This week: I Give UpEdited by: Sophy
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Hi, I'm Sophy ~ your editor for this edition of the Spiritual Newsletter.
The Rev. Scotty McLennan, author of the book Finding Your Religion, compares humanity's innate need for spiritual searching to climbing a mountain. In his view, we are all endeavoring to climb the same figurative mountain in our search for the divine, we just may take different ways to get there. In other words, there is one "God," but many paths. I honor whatever path or paths you have chosen to climb that mountain in your quest for the Sacred.
I Give Up
What might be preventing you from being the most authentic version of yourself? Could you benefit from putting something aside for a little while – even knowing you might take it back up again at some point? Is it possible you would benefit from laying something aside even though that something ordinarily serves you well? Maybe it’s something tangible, physical. Maybe it’s an activity. Or perhaps it’s a way of looking at things – an idea or a perspective that tells you who you are to the exclusion of some undeveloped potential. Think about it for a moment.
Each year three of the major world religions – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all observe a solemn time for self-reflection, repentance, and renewal of faith. For Islam it is Ramadan, during which Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, and from partaking of anything considered “ill-natured.” During the observance, Muslims ask forgiveness for sins, pray for guidance, and purify themselves through charity, good works and self-denial. For Jews, there’s the ten days of Rosh Hashanah, ending with Yom Kippur – a time for introspection, confessing sins of the previous year, and seeking reconciliation with those they have wronged before the Day of Atonement. And there’s the Christian season of Lent, which we are in the midst of now - the 40-days preceding Easter in which Christians metaphorically walk with Jesus to his death at the end of Holy Week. It begins on Ash Wednesday when Palm branches from the previous year are burned to make ashes placed on the foreheads of followers while the spiritual leader recites the words, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.” It too prescribes some form of self-denial for the occasion; something one “gives up for Lent.”
We often consider the experience of faith through the metaphor of travel. Gaining spiritual wisdom is something like getting from here to there, with welcome surprises and challenging obstacles to be encountered. There are detours and dead ends as well as the known route and planned destination. There is assistance to be received and deprivation to be endured as one leaves behind the familiar comforts and belongings of home. When you undertake a journey, you’re not the same person when you arrive as you were when you began. And thinking on some of my own travels, I notice the value of the experience has often been hindered by having brought too much with me. Lent is often understood as a journey, and as with any travel to be attempted, we have to make choices about what not to bring.
Lent recalls Jesus’ journey in the wilderness in which the Spirit helped him prepare for – what? In some interpretations the idea is that Jesus was preparing for his eventual sacrifice. Following that example, Christians observe Lent by making their own sacrifice to commemorate the sacrifices Jesus made. In that interpretation, people often give up pleasures such as chocolate, coffee, television, etc.. Another way of thinking about the Lenten journey is to consider Jesus’ wilderness experience, a story which appears in 3 of the 4 Gospels. In this interpretation, Jesus spent time in the wilderness preparing for his ministry of preaching, teaching and healing – forgoing normal human experiences in order to make room for spiritual learning that can only come when one steps outside of their comfort zone, however acceptable or even necessary normal possessions and activities might be in everyday life.
In Mark's version of the story, Jesus was forced into the wilderness. Both Matthew and Luke say Jesus was “led by the Spirit,” but in Mark he is not given a choice. Immediately after his baptism Jesus is driven into the wilderness. As I wrote this I almost used the word sabbatical to describe Jesus’ time in the wilderness, but that doesn’t fit. In this case, his time in the desert wasn’t to be a relaxing vacation in a beautiful setting, unplugged from the world to rejuvenate. This experience would be intentionally difficult, challenging, involving physical and mental deprivation, temptations, and even danger with the wild animals nipping at his heals. Consider too that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. In Hebrew, numbers have symbolic meaning as well as literal arithmetic value. So for instance the number seven is understood to suggest wholeness – one of our basic cycles of time is the seven-day week. The number twelve suggests community – recalling the number of Jacob’s sons, the tribes of Israel, and the number of Jesus’ disciples. So more than a literal counting of sunrises and sunsets, the number forty in Mark’s story suggested ‘as much time as it takes to accomplish God’s purpose.” Think of Moses spending forty days on Mt. Sinai, the forty-day flood, the Israelites wandering forty years in their own wilderness before finding the Promised Land. Jesus spending forty days in the wilderness wasn’t so much about 6 weeks as it was about the necessity of being there for as long as necessary to get what he needed out of the experience.
Letting go of whatever might be interfering in our relationship to the Sacred serves us well. Buddhist teacher Lama Surya Das says that, “Attachment is like holding on tightly to something that is always slipping through my fingers – it just gives me rope burn. But letting go – nonattachment – relieves the constant, painful irritation.” So however uncomfortable it may be to imagine letting go of something it you are holding on to tightly, something that has been with you for so long – letting go of it might be the spiritual practice you consider during Lent.
What might be preventing you from becoming your most authentic self? Could you benefit from putting something aside for a spell – even knowing that you might take it back up again at some point? Maybe it’s something tangible, physical. Maybe it’s an activity. Or perhaps it’s a way of looking at things – an idea or a perspective that tells you who you are to the exclusion of some undeveloped potential. Whatever it is - write about it, and share it with me in the comments section!
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Here is a response to my last newsletter "Spiritual Newsletter (February 5, 2014)" about "Evolution of Faith" - "Spiritual Newsletter (February 4, 2015)"
From ANN Counselor, Lesbian & Happy
thank you for another great newsletter. Glad you used my poem with "even God is waiting for something" in the message. ANN
Thank you kindly, for your fine newsletter.
Herewith my poem of faith for your newsletter.
embe in appreciation.
“Can a man dance
with his lonely shadow,
hiding in that secret place
too afraid to lock the door?
in my memory,
ordered to fight
there in the desert,
thirteen years of fear
cursing screaming why?
Obscenities by the devil
sending me to that prison,
confused soul hallucinating
stammering why in detention,
leading me on without hope
under this sad starry sky?
Visions of my loving wife
holding my precious child.
God have mercy please
with memories so sweet,
my Savior with a prayer
by our whitewashed wall.
Strange I was never told
could I live life over again,
dawning across the mead
tumbling on a sandy shore,
where I was born long ago
so lovely in that moment.
White lilies of purity
with God’s mercy
and his angels,
in this sunshine
on a petal of a rose.
Rising high into heaven
this new home in paradise
my dreadful dawn disappeared.”
“Mom comforted me that day
knowing Dads sad confusion,
there by his lonely grave.
Lovely, thank you for sharing!
Darwin's theory is very complex and for most quite convincing. Unfortunately, the word of our Creator is quite simple and completely convincing in my opinion.
Thanks for sharing your opinion. I don't find Darwin's theory all that complex, and actually find the Genesis story the more difficult one to swallow as it makes no sense given our modern world view. Perhaps the Genesis creation stories are metaphors for evolutionary creation?
This prompt reminded me of the little Christian boy from Child Genius on Lifetime.
In the following clip young Graham is seen discussing with his mother before proclaiming his faith in front of the CG judges. The subject is astronomy which the baby Christian hates because he and his family do not believe in the Big Bang Theory.
The genius is 10, so he's allowed this bias. What bothers me is that his parents don't even consider to expand his mind and explore the possibility that MAYBE God created the earth USING the big bang. I'm not sure how many grown people reject science in favor of 'mystical/magical' religion but as a self-proclaimed Christian I am fine with thinking God created science along with everything else.
Nicely said, thank you. That thinking works for me as well.
Experimenting with ideas really is unpredictable. The scoundrel code, when I contemplated it, made me calmer and more understanding with people. Atheism required more faith, and imagination, than not — so much so that I abandoned it as insane.
I feel as if I am the same as I ever have been, yet my ideas are very different... It's rather odd.
What is the scoundrel code? I can relate to feeling the same yet different - odd, yes, but definitely a common experience from the journey.
BRILLIANT newsletter, Sophy .
Please keep your comments and suggestions coming! Until next time! Sophy
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