Sing a new song

This morning I tried to have a bad day. It was working rather well. I got on the scale and it didn’t say what I wanted it to. I tried to make the part I bought for our weed whacker fit and it didn’t. I looked around at all the things I think need to be done and got mad because I don’t think I’ll be getting to them today. Or tomorrow for that matter. Obviously that means there’s something wrong with me. I must be lazy or irresponsible or something.

Thank God for spiritual practice. The only thing that stood out to me from today’s reading was about singing a new song to the Lord. Now, when I read the Bible, I replace the word Lord with Law. And then I started being with how it feels to sing, and the power of music in my life. There’s something about it that goes beyond words, beyond even prayer for me. Singing requires me to breathe differently. Singing is about heart and soul rather than cognitive function. Music goes around all my anxiety or it speaks my anger and anxiety in a way that helps me let them go.
So if I sing a new song into the Law, I’m pouring everything I am in to creating a new experience. I was taught that when we sing, we pray twice. I take that to mean that singing a prayer is more powerful than just reciting it. There’s more emotion and more energy. It’s what Ernest Holmes was talking about when he distinguished between the technique (the steps we use in prayer) and the fire (the emotion and energy behind the words, the part that can’t be taught and must be discovered within each of us).

Today I’m singing a song of trust. I’m singing a song of this moment, not the next several days’ work all at once. I’m singing as sweetly and as strongly as I can that Spirit can get all this stuff done, with or without my help, and I am acceptable in God’s eyes right now. There’s nothing to earn, nowhere to race to and no obligations I have to fulfill. There’s just me and my God, doing what we do and singing in Divine Harmony.

Aw, hell

Once again I have been hearing about the concept of hell. Let me tell you that hell exists – and you should be scared. Very scared.

Now, let me tell you the Truth. The only hell is the one we create in our own minds and it’s always temporary. We can end the experience whenever we want to. It’s really very simple although at times it may not be easy. All we have to do is stop believing whatever painful untruth we’ve bought into. That untruth might be that we’re bad or wrong – whether we have money troubles or someone is condemning who we are. It’s not really possible to be inherently bad, by the way. You were made by the Divine and, as the Good Books all say, God don’t make no junk.

Many religions teach both that we are Divine by nature and that we have managed to become unnatural and have lost our way. Many spiritual philosophies hold some version of the idea of original sin. That is, some version of the lie that we are broken and God no longer likes, much less loves, us. The thing is every religion points to a way to experience some version of Heaven, either in this life or one of many future lives. If we are inherently bad, why would we ever be allowed into Heaven? If we are inherently incapable of making good choices, why would the great spiritual teachers give us such clear instructions? Why do all the mystics over the course of time tell about the loving presence that surrounds us and is part of us? Heaven is also a state of mind and we can choose it whenever we want.

Whatever. They say if it sounds like a scam, it probably is. Hell is a scam. It’s a convertible with the top down and we’re all hunting desperately for the keys. The Devil is the thundercloud that’s threatening to rain on our leather seats and the Lie is the locksmith coming to get the door open. When we take a step back, come to our senses and realize the Truth, we’ll all have a big laugh and go back to being our own Divine Selves.

Divine Timing

There’s a thing called Divine Timing. It’s not usually the same as my personal timing, or what I think I want to be my personal timing. It’s the pace at which change happens. When I was a brand new minister, I would get frustrated that folks didn’t catch my vision as quickly as I wanted. I understood the concept of church time – what I live with 24/7/365, the congregation gets for twenty minutes a week. One of my friends put it another way. She said to imagine that we’re all playing crack the whip. I’m the leader. I shift just a few inches over and think it’s no big deal. From where I’m playing, it is a minor change. For the person at the other end, the end of the whip, it’s major. It might send them flying ten feet through the air. That was the fun of crack the whip – to make someone on the end go flying. It was fun when we were kids, but it’s not way to run a Center.

It makes me wonder what God sees from the front of the line. Spirit shifts just a few inches, but my Spirit works in eons and over parsecs of space. So by the time the energy gets to me, it might feel like I’ve been flung from Earth entirely over to Jupiter or Neptune. I make a small change in my thinking, like maybe I don’t want to eat so much sugar anymore. At the other end of that chain is being spared cancer or diabetes for decades of my life. I decide to practice giving real second chances to people and end of going from actively disliking a certain teacher to having a mentor I love and trust. Spirit might have poked a hole in the earth while thinking one day, and now we have the Grand Canyon. Or maybe God got to playing with molecules, created oxygen and how we have a habitable planet.

This is what I know – discounting the small, honest changes I make in my thinking is silly. I don’t know what will roll out at the other end of that whip. Maybe nothing except the memory of a particularly good morning. Maybe everything.

 

Prosperity Gospel

 

I spent some time over the last few days pondering what it means to be rich. I had a roommate in college that was a trust fund baby. I remember her saying she was broke because her checking account had less than the minimum required for avoiding fees. That amount was around $5,000 and I know that it was a temporary situation. This is the same roommate who wrote a check to keep me in school one semester (I paid her back but it took a few years). She was financially rich, but it didn’t protect her from watching her mom succumb to early onset Alzheimer’s. She dealt with the problem of folks “forgetting their wallets” when we went out to eat, too. So was she really rich?

I remember when one of my two monthly paychecks just covered my rent. I was suffering from depression, was physically unhealthy and hadn’t yet discovered these principles I now teach. I lived in a very sketchy neighborhood. I was in the midst of a divorce that shattered me. I got through it. I had friends who helped when they really didn’t have to. Those friends had little enough financial wealth themselves, but they kept me fed and gave me a phone number I could give to my mom for emergencies. I had little money of my own so it forced me to give up cigarettes and alcohol. Was I really poor?

Today I looked at my judgments of the “rich” or the 1% we vilify in this country. How do I know my life isn’t better than theirs? How the heck do I even define better? I took a look at how much I spend now on toys and entertainment, how easily I pay for my needs and how much I save for future needs and wants. Lots of people are living paycheck to paycheck. Does that affect my own definition of “wealthy” and does it matter?

Today I’ve decided that being rich requires both the ability to take care of one’s needs AND the consciousness to enjoy that ability. I feel rich because I know my house payment will be made. I feel rich because I tithe. I feel rich because I can share. I’m not owned by my money or my things – I’m grateful for them just as I am grateful for my friends and the sense of being loved by my community and something Greater. My life has meaning that is outside of what I do – I have personal worth that has nothing to do with a spreadsheet and, more importantly, I am aware of the real worth of my soul and the souls of all my brothers and sisters in Consciousness (which means everybody). I was taught long ago that gospel means good news. What’s the good news about prosperity? We get to decide what it is and we can experience it at any time.

How do you define prosperous? Do you see yourself as rich? What would it take for you to be free of fear, to feel safe and loved?

Praying the Psalms

I never thought I’d do this. I never have been one to go to the Bible for comfort or regular spiritual practice. I go to the Bible for help with talks because I need a good story. I go to the Bible when it’s been assigned as homework for a class. I go to the Bible when I’m teaching a class about it. Recently though, I’ve been trying it out for actual, real life help. I don’t read it for the immediate, literal meaning. If you haven’t read the Psalms, I should warn you there’s a great deal of “be on my side” towards God and some suggestions regarding smiting of enemies.

I read to see what the metaphor is and how it applies to me. So, for instance, the last one I worked with is #6. The translation I use contains a line that says “my bones are weary with moaning”. There’s a lot of tears soaking into pillows, too. The rest of it is just as negative at first reading. Basically, it’s a “woe is me” psalm combined with “don’t be mad at me.” But I’ve heard that there’s always more to learn, so I reread it slowly and carefully. The line about moaning bones being weary finally caught me.

The bed NOT soaked in tears

I’m sick of hearing myself moan about my life. I wonder if the Universe is, too. So if moaning is making me sick, what’s the cure? I returned to my old practice of looking for something positive as I moved about my day. Now, granted, I cheated. My sister and I celebrated her birthday, so there was some shopping and some lunching. There was a great deal of pointing out that she will always be older than me and telling folks that she looks good for 75, or 62 or whatever number I chose that time. There was appreciation of beauty as we found a few things for her room, which had recently been looked at by a feng shui professional. There was a sense of freedom as we made choices about art for the house (hey, I can shop for myself on someone else’s birthday, right? I wouldn’t want her to feel alone.) There were some giggles as she tried to get her dog, Ben, to walk in the paw-saving booties she bought. Ben noped right out of them.

There’s good to be found no matter what. So are you going to moan over your aching bones or move them and go find the good?

Follow my lead

I’ve been reading a great book called “A Tree Full of Angels” by Macrina Wiederkehr. One line that held my attention this morning was about how everything is renewed under the eye of God. I took that into meditation and found myself asking some deep questions. What in me needs to be renewed? What do I feel I’ve lost? Doesn’t seem that I should have nothing stale in me, nothing that needs to be renewed after a six week sabbatical? Okay, that last question is silly and I know it. Of course there are things that need to be renewed in all of us. Still, it begs the question. What in you feels like it might have gotten misplaced or lost in your life?

For me, the big issue that came up is trust. In my childhood, I learned not to ask for help. Either help wouldn’t come and I would get in trouble for asking or someone would take the project away from me and do it for me. I also admit that I started out with an independent spirit. Family lore has it that my first sentence was “I do it myself”. So I sat there, flowing between meditation and prayer and contemplated how much I trust the Universe. It’s scary to trust someone or Someone else with my well-being. However, trust in the Universe is not optional. It is, after all, the title of this blog. I am responsible for what I create in my life, so if I’ve created a version of God that I don’t trust… well, I don’t like that. So I sat and asked my own deepest heart, how do I heal the trust issue? How do I learn to trust You?

As often happens, my meditation was then disturbed by a song running through my head. Ed Sheeran does a version of the song “Shape of you”[1] and I had just a line or two running on a loop. The lines were:

“Girl, you know I want your love

Your love was handmade for somebody like me

Come on now, follow my lead…”

It was as if Spirit was singing to me. All I need to do is follow Spirit’s lead. Spirit does want my love and feels it is valuable. When someone leads me in dancing, I find that there’s a balance between getting some small subtle signals and some obvious ones. The more I can relax and let my body just respond to those signals, the less I think about what I’m doing, the better off I am. If I think too much about Spirit and what God-in-me wants from me, I get off track. I get tense and scared and my trust issues get into the driver’s seat of my life. Very soon, I’m in a ditch, calling the spiritual AAA. If I let each small hint of guidance, each subtle lead pull me towards my good, then eventually it all works out.

Now, the Divine Dancer doesn’t mind stumbling about with me too much. It’s part of the learning and oh, by the way, part of the fun of dancing together. What someone else thinks about our dance is not my business. Well, it is, actually, literally, but I find that most folks have done their own stumbling and are willing to learn from mine.

So even when you think you have gotten off track, I encourage you to let Spirit lead in whatever dance to whatever song might come up. Don’t worry about it. Practice trust one dance step at a time. God doesn’t mind getting his toes stepped on; God just wants to dance with you.

[1] Written by John McDaid, Steve Mac, Edward Christopher Sheeran, Kandi L Burruss, Kevin Jerome Briggs, Tameka D. Cottle, Félix Ortiz Torres, Gabriel Pizarro, Chris Jeday • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Feces or Fertilizer

Here’s the thing that I am learning. Being spiritual, even being relatively advanced spiritually, doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days. Jesus went off on the money lenders at the temple. He also displayed racism toward the Canaanite woman whose daughter had a demon and he yelled at his disciples when he got frustrated with them.

I nursed my mom (well, was her “go-to” person anyway) during her last days. She was a good person. I’m a good person. I still found myself in my car, alone, screaming with frustration because of the demands that were being placed on me. I never thought of myself as a screamer, but there I was. I was so afraid some poor cop was going to pull me over and end up having to listen to my hysterics. I had a bad couple hours this morning. (Notice I didn’t say “had a bad day”.) I was expected to form full sentences before the coffee hit, answering actual fact based questions and requests for help. I had a full day in front of me and knew I was forgetting something important but couldn’t get quiet enough to have actual cognition happen. I had only been back at work for three days and I was already over-whelmed. And then I got a text from someone who asked me for something I found unreasonable. That was it. I lost it.

The most spiritual thing I could do in that moment was to pull out the Holy No. No, I won’t ask for that favor on your behalf. No, I won’t cover for people. No, I won’t pretend that I’m happy about having to start over and pay $220 for another person’s mistake. No. No. No. It doesn’t feel spiritual for me when I say no. It feels frustrated and beyond my ability to handle. It feels like I’m being mean. It feels like I should be above this, should handle it all calmly no matter what “it” is. After all, I meditated this morning. I prayed and read and I made sure I got up in time to do it. Isn’t that how it works?

Nope, sorry. Being spiritual means we have the tools to deal with what comes up, even when what comes up is icky. Everyone gets to deal with some stuff in their lives. Everyone – me, you, Jesus, Buddha and every other John Q Public that has walked the planet. There’s a reason the spiritual leader Anne Lamott called her new book “Hallelujah Anyway.”

The difference between me and a Chris-ted being is the rate at which we recognize the feces we’ve been handed can be used as fertilizer for some great field of good. I am lucky. I have a great prayer partner willing to answer my call, pull over her car and not fall for my crazy as I spew it. I knew I would feel better at some point after talking with her. And sure enough, the right and perfect person came to me for counsel… about my exact same issue. How do I allow myself to say no and still feel in integrity as a spiritual being? How do I forgive myself for not being willing to stretch even one more inch in service to humanity? How can I be a Christed being before the coffee hits?

Here’s the thing that I am learning. I am still a good person if I am frustrated with having consequences for someone else’s bad customer service. I am a good person when I just can’t listen to one more person asking for one more thing. I am a good person even when people insist on talking in the morning.

We are good people, Christed beings, because we stay awake and aware and try our best. Not because we walk on water… but because we want to.

 

Messy Spirituality

For whatever reason, I’ve had several conversations in the past few weeks about how spirituality is supposed to look. I had my own experience over Easter (see post from 4/17/17) of feeling less that all put together while doing spiritual work. I think I’ll use this space to clear up a few misunderstandings about New Thought spirituality, at least the way I do it.

First of all, one of my teachers used to talk about folks who were so spiritually high they were of no earthly use. These are the people who will watch their homes burn and call their practitioner rather than the fire department. For the record, in case of emergencies call 911 and THEN call your practitioner. These are also the people who will be found in hell, rocking in lotus position and muttering “I’m not here and it’s not hot.” You get my drift.

For some folks, spirituality requires denying our human experience. This is a fear based belief and is useful, as far as I’m concerned. I believe that if you need to completely retreat from the world on a permanent basis in order to be spiritual, then we are practicing a very different kind of spirituality. Hermits can have rich lives, but I’m not the right teacher for that path.

In my type of spirituality, our humanity is as Divine as any other part of us. Washing the dishes can be meditation. Being in relationship is a high spiritual practice – we need to learn to love people even when we are in judgement because they are being idjits. We need to learn to show up in our messy imperfection in order to give other folks the ability to show up in theirs.

I believe it’s at least as important to receive love and compassion as it is to give it. It’s also harder to show up when I most need love and compassion. It’s so much easier to have it all together and be of service to the person who is highly vulnerable because their life is falling apart. In the first situation, I am not in control and I feel vulnerable. In the second situation, I can subconsciously pat myself on the back for not being such a hot mess. The more I am willing to show up in my wholeness – competent self and messy self, light and dark sides fully in view – the more I am actually allowing the Divine to show up through me. The Divine allows Itself its wholeness, so in order to be truly in my divinity, I need to allow myself that wholeness too.

I hope that makes sense. The joy of spirituality for me is the healing and learning that happen in relationship. If we all had it completely together, with nothing left to learn, I’d be out of a job. I’d also be the odd one out.

My Dusty Old Guitar

I have a mental bucket list that’s a mile long. I want to learn Arabic and Ancient Hebrew. I want to learn to love yoga and be all stretchy and bendy like a pretzel. I want to travel. I want to create a home with a garden. I want to adopt a teenager. I want to get a doctoral degree in about five different fields of study. I want to do so many things and I have a busy life to excuse me from doing most of them.

What I’m finding as I get older though is that that list contains things I both really want to do and things I want to have done. I want to have written a book and lost about 50 lbs. I don’t want to write the book or learn to eat better, I just want them done. Those are the things I thought I was supposed to want. Those are the things that would impress the people I used to want to impress (and sometimes still do want to impress).

The rest of the list contains things that I actually want to do. I spent seven years studying Spanish but I don’t actually speak it. So I want to travel and do some immersion learning. I want to be able to say I speak more than one language. I also want to go back to playing the guitar. I learned it long ago and gave it up when I got bored, as kids will do. About a year ago, I bought a great guitar at a bargain price. Some folks bought it for their daughter who played it for a semester and then stuck it in the corner. I brought it home, played around for an hour or so and then stuck it in the corner. Did you know that playing the guitar can be painful on one’s finger tips? It really can.

Here’s the thing. When it comes down to it, the only person in charge of my bucket list is me. I can take off the items that I only put on there out of obligation. I can play around with the rest and decide how important they are. I practice Spanish in my head sometimes and I just acquired a new set of books and tapes to help me. I agreed to learn one song on the guitar (only three chords and only played during the chorus) and then scheduled myself to be the soloist on a Sunday so I had to do it. Those things have immediate benefits.

The other thing on my bucket list that is staying has to do with traveling. I was invited to go to England for a few weeks and I said yes. My first reaction was no, it’s too expensive. Then the money started showing up and the way was opened for it. The gift of that yes is that other areas of my life are opening up too. By saying yes and living from my bucket list in some small and some big ways, I’ve informed the Universe that I’m open to a bigger life. It seems the Universe has been listening.

Fair warning: when you start living from your bucket list, the Universe will hear your yes, too. Prepare for miracles and large living. Prepare for your excuses to melt away. Prepare for a bigger bucket.

Divine Madness

I just finished a class comparing some of the Judeo Christian Bible stories to those in the Koran. It was wonderful – an exploration of how changing a few words or details can create a very different meaning. And I loved it so much that now I’m listening to one of the many biographies of Mohammed (pbuh) the Prophet and first Muslim.

What stands out to me is that when Mohammed had his first revelation, he wasn’t very happy about it. He thought he’d been possessed by a demon. He considered suicide. Can you imagine what the world would be like if he decided to die (ending the demonic possession) rather than submit to the will of God as he understood it and bring the Koran into being? The history of Europe, our knowledge of chemistry and algebra, and our access to the teachings of the ancient Greeks would now be very different.

How many times have I gotten up from my meditation chair moments before my revelation? How many of us have felt the beginnings of a sacred call and run like hell so that the call would go to voicemail? What is it about Divine revelation, which should be our birthright that seems so awful?

I can only guess. I don’t think of myself as on the same level of the Prophet or any of the saints.  I know that I was leery of accepting the call to ministry because it would challenge my beliefs about authority and (I thought) mean that I had to be poor for the rest of my life.

The truth I have found, which I think might be common, is that I had to submit to a Divine madness. I found that the things I needed to do to answer “the call” were things that made no sense to my friends. Go back to school and do another expensive master’s degree? Why? I’d just worked my butt off to get out of debt. Give up a safe government job with great health benefits where I’d worked my way almost to the top of the heap? For heaven’s sake, I’d have to move to a place where I knew no one except my congregation. And I’d been warned about the pitfalls of having congregants as friends. It took me forever to make friends and create a home, why should I give that up?

The Divine madness wouldn’t leave me alone and eventually resistance was more painful than submission. I did have to give up the things I listed above. I did have to make the sacrifices. However, what I’ve found, and I’ll be the Prophet would agree, is that there are both tangible and intangible treasures to be found within Divine madness. Living in surrender to the flow, or in Muslim terms, in submission to God, has its own rewards.