Monthly Archives: July 2016

Learning CPR

I found, posted on my Facebook feed, the video of Rev. Dr. William Barber at the Democratic National Convention. I sometimes listen to these talks just to learn things about the art and science of doing sermons. I listen because I might hear something I can learn from. And I listen because obviously, folks like him know how to speak in such a way as to gain a national platform.

In this case, I had no idea that the theme for the Convention was “healing the heart of democracy” but I heard it loud and clear from his talk. And what does it take to heal a heart that might have stopped beating? Sometimes, in extreme cases, it takes CPR. Now this is not just about our country – it’s about every community we belong to, including the one that lives inside our individual skin.

CPR usually stands for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. It gets both the heart and lungs working again when they stop (when it works). So I’d like you to take a moment and make sure your heart and lungs are working, in the spiritual sense. If your spiritual lungs are working, you are breathing deeply of Spirit on a daily basis. If your spiritual heart is working, you are circulating good all around your body.

Just for today, let the C stand for compassion. Compassion is the opposite of judgment. Compassion requires that we reach out (and sometimes in) to find the human within the situation. Compassion isn’t a free pass on bad behavior or a joint pity-party. Compassion is seeing the Divine in any situation and/or person and refusing to speak to anything else.

Just for today, let the P stand for patience. None of us got into the habits, bad or good, that we have in our thinking or our behavior in five minutes or less. Most of us have been working to dismantle erroneous beliefs for as long as we’ve been alive. Most of us get impatient with ourselves and others when we see behavior that doesn’t live up to our ideals. What if we allow ourselves a bit of time to learn how to live from our philosophy rather than our fears?

Just for today, let the R stand for repeat. Because living this philosophy, that says there is no “other” or enemy, that says that God is all there is and it’s up to us to find evidence of that when it seems so very impossible, living this philosophy is something we do over and over. We practice compassion and patience over time, getting better at seeing when we’ve fallen out of practice.

If you’re noticing that life doesn’t seem to be flowing for you or you’re feeling uninspired (do you know that one of the original meanings of inspire is to breath in Spirit?), then it’s time for some CPR. Get a friend to help. Do what you have to do to return to the life you were built to live.

Where in your life are you judging too harshly or being impatient? What are you willing to do to heal that? Please comment on this or anything else in this post either below or on Facebook.

Doing the math

I’ve been learning about a biofeedback technique called HeartMathTM. It’s a biofeedback device and the science behind it is fascinating, but not the point of this post. There’s a little monitor that you attach to your earlobe or finger and an app on your iphone, your computer or, if you’d rather, a little black box with lights on it. You hook yourself up and try to make the little lights (or lines) stay out of the red and reach for the green. You do this with some breathing techniques that closely resemble meditation. Sounds easy, right? Well, once again, I’m reminded that simple and easy are not always synonyms.

Spirituality is another one of those simple but not easy things. I know, we make it complicated, but that’s more religion than spirituality in my mind. In our philosophy, we believe that we create our own reality based on our own thinking and beliefs and if we don’t like what we get we can change it. All we have to do is be in communication with the Divine within ourselves. Simple, right? And yet saints and sages across time and multiple cultures have found that it isn’t always easy.

One of the things I’m becoming more and more aware of is that, in the past, I would assume that each thing that happened in my life had a reason. I was right, but there’s more to it. Each situation might have several reasons, or as we say it here, each effect has multiple causes. I thought if I could just find the one thing that was causing my problems, I could fix it. Sometimes, it’s just not that simple. In many cases, I have to be content to see a correlation between two things, but not know which is causing which. Again, not as easy a “fix” as I thought. I can still shift one thing and see if the other also shifts, but I can’t be absolutely sure, usually. As H.L. Mencken wrote, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

What I do know, is that it’s more important to keep trying and be gentle while I’m working on the spiritual journey. It’s far more important to stay on the journey, and in the question, than it is to come up with easy answers. I rejoiced the day I realized that as a minister, I don’t actually have to come up with answers. My job is to ask the hard questions and let you figure it out for yourself. The question, the mystery, is what’s important.

So while I won’t even try to explain the science behind HeartMathTM (please check out HeartMath.org), I can in good conscience, keep practicing and become more and more peaceful. I can’t explain why or how the Divine voice speaks in my heart, but I can trust that it is speaking. And, of course, so can you. No explanation needed.

Reconciliation

This week we had a special service at CSLP that we call Taize. It’s based on a reconciliation service that was started in the Burgundy region of France in a town called Taize. It was post-WWII and the town had been torn apart. There were folks from all sides, injuries and heartbreak to spare in everyone. Somehow, the folks in that town had to move on and learn to see each other as people again. There’s lots more history on the web and it’s a fascinating story, but I’m more focused today on how it relates to right here and now.

One of my heroes is Eugene Holden. He’s a practitioner within our movement and the director of our World Ministry of Prayer. He recently wrote, “”Let us not be fooled, we are at war here folks. As evidenced by the events in Dallas, Texas. And let us be clear here, this is a not a battle between white and black or good and evil. It is a battle of consciousness. And this battle is an internal one. Internal to the nation. Internal to ourselves. The phrase jihad was initially longer. It was jihad al nufs, meaning battle of the soul. Yes, this is an inside job.”

I agree that our country is and has been at war. We war on drugs, on poverty and on terror. We see each other as colors, as genders and, worst of all, The Other. So we need to figure out how to see each other as people again. It can be done. Yes, people have died. Yes, there’s centuries of history behind the racism and sexism and many other –isms. But what I see in my world is a lot of people that are willing to do better. I hear people of good conscience talking not just about what’s wrong, but what we can do.

What can we do? I’m in prayer a lot. I’m doing a lot of reality checking about whether things are awful or just feel awful. There’s sometimes a difference between my emotional truth and the verifiable facts. Our Taize service is aimed at helping all of us make that shift together. And how about being the voice of moderation on social media and during casual conversations? When I hear “oh-those-awful” fill in the blank with your choice of group or politician to fear “are-going-to-destroy-this-country,” I know that’s the voice of fear speaking, every single time. I answer it with something that says that while it’s important to face facts, we don’t have to forget that these are not the only facts and that we might not even have true facts.

Now, understand, I said I’ve been trying this stuff. I didn’t say it all worked for me or that I do it 100% of the time. What I love about this spiritual path is that I can just do my best in any given moment and that’s enough. I don’t need to be eligible for sainthood anytime soon (or late, for that matter). In this Center, we run the experiments that are required to find our “best practices”. That’s really all we do – keep trying until we find a few things that work. That’s it.

Please feel free to add what you’re trying or make any other comments.