Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Night's Dark Hours: A Poem

I'm writing right now from a hotel room. It's been a few days since Irene swept through our state, leaving hundreds of thousands of us without power. We've been blessed to spend some of that time in the comfort of a hotel. I've been most grateful for that! It is my hope tomorrow, when we return home, we will have power shortly afterwards. If we don't, I will not have access to my blog or the internet in general until we do.

I wanted to share a poem I wrote just now, as I was attempting to drift off to sleep. My family has already been slumbering quite peacefully for hours now! I just feel God calling me deeper and I long to plunge more and more into His infinite depths. This irresistible urge is getting in the way of my sleep in some sense! In fact, not too long ago I wrote a post titled: Midnight Reveries: Insomnia's Subtle Gifts. You can read it here if you'd like:http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/08/midnight-revelationsinsomnias-subtle.html  

Though  it would be nice to be sleeping, and I'm sure I will be drifting off as soon as I post this, my time with God in these dark hours I consider a great gift. These hours of solitude draw me closer and closer to more intimate revelations of His love, mercy and grace. I eagerly go where He beckons and can't resist inclining the ears of my heart to His gentle whispers.

I have not really edited this poem yet, so apologize in it's potential roughness. It was conceived just a half an hour ago and I'm posting it now because I'm not sure when I'll be online again. I pray all of my readers are well! 

I'd love your thoughts and reflections on this poem and I look forward to responding when I can. Thank you!

Night's Dark Hours

Night's dark hours tenderly search
my heart for true devotion,
As soul stretches forward to
Rest in Him, His Love an infinite ocean.

Rising and swelling His peace it comes
His mercy restoring numbed senses.
Grace, like a blustery wind blows,
Knocking souls off of their fences.

His presence, most beautiful of distractions,
Leads my heart to dance in reverie.
In the silence of soul's seeming inaction,
Consciousness plunges into the most beautiful Mystery.

A corridor with no end to depth,
Enters the soul garbed in love that enfolds.
Traversing the darkest of chasms,
for a pearl of the greatest worth to behold.

Monday, August 29, 2011

YouTube Tuesday

Each week a growing group of bloggers are seeing how creative they can get in selecting thought provoking, and sometimes just fun, YouTube videos that have stood out to them. Each month the creator of the project, Josh, will be selecting a winner and presenting them with the "You Tube Tuesday Award".

Do you have a video that you found hilarious, thought provoking or inspiring? Come, join the project and be sure to leave your link on Josh's site: http://networkedblogs.com/l9C9c  And of course in the comments section here too!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Interview with Bill Huffhine

I was very thankful that Bill Huffhine was gracious enough to accept my invitation for an interview. He is the author of a great new book: Confessions of a Christian Dropout.  You can read my review of his book here: http://ascendingthehills.blogspot.com/2011/08/confessions-of-christian-dropout-book.html

Enjoy the interview. It is broken up into two different parts. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments! Thank you!

Part 1

Part 2

Friday, August 26, 2011

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Midnight Revelations:Insomnia's Subtle Gifts

                                                           Courtesy of Google Images

This post is certainly not aiming at minimizing the sometimes debhilitating condition of insomnia, where one is caught in a near constant state of being awake when they so desperately want and need to find rest in the sleep realm. No, this is instead, my commentary and my personal idenficiation, with a phenomenon that I came across while reading a book I've been enjoying immensely, The Other Side of Silence: A Guide to Christian Meditation by Morton T. Kelsey.

In the following passage, Kelsey describes how during spontaneous moments in the middle of the night a voice within him will beckon him to arise and write about a given thought or insight. It is no less than God's gentle voice whispering through the corridors of his subconscious, beckoning Him for time alone with his Father, time to reflect and be washed clean from attachments and be filled with the love of His presence while gaining new understandings into his own Self and ego as well as those concerning the nature of man and God.

Kesley's middle of the night revelations and encounters with God were conceived by the advice of his friend who was also a respected psychologist. He had related his struggle of perceiving many of the scripture's meanings "vanishing into thin air" as he struggled spiritually and sought to encounter God more experientially. Having had shared this in the past, on another get together with his friend he began to complain at length about his concerns in his sleeping patterns, fearing he had fallen prey to a pattern of insomnia he wouldn't be able to shake.

"Usually I sleep four or five hours and then awaken, and at that time I would lie in bed and stew, angry because I could not go back to sleep. When I told my psychologist friend this, he smiled, alomost as if amused, and then asked, "Has it ever occurred to you, Morton, that someone might be trying to get through to you? Don't you remember how God called Samuel in the night"

From then on  I began to get up in the night and write down my dreams and then try to listen. I soon discovered that this was prime time for me. It was a time when the telephone did not ring, and the children had no more questions for that day, and parishioner's problems were safely bedded down. I found that I could listen to God during this time and tell him about my fears and anxieties, and what I had dreamed. After about thirty minutes to an hour, with everything written down as best as I could in a journal, I would go back to bed and soon be asleep, my inner buisness in better order.

...It is usually at these times that the best insights about my life and the world around me (both physical and spiritual) come to me. Insomnia can be a calling from the depth of oneself that we have unfishinesd spiritual business, that there are things we need to look at, deminsions, shadows and lights, even entities that we have overlooked."

I can identify to a degree with Kelsey's experience of being awakened in the night by God.  It is not an every night occurrence for me but there have been nights, usually a series of a few in a row, where I will wake up around 2 am with a thought, a prayer or the impression just to get downstairs and to write or to pray. These times usually come when I find myself steeped and focused in the regular practice of prayer and meditation during my days.

I remember one such night. I awoke with these words that were echoing through my head. My whole consciousness seemed to be filled with an awareness of God's intimate love for me and I just felt bubbling over with devotion towards Him. I've oftentimes used the word "smitten" when describing my sentiments towards God, and in the wee hours of this morning, when dawn was not yet ready to pull back her curtains to reveal day, I felt beyond smitten. I felt both lost and found in His love. And it was glorious. These feelings were overflowing from within my center taking the form of words that seemed to come with a rythym and life of their own.

I knew I had to write them down. I knew if I waited until morning they would be gone, a mere shadow of the form they now presented themselves to be. It was if I had no choice. If I stayed in the comfort of my warm and welcoming bed I would have just laid awake anyways, wishing I was downstairs working through my thoughts on paper. I crept out of bed, leaving my husband slumbering blissfully in his dream state and upon arriving downstairs, grabbed my laptop, closed my eyes and let my heart flow out with the words that were initiated through the spark of God's love and presence.

This was the morning when the following poem was conceived. I'm not suggesting it's any kind of literary masterpeice. I don't claim to be a poet. But I do feel that God's love that morning ushered these words to the surface of my subconscious, giving form to it revelation of His great love and prose to some of what I've experienced during my spiritual journey in entering into ever greater depths of His presence.

In The Fullness of His Presence

Living, breathing, my heart is beating,
The wind blows, my faith grows,
all around life is teeming,
Lessons...beckon, the Present is my teacher
centered, in the stillness, my soul opens up to greet her,

Poised at the pinnacle of revelation
rejoicing with all of creation
nestled in the bosom of reality
I find God inside of Me.

Laughing, dancing, weeping, kneeling
I thank God for the senses of feeling.
Perched on the point between joy and despair
I breathe God in, He's everywhere.

Drunk on the ecstasy of my senses swallowing me
Every sound, every movement leaps alive from life's mural
Every moment a living mandala, impermanent and fertile.
God, living and breathing and sustaining it all,
I just rest, centered, hearing His steady call.

Draw near, draw near, enter in and find your rest,
Draw near, kneel at my throne and you will be blessed.
His throne, eternal, having no beginning or end,
Centered in our hearts, beckoning our knees to bend.

I also can relate to the experience that Kelsey wrote about of how when one is being called by God during these dark hours and when obedience takes form into action and we follow His call, then, after the message or insight is received, He oftentimes with mercy cuts the strings that have held us awake and lets us once again fall back into a peaceful slumber. After waking and either writing or just meditating or reading Scripture and receiving the love or insights that He has for me during those moments, there usually comes a moment of "knowing", when I know that all is well, what was meant to be has been acheived or experienced, and I can now go back to bed. And I do, resting in the cradle of His love and peace.

While insomnia can be a condition that  can be a hindrance to a good night's sleep and effect other facets of our lives, it might also be a moment of opportunity for many of us. It might be an opportunity to unwrap a beautiful gift God is calling you to receive. Is God drawing you from the sleep realm to arise, O sleeper, and turn your heart towards Him in moments when the busyness and distractions of life fade into the background and your inner self can become more focused on His reality? Is God trying to tell you something, or perhaps give you a gift of hope or a ray of understanding and insight that will carry you more gracefully through the day that has not yet begun?

Can you recall a moment when you awoke from sleep, seemingly called out of slumber, by God's gentle voice beckoning to spend some time with Him? I'd love to hear about if you do!

Any thoughts? I'm sure you have some! I'd love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!

Friday, August 19, 2011

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Confessions of a Christian Dropout ( Book Review)

I've read a lot of books but only a few have really left me thinking, returning back to their pages for reference and recollection, long after their last pages were turned. "Confessions of a Christian Dropout", written by author and former pastor William Huffhine is one such book. It is a refreshingly  honest account of one man's struggles as he grapples with taking hold and experiencing the limitless possibilities God offers us in the sometimes severely limiting world of organized religion.

His confessions begin in early childhood as he retells the account of his first baptism and the real reason behind it.  He continues his tale of seeking God by taking readers through the doorways of Christianity's many denominations-from Methodist, to Baptist, to non-denominational and Pentecostal churches. He's left his soul's footprints all along the organized pathways of Christianity as he has travelled seeking truth, answers and a connection with God.

In his book, Huffhine is not afraid to ask the difficult questions. The kind few of us would dare look into the eyes of a pastor and utter yet a lot of us have had running through our wondering minds more than once. I identified with many of these questions and I know many others will find their own inner inquiries echoed within the pages of his book, providing a very refreshing read. He relates well with readers who love Christ but feel conflicted with what the Church represents and has to offer us today.  Huffhine asked these questions to himself when he was both a member of various churches and a pastor of a church. It was only when he could break free and ask these questions openly that he found a greater sense of freedom in his journey to question, probe and seek.  

His questions are the kind that can run us into the walls of doubt, or cynicism or even the lonely emptiness that can arise out of thinking we've been altogether abandoned by God in our journeys in seeking Him. These questions are what allowed Huffhine to break free from the entangled snare in which organized religion had bound him, constricting the muscles of his spiritual heart to flow freely on its own accord. Once untethered he was liberated to pursue God at full sprint rather than on a measured leash.

"My spiritual journey, particularly these last few years, has led me to believe that the way of the Spirit is far too grand, too expansive, too majestic, and too mysterious to be contained within the walls of a religion. There is, indeed, much more on the other side of the artificial horizon that has been created by man to keep me safely within the evangelical Christian fold.                  p. 91

Throughout his book, Huffhine's bold questions, candid and thoughtful reflections towards what the  Scriptures offer us for answers, maintains a strong conviction towards the core doctrines of the Christian faith and a clear reverence for God's Word while at the same time explores the possibilities of perceiving a deeper sense of reality surrounding God and His ways. In all of his views, Huffhine uses Scripture to support them.

" And you may think that this has weakened my belief in the God of the Bible. You would be wrong. I write these final pages more convinced than ever that the God of the Garden, the one whom John identified as the Word made flesh, is truly the God calling out to all men to return to him. And echoes of that original truth still linger in the hearts, minds and words of men and women in every civilization, in every corner of the world, and in every belief system. Where we, and they, go wrong is when we set up camp at a destination and abort the journey, before arriving back in the presence of the One who first looked upon us and said, 'They bear my image.'.".                         p. 93-94

Huffhine is not done inspiring and encouraging other believers of Christ who wish for something deeper in their experiences with God and long to walk honestly through their questions to find answers.  He invites all who read his book to join him on his journey and to share their own. You can do  that by visiting his blog: www.christiandropout.com  and sharing your story while learning more about his. I have found his articles insightful and thought provoking and his reflections have the ability to resonate well within the hearts of those who are seeking spirituality in a religion that has run dry for so many. See what they have to offer you.  

I would highly recommend this book. It flows well and fluently and does what all great books do, makes one think long after the last page is turned.

Note: If you liked this review and enjoy the author's website stay tuned! I will be conducting a podcast interview with him as well as have posts which feature passages from his book!

Any thoughts? I'm sure you have some! Please leave them in the comments section! Thank you!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

YouTube Tuesday

Each week a growing group of bloggers are seeing how creative they can get in selecting thought provoking, and sometimes just fun, YouTube videos that have stood out to them. Each month the creator of the project, Josh, will be selecting a winner and presenting them with the "You Tube Tuesday Award".

Do you have a video that you found hilarious, thought provoking or inspiring? Come, join the project and be sure to leave your link on Josh's site: http://networkedblogs.com/l9C9c  And of course in the comments section here too!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stepping out of the Closet

There's a saying: Chase two rabbits, catch none.

                                                            Courtesy of google images

I have chosen my rabbit and have him in my sites. But much like from the tale of Allison in Wonderland my rabbit is elusive and oftentimes ducks and weaves and dives down tunnels giving me no choice to follow. I pursue my rabbit, so white and pure, so full of light and radiance, through darkness and through trails that have been both followed and abandoned by past explorers. Overgrown with thorns they cut deep into my heart's flesh, scarring its muscle and tissue, teaching it wisdom that can only be discovered through trial and pain. Sometimes you have to lose everything to gain that one thing which is to be treasured above all others.

There are other rabbits too.. Some beautiful with thick coats, their colors alluring and drawing my gaze towards them from time to time. When my gaze falters from  eternity's pearl, tragically she fades into obscurity, causing me to come to my knees again, pleading humbly for His Spirit to direct my soul once again to the path in which my rabbit can be found.

My quest for God, for ultimate meaning and truth, for a pure understanding of why we are here and what reality consists of, has brought me from traditional pews lined neatly and organized in  puritanical churches, to the nontraditional and nondenominational setting of clustered cafeteria tables and modern praise music lifted high among rattling rafters, to meditation sessions, Buddha paintings patiently and amusingly looking down on me as I lay down to search my subconscious for God tucked hidden within, a seed stubbornly refusing to sprout and manifest itself more fully in my heart.

Finally my drifting has taken  me to places of solitude as I edge my way further  from my brethren and seek to be nestled more closely in the embrace of my Father. There's no condemnation, no betrayals, no fear of others using what you say to gossip at a later point. The raven and songbird can keep secrets, so do the chipmunk and wood duck, their preening and scavenging for food showing no interest in my spiritual quest as I pour out hymns and prayers to God and then sit alongside the river, and enter the bliss of silence, seeking my own river of eternal water in my soul's center, beckoning it to spring forth anew, carrying me down its watery trail to Zion.

I have so many questions, so many things I don't know yet. It seems like most other Christians around me are so firm on the doctrines many of them have been brought up under. Others still have accepted them since being born again and have blazed onward, never questioning, never pausing, never seeing the many forks in the road that seem to continually rise up and enter my view every time I'm on my path. Perhaps they have an advantage, perhaps their subconscious has built-in cables to God's will that just wasn't installed into my DNA.

Heaven and Hell. That's a biggie right there. Do non-Christians go to hell just because they have never come to know the fullness of God? Because they never accepted the offer He gives us, stretched towards us with palms bloodied and heart open wide, no gates or fences, just an open pathway to redemption, understanding and salvation. Ok, I think many rational Christians could ascertain that a loving and just God would not condemn those who have never yet known the name of Jesus. Like the overused example of the lone tribe of Amazons trekking through the jungles, never yet being exposed to the technology of a light bulb yet alone getting their hands on a Bible. They can tag along I suppose.

But what about those atheists that seem to know more of Scripture than most Christians? Those who have searched, who have plodded along their own paths? Those who were once filled with hope that a Divine creator might exist and have become entangled in science's relentless snare? Don't get me wrong, science has it's place, but when we rely on science only, and not on our own intuitions and receptive natures that have the ability to probe out truth and the Divine, we only see one tiny perspective, one part among the totality of reality that limits our full view.  What about those atheists, that have heard the gospel...what happens to them? What happens to the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, all who have been culturally affected by their own versions of religion and with just as much thirst have sought out truth, understanding, the end of suffering and salvation like me? Why do I deserve heaven any more just because I naturally fell into the paradigm of Christian thought and belief upon my quest's conception most likely due to my cultural upbringing in this western world I've been born into ?

Universalist can be a dirty word among evangelicals. The term heretic usually closely follows after, sort of  like the second kick once you're down kind of thing. Many of my fellow Christians get pretty adamant, sometimes very confrontational and condemning at the notion of universalism. I can understand. I used to do the same thing.But I can't help where my journey is taking me. And this is my stepping out of the closet part of the post! So, hope people haven't stopped reading this already and moved on to another blog!

Every time I start chasing my rabbit, it becomes more vibrant, more full of hope, more full of light clearing the view and distance between me and him when I plunge deep into the endless possibilities of God's love, compassion and grace.  My surroundings become more crisp and defined, my inward eye more discerning. Every time I let go of the fear of repercussions, not publicly but in the privacy of my own devotional time or the near anonymity of a friend's blog and write about how I really feel, what I've come to understand as truth, something wonderful happens. Every time I seek God's direction within and move past my comfort zones and find myself no longer bound by what I've always been told and stretch myself out to the unknown, towards believing what has always been taught was the unbelievable,  a peace floods my heart and like a gentle wave of the ocean, it lifts me up on it's rising crest and then lowers me down again, taking me closer to the shore. And these shores I am nearly landing on are open wide expanses, filled with the abundant possibilities that only love mixed with the elixir of truth, blood and sacrifice can produce.  Jesus stands on that shore waiting patiently with arms open.

Heavens, I think I'm becoming a universalist! There are legitimate doctrinal issues with my new found leanings and serious questions arise. If non-Christians are "saved" then what would be the point of Jesus' death and resurrection? Why do we need a savior if others don't and also make it to heaven? What is the point of evangelism? Many staunch opponents to universalism urge others away from this line of thinking because they consider it cheapens the Gospel. As you can see, universalism can land one in quite the doctrinal quandary.

So where does this all leave me? Well, with more questions and more rabbit holes to explore! I'm not sure the quest for truth, understanding and pathway to God ever ends, until maybe at least this life does. Perhaps it continues for all of eternity. I do think the adventure is the greatest one that a soul could ever venture on.

Kurt Willems, a fellow Christian blogger recently wrote a post, "Coming Out of the  Theological Closet. You can find it here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2011/08/08/coming-out-of-the-theological-closet/#more-3292  In his post Kurt discusses how sometimes we can hide some of our questions and beliefs from others for fear of rejection and he confesses openly this hiding held back a part of him who God designed him to be.

Well, I for one, am searching for my identity in Christ and I don't want my attachments towards the desires of approval and acceptance hindering that journey. One blogger who I have come to appreciate for his open honesty in questioning and seeking is William Huffhine, author of "Confessions of a Christian Dropout".  His blog Christian Dropout (http://www.christiandropout.com/) explores many of the same questions I find myself facing. I love how he admits when he doesn't know the answers and I believe many of us can relate to his observations of the Church and religion. I'm looking forward to reading how his journey unravels before him and urge you all to visit his blog.

I never like to say I'm 100% right about something because I've seen my views evolve so much over the years that I know better not to make such an absolute statement. I've also been wrong before when I thought I've been right. I think if we are all honest we can find a time or two when that has happened. Many of you might not like the conclusions I start to come to here and perhaps might not like what I have to say from time to time. I urge you to have patience as I with humility search and seek and grasp my way towards a more fuller understanding of God. 

Universalism, as well as some other areas of doctrine, have been clamoring my mind and heart for attention for quite some time now. I've longed to write more openly on my blog about them but have already come across some criticism in my personal life and I allowed that, at least temporarily, to effect my resolve in expressing more openly my spiritual journey. Well, that is no longer going to be the case! I plan on pressing onwards towards some of these areas in posts to come.  In approaching them with a seeking heart and open mind. I encourage you to come along with with me in my journey and to be honest with your reservations and objections as well as when you can identify with my sentiment and leanings.

Any thoughts? I'm sure you have some! Please leave them in the Comments section! Thank you :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lifting Our Spiritual Blinders

"As for the spiritual life: what I object to about "the Spiritual Life" is the fact that it is a part, a section, set off as if it were a whole. It is an aberration to set off our "prayer" etc. from the rest of our existence, as if we were sometimes spiritual, sometimes not."

~ Thomas Merton, A life in Letters, p. 176

When we perceive God as an entity I think many make the erroneous assumption (I know I have in the past)  that we can welcome Him into certain moments in our lives while in others He is distant or altogether absent or perhaps disinterested. Another way of putting this, is many of us become accustomed to being aware of God at certain times and not at others. We have "times" for God and then when those times are over we live as if He is not with us.He drops off of our radar, so to speak.

 We might accept the teaching that God is omnipotent and omniscient (all powerful and everywhere at all times) but it is easy to live as if He weren't. For sure, many of our actions, our outward ones and those in which we do in private, are expressed as if God were a concept in which we can pick and choose where we want Him to fit into our lives.

The wondrous aspect of God's true dimension is that He is not an entity in which we would normally perceive an entity to consist of. He is all of reality, His presence continually creating, sustaining and permeating all that exists. Scripture clearly describes that all of Creation is sustained through the continual presence of Jesus.

 Colossians 1:16-17

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

We are walking in a world saturated with the glory of God. We only need to lift our spiritual blinders from our souls, like pulling the blinds up at a window in the early morning, and letting His love, light and reality come flooding into our consciousness and hearts. Then we will find our souls quickened and stirred by the Grace that is etched into every textured leaf quivering at bending boughs, the wind's gentle breath gliding across landscapes green and fertile, new growth sprouting up with vibrance and purpose in early Spring, retelling the tale of resurrection and hope.  The gospel is stamped within and upon all of Creation with the seal of God's love. God beckons us to read and experience this gospel everyday, every moment, if only we will open ourselves to its reality.

A practice that has helped draw me deeper into a life lived more spiritually is the practice of contemplative prayer.  One can find many parallels between the techniques and experiences encountered in contemplative prayer with other practices incorporated in the mystic traditions of the world's religions like Islam's branch of mysticism-Sufism. I believe this proves what a mighty God we have in that He is calling all of the hearts He so lovingly crafted in their mother's wombs, whether in the deserts or highlands or suburban and urban jungles, home, into the infinite depths of His love. Yes, I do believe, others besides Christians can experience God's love. I do, however,  believe that the fullness of His love and truth is expressed and experienced through a living relationship with Jesus.

Sessions of intentional contemplative prayer have a way of awakening contemplative moments throughout one's day with continued practice. These moments help lift the spiritual blinders that we can put on and dissolve the compartmentalized thinking we have that separate God from facets of our lives. Our own egos and attachments to this world are our greatest impediments towards living the spiritual life.

To fully describe contemplative prayer would take up a whole other post (probably a few more besides!) but essentially it is seeking union with God. It is letting the clutter of our continual inward chatter dissolve, losing our attachments and illusions so that we sit (or stand or walk depending on one's preference) with a mind and soul that becomes more and more still, slowly awakening to God's presence within.  Through some practice and time, it is possible to begin to hear oneself less and less and experience God's presence more and more.

We can carry this practice onwards with us throughout our day by being fully mindful in the present moment. The present moment is offering itself up to us, presenting to us the glory of God and invaluable gifts of understanding and insight, if only we drop our inward chatter and allow ourselves to be fully present.

One popular exercise that can be practiced is the simple act of washing dishes. This has been an illustration I have come across in both eastern meditation books as well as Christian contemplative books,  as an exercise of practicing mindfulness.

Simply begin washing dishes. When a thought arises, let it arise, note it with no interpretation, and let it fall away. Like waves on the ocean our thoughts will rise up, endure and fall away. Let those waves come and go with no attachment to their significance, without reading into them or letting them cause bigger waves to come as you find yourself taken by them. For example, if a thought like " wow the dish soap is running low"comes,  don't let yourself then think, " I have to run to the store to get more later on, I wonder if I should do it before lunch or after", that will just lead to more and more thoughts, taking you away from the present moment! Instead, note the thought and let it pass, while at the same time allowing your senses to explore and sense what the present moment is offering them. The feel and temperature of the water on your skin, the reflection of light on the bubbles, the sound of water splashing on steel or porcelain. 

This helps us still our insignificant inward chatter and guides us into the present moment, where truly, reality is only found. Reality cannot be found in the past...the past is always continually shifting and is shaped by our own biases and illusions and the future isn't reality for it hasn't happened yet! God is here, God is now, God is inviting us all in, but we have to shed our egos, our attachments our illusions and enter the naked reality of life to experience Him in the present.

Let's not let God become just a part of our lives, but let's allow ourselves to become internally aware of Him during all of our moments and to live a life fully in Him and for Him. I will end with a great passage from Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade :

"...the one thing needful is simply what comes to the soul each moment by the will of God. This includes the stripping, the self-denial, the renunciation of earthly things, in order that the soul may be nothing in itself or live for itself, but may live wholly by God’s will, and at His good pleasure content itself with the duty of the present moment, as though that were the one thing in the whole world."

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the Comments Section. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

YouTube Tuesday

Each week a growing group of bloggers are seeing how creative they can get in selecting thought provoking, and sometimes just fun, YouTube videos that have stood out to them. Each month the creator of the project, Josh, will be selecting a winner and presenting them with the "You Tube Tuesday Award".

Do you have a video that you found hilarious, thought provoking or inspiring? Come, join the project and be sure to leave your link on Josh's site: http://networkedblogs.com/l9C9c  And of course in the comments section here too!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

If Your Child Were Gay..(Discussion of Documentary "For the Bible Tells me So")

If your child told you they were gay....what would your reaction be?

For some of us this is a no brainer, for others this would be an issue a bit more complex for ourselves and our families to deal with.

I recently watched the thought provoking documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So", (available on Netflix) which explores the journeys that four different Christian families with fundamental evangelical roots took when they experienced one of their children being gay. These personal narratives were accompanied by commentary from voices like Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech,  all giving their views on what the Bible  says about homosexuality.

Honestly, almost as soon as I personally consider the question I posed at the start of this post, I already know my answer. I see every human as no less than a miracle. Knit internally within their mother's womb by the very intentions of our Creator.  I can't imagine something like my child being homosexual as a factor that would shift internally within me my love and affections towards them. Would I choose a lifestyle of homosexuality for my child? No. Would I reject them for it? No.

Most of the families in the film had a very hard time when their adult or adolescent child came out with the truth concerning their sexuality. A mother's tears unraveled the tragic tale of openly rejecting her daughter, subjecting her to insults and harsh words of condemnation after she revealed her sexuality. The end result was that her daughter had been so swallowed up by her pain and feelings of abandonment and rejection that she felt no other choice but to end her life by hanging herself in a closet using her dog's leash. I couldn't imagine the pain, grief..and yes, guilt, that her mother might have felt by how her reactions towards her child's sexuality had helped drive her to such an end.

That same mother went on to study the Bible voraciously, looking for answers about what it really had to say regarding homosexuality and what she found prompted her to become an active advocate rallying those around her to encourage the Church in openly accepting homosexuals. This was also the result for the other families as well, with the exception of one.

One family in particular that really inspired me was former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and his wife's reaction to their daughter breaking the news to them that she was gay. Him and his wife had a tearful yet loving reception of the news exclaiming the importance of parents to have an unconditional love for their children. Their tender and unwavering love towards their daughter was truly touching and I believe, glorified God.

So what does the Bible really have to say about homosexuality according to the documentary?

First, one of the most important themes that was stressed among all the commentators and theologians interviewed was the necessity of reading the Bible from the context of the culture that it was written. The Bible was written by a specific people during a specific time and for one to get a truly clear picture of what God's message is in a passage they must first realize the context in which that passage was written.

One of the major verses that those who advocate that homosexuality is a sin use is Leviticus 18: 22:

22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

Pointed out was the fact that that verse was one verse among many in that passage that included a whole list of actions that were deemed as abominations. Actions that are not seen as abominations today like eating shrimp or planting two seeds in the same hole. What the theologians and commentators emphasized was that those laws were "holy laws" written by those at the time in that culture to help them live holy lives. The reason why a man wasn't to sleep with another man was because that law was written in a culture that was striving to grow and that would have went against it's goal of increasing it's population for prosperity and survival.

One other major source that those who oppose homosexuality to the lengths of feeling it is a sin deserving the punishment of hell is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Experts in the film made it quite clear that Sodom and Gomorrah was not destroyed because of homosexual acts but because of inhospitality and cruelty. There are other verses in scripture that support this argument. After a little digging, these are some verses I came up with:

Ezekiel 16:49-50 

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Ecclesiasticus 16:8

Neither spared he the place where Lot sojourned, but abhorred them for their pride.

In Luke 10:10-13, Jesus, describing the sin of inhospitality, mentioned Sodom:

10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

The documentary is produced from a very liberal perspective, with only liberal commentators and experts providing opinions and information for the views presented. I think that's an important thing to note. As one who has been for most of my Christian walk steeped in conservative evangelicalism I could identify rather quickly with the biased slant that was being espoused. I, however, could identify much truth in what they were saying and frankly was refreshed by the overall message of love and tolerance the film expressed. The sentiment in the film  was frankly more attuned to my natural inclinations towards this issue, rather than those of which I've been taught.

It was truly painful to listen to their clip of James Dobson, host of popular evangelical radio show "Focus on the Family",  saying that "homosexuality is a preventable disorder"  and if  "your child tells you that he or she is gay/lesbian, you should not try to accept them but get them changed."  Experts warned that this line of reasoning is deeply flawed and potentially very harmful. Dobson actually has a program parents and children, or adults on their own, can be involved in that will help them get "straight". While this might alter their behavior, it still suppresses who they are internally which can have devastating effects, as is seen by the countless number of suicides among homosexuals that have felt severe rejection and condemnation from their families and communities after the sexual orientation became known.

I think this film would be beneficial for liberal and conservative Christians alike to view. It's important, in my opinion, to hear all sides to an issue. You might not agree, and perhaps be vehemently opposed, to some of what is expressed in this documentary, but hey, it makes some great dialogue. And if we, as the Body of Christ, can't enter into civil dialogue with one another about an issue that threatens to divide the church than we are not honoring God.
God is all about unity within the Body, for that's the only way it can properly function and manifest His Kingdom here on earth. 

I feel it's important to confront some of these issues, in a non-threatening way with others, discussing them in respectful forums and perhaps settling at the end of the day to agree to disagree. With  world hunger on the rise, wars causing death and destruction across the globe and people still suffering the lingering effects of natural disasters...what's the point of dividing ourselves over something that might not be a real issue anyways?

Any thoughts? I'm sure you have some! Please leave them in the comments section!

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Moment: A Friday Tradition

This Moment
"A single photo – no words – capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."
“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

YouTube Tuesday

Each week a growing group of bloggers are seeing how creative they can get in selecting thought provoking, and sometimes just fun, YouTube videos that have stood out to them. Each month the creator of the project, Josh, will be selecting a winner and presenting them with the "You Tube Tuesday Award".

Do you have a video that you found hilarious, thought provoking or inspiring? Come, join the project and be sure to leave your link on Josh's site: http://networkedblogs.com/l9C9c  And of course in the comments section here too!

What did you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!