God to change your direction if you are moving, than it is for for him to get you off your butt if you are sitting still."


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In the Plan!

I was talking to a friend the other day about a Sunday School experience.  I asked what they topic was, and the response was that they had talked about the difference God makes in difficult times.  "When we have God then something good can come out of the most difficult times.  It is all part of God's plan."  OK, don't quote me, but it was something like that.  I remember thinking after the first part of the phrase  "YES! - GRACE!"

I remember being less then thrilled about the second part of the sentence.  I really struggle with comments such as that. I know, there is this thing a lot of us have about the power of God, and about the fact that for God to be God, all things must be under God's control.  If we push this to the logical conclusion, then all things must somehow be part of God's plan, even the horrible things that happen.

And frankly, I don't buy that!  I don't believe God "gives" people cancer as part of a plan.  Or that children are molested, or young father's killed as a part of some "plan" that exists in the mind of the sacred.  If I believed that ?  Well I would end up echoing the thoughts of C.S. Lewis after his great love died of cancer stated -  that it was not so much that he was in danger of not believing in God, but that he might come to believe "horrible things" about God.

I do not believe God "causes" bad things.  I guess the most I can affirm is that somehow God allows bad to exist.  Why?  Lots of theories on that one.  Free will.  The cost of letting us be children and not slaves.  But the point is that bad things happen, and God is NOT the author.  But there is one thing I can affirm.  That if God is alive and well at the core of our being, good things can emerge from even the worst the world can offer.  Forgiveness, hope, survival, love. . .

These can come out of even the darkest of times.  As Paul affirms, "all things work together for good (not all things are good) for those who love God."  Even oil spills.  Even betrayal.  Hatred.  Out of the worst can come the best.

I struggle with that sometimes.  I can't watch the TV news these days, or shows like Rachael Maddox.  Can't even come close to FOX - scary stuff.  It is just to frustrating.  There is just so much fear, hatred, blindness, greed.  BUT, but, when God is alive and well, good can, will, does, emerge.

Now that is a matter of faith.  Lord give me faith