Giving up Religion for Easter

Easter-825x510This Easter, I almost gave up religion altogether.

Don’t worry, I don’t mean giving up God or Christ or Krishna, I don’t mean giving up my passion for Love, Peace and Consciousness.  I’m not forgetting about Jesus and putting all my eggs in the Easter Bunny basket.  It’s just that this Easter the whole concept of organized religion somehow struck me as very very odd.

Palm Sunday morning, I walked up to my little St Cyprians church as usual.  Because it was Palm Sunday, the congregation was gathered outside the church steps, all holding palm leaves as we listened to the beginning proclamations from the Book of Common Prayer.  As I walked up to join all the sweet people standing in the sun, all of a sudden the whole premise of religion struck me as very odd.  At the same time that I love all religions and I love attending all types of services, pujas, meditations and prayers, I also think they are all kind of weird.

Palm SundayWhat a strange thing that 2000 years after Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem over the palm leaves put down before him all these random people all over the world should be standing outside churches on a Sunday morning holding palm leaves. I know that rituals have meaning, and I actually LOVE rituals – whether it’s smearing ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday or putting sandalwood paste on my third eye for Shivaratri, I love physical things that remind me about embodying the divine.  It’s just that it’s important to remember that all the physical things don’t really matter – it’s all an inside job.  And for some reason that morning, as I stood there outside the little church that I love so much, I was struck with the oddness of it all – if my heart is connected with Christ and I am loving God as I live and breath and move about my life, then what is the point of all of this?

Turns out, Father Ted’s sermon was the perfect answer for my feeling of strangeness at the whole concept of organized religion.  (Now, how does God do that?  Did He inspire those thoughts and feelings in me because He knew what Father Ted had written in his sermon?  Or when I had that sense of oddness, did He go back in time to earlier in the week and whisper in Father Ted’s ear?)

After the reading of the passion story from Mark’s gospel, Father Ted began to talk about Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  As Father Ted put it, “From triumphal entry to his death by crucifixion in just a few short verses. From riding a donkey into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week, to being put to death for speaking truth to power at the end of the week.”

Jesus had been preaching for years in Galilee and the areas surrounding Jerusalem, telling people that the Kingdom of God was inside of them, teaching people how to connect directly to God, showing them God’s love and mercy – and proclaiming that there is no burden of sin between us and God, and no need for any intervention or sacrifice by a priest or anyone else on our behalf.

In Holy Week, Jesus entered Jerusalem, the very center of both religious authority and secular Roman rule – and he went into the Temple and threw out the money changers and those selling doves for sacrifice.  He was challenging the whole system of both political oppression and organized religion that had been established – that people needed to exchange the impure roman coin for temple currency to buy doves or pigeons for the priests to sacrifice at the altar in order for them to attain atonement with God.  Jesus was telling us that we already have AT-ONE-MENT with God.  We don’t need organized religion to mend our broken relationship with God – to God, it was never broken.  We don’t need any rules or rituals or hierarchical system of priests and middle men.  And this challenge to both the religious and secular authorities is what led to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.  And he knew it would.  This was the cause Jesus was willing to die for.

good-friday-copySo, sitting in the pew of my adorable little church, I am struck with the extreme irony that the establishment of religion has turned Jesus’s very teachings inside out!  Instead of realizing the absolute truth of our original innocence and our direct connection with God, the teaching that Jesus gave up his life for, the church has turned his very death into the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf – even though Jesus himself taught that we didn’t NEED a sacrifice, God already loves us completely.

Palm Sunday evening I attended my second service of the day – this time online with the Collective, the wonderful little mis-fit faith community in DeLand.  Pastor Ben, dressed in T-shirt and jeans, reading his sermon from his iPad screen in-between drumming in the band, talked to us about the parable of the Third Mile.

ArtBook__039_039__TheSermonOnTheMount____The parable Ben told goes like this:  Back in Roman Galilee there was a law that if a Roman soldier commanded a citizen to carry his pack, they must carry it for one mile.  One day, a small group of disciples heard Jesus preaching and he said “The law requires that you carry a pack for one mile, but I say carry it freely for two.”  The disciples were deeply impressed by this and after a year has passed, this custom of carrying the pack for two miles had become a “new law” among the disciples and the leaders among them would often quote this teaching of Jesus and the need to carry the pack for two miles as a sign of one’s faith and commitment to God.  Jesus heard about this new custom and came back to the community saying “Dear brothers and sisters, you are faithful and honest, but I have come to you with a second message, for you failed to understand the first.  Your law says that you must carry a pack for two miles.  My law says, carry it for three.”

What I got from the sermon is this:  if there is a religious rule that a person should carry the pack for one mile, then Jesus taught that we should go the extra mile, because it’s not just about following the rules, it’s about what the rules are trying to show us about giving, loving and our relationship with God.  But when the “extra mile” group of people, following Jesus teaching, re-set the rule to  two miles instead of one, Jesus said again, no, it’s about that extra mile, so go 3 miles.  But it’s not really about how many miles.  The problem is, however many miles you add on, it becomes exactly the same thing: a rule to follow to be a good Christian, a good Muslim, a good Hindu or a good something or other.

“What if instead of offering his followers an ethical system to follow, Jesus was inviting them to enter into a life of love that transcends ethics, a life of liberty that dwells beyond religious laws?”

If we just create a new religion in the name of Jesus and set up similar rules or roll calls that must be followed in order to get to heaven and a new order of priests and go-betweens, we’re not really following the teachings of Christ.  If we absorb the way of love which transcends systems that Jesus showed us back into a system of rules, requirements and safe ethical formulas, we’re missing the point.  It doesn’t matter how many miles the rule says you should run, it’s not about counting the miles or following the rules, it’s about transcending the rules and running towards God with all your heart.

“In the end, our wholeness and wellness, our goodness and flourishing, are not to be found in systems of accepted minimums, or in the predictable systems that arise to challenge those minimum requirements – not in religions or in our best attempts at better religions.”

So in the pew and again online at the Collective, I got the message – it’s not about the rules, it’s not about organized religion, it’s about connecting directly with God.  As Ben put it, it’s about “Love that transcends ethics.”  In all these churches and mosques and temples, in all these rituals and Palm Sunday ceremonies, the purpose of it all is to live closer to God, to live AT-ONE-MENT with God.

love-shoesIt’s the spirit of the law that matters, not the letter of the law.  And living the spirit of the law is an entirely inward process between you and God.  It has nothing to do with any organized religion or consecrated creed.  No amount of empty rule following or proper religious conduct can make any difference.  If a person runs 5 miles or half a mile doesn’t matter in the least. We could run an infinite number of miles or just stand still – as long as we do it with absolute sincerity.  It’s what is happening inside that matters.  It’s about the state of our hearts.  It’s about our direct connection to God.

That is the cause that Jesus died for!  And the ironic thing is, by Christianity creating this complicated system of rules and have to’s, in setting up an organized religion with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, it is recreating the same system that Jesus spoke out against.  We see this again and again, and it is up to us to keep bringing back the Love that transcends religion, just like Martin Luther speaking up about the Catholic church selling indulgences or Martin Luther King Jr. speaking up against injustice.

So, to truly follow Christ, we can’t just create a new religion, we have to let go of religion, let go of the outer show of faith and live our inner experience of faith.  And not just when we are dressed in our Sunday best, but in our every day moments.

In Father Ted’s Easter Sunday sermon, he also spoke to this direct connection of God and the Resurrected Christ not in organized religious ceremony – but inside our ordinary lives.

“After all the “Alleluias” this morning we will leave this sanctuary and go out into our ordinary lives.  But that is exactly where we will meet the risen Jesus if we will only open our eyes, and hearts, and souls to the world around us.  In our liturgy this morning we will greet each other in the “Peace of The Lord.”  This is a greeting of the Christ that is alive in each one of us greeting the Christ in the other.  It is a symbolic and liturgical action.  But when we walk out the door into the world we are called to see the risen Jesus in each and every other person we encounter.”

I have often grappled with the check box called “Spiritual but not religious” because I’ve at times felt that I am “Spiritual and ALL religious” or an “Everything.”   I love all religions and all ways of loving God, so I haven’t wanted to say that I am no religion – until now.  In the essential truth, the truth that Jesus died for, it is not about a new religion, no religion or all religions – it’s just about connecting with God.

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Further reading…

The Last Week
by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan depicts Jesus giving up his life to protest power without justice and to condemn the rich who lack concern for the poor. In this vein, at the end of the week Jesus marches up Calvary, offering himself as a model for others to do the same when they are confronted by similar issues. Informed, challenged, and inspired, we not only meet the historical Jesus, but meet a new Jesus who engages us and invites us to follow him.

Peter Rollins examines traditional religious notions from a revolutionary and refreshingly original perspective. At the heart of his message is a life lived through profound love.

Love is Love is Love

Recently, on that ambivalent modern phenomenon called Facebook, I came across this video about the Universality of Love!  It is my new favorite thing!  Seeing people hugging and kissing, dancing and pranaming on an x-ray screen, it’s plain to see that Love is Love.

Love has no gender
Love has no disability
Love has no age
Love has no race
Love has no species
Love has no religion

Love is love is love.  Love is a wave and the ocean.  Love is compassion and empathy and Oneness.  Love is Radical Equality – equal down to the very root of Being – more than equal, ONE, just not the same.  Love is timeless, eternal, constant and immutable.  Love is Perfect.  Love is messy.  Love is yearning, striving, struggling, growing and awakening.  Love Itself completes us.  Love is physical, metaphysical, quantum physical.  Love is the entanglement of particles everywhere – molecules, electrons, amoebas and the space they are all contained within.  Love is the very fabric of the Universe.  Love is life.  Love contains all that is not Love.  Love is God.  God is Love.  Love is a Mystery.

praying handsAs much as I love all the manifestations of God – all the mantras and chants, all the prayers and communion, all the images and idols, all the psalms and bhajans, all the wisdom or all traditions, it really just comes down to Love.  We can all have different religions, we can honor all religions or no religion, but we all have Universal Love.  Love IS – the rest is commentary.

And at the root of all those rituals and spiritual practices, it is all really about getting to the Love that is at the core of every person, every creature and every cell in this universe.  We can access this Love by honoring the love in all families, couples and peoples, without judgments about the particulars.  We can access this Love by serving the love in all humans and in caring for and protecting the love in our furry friends.  We can access this Love by nurturing our Earth and the creation we live in.  We can access this Love through prayer, meditation or sadhana.  We can access this Love through gratitude, awe and prostration.

In essence, we not only access this Love, but we BECOME this Love through LOVING.

Love is Love is Love.  Love the Love.  Be the Love.

Hari Om!  Namaste.  Amen.

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Please share and spread the love around!

LHNL_ProfilePicFor more support in ending bias, even subtle bias inside your own mind, visit LoveHasNoLabels.com

To support the equality of Love and help counterbalance all the politicians trying to “protect the sanctity of marriage” ( while proving how very much they love the institution by being married themselves 4 or 5 times!) – please visit the Human Rights Campaign.

Grace v. Karma

devil_angel440x3001No, Grace v. Karma is not the name of a new spiritually oriented courtroom dram-edy on TV about two angels incarnated as attorneys navigating the touchy issue of Grace and forgiveness vs. Karma and punishment (though it would make a great new show and I think I’ll start writing a pilot right away).

I saw this very interesting video recently about the fall of the Angel Lucifer because he didn’t agree with God about the new plan of Grace through the Christ Consciousness.  I was planning on showing the clip here but interestingly, I can no longer find the video anywhere – which is good, because it was really only the main concept that interests me, so I will simply recap.

In the video they talk about these things very matter-of-factly, as if they are simply giving a history lesson of what happened in the Angelic realms in times primordial.  I don’t really know if all these things can be considered historically accurate.  I think when we are talking about multi-dimensional Divine history it is entirely possible that more than one thing was happening at once and to say something might be true doesn’t mean another account is untrue.  Add to that the fact that our own perceptions and understandings of these things can be somewhat limited and our verbal expressions are even more limited.  All this to say that I’m not 100% convinced that the account they gave went down exactly as it was spoken, like characters with lines in a most epic movie, but I do believe there were some very interesting concepts worth contemplating.

arts-graphics-2008_1183116aBasically, what they explained was that when the worlds and the universe was formed and Lucifer was still one of the “good guys,” he was given dominion over the earth and humanity.  The plan for humanity’s evolution on earth was more along the lines of karma – learning your lessons by cause and effect, so if you kill 8 people in one lifetime you have to come back and get killed 8 times to balance that out before you can progress.  But pretty soon (whatever that means in Eternal time?), God figured out that this was going to take forever (again, quite funny given that God exists outside of time!), and so he decided to change the plan from karma to GRACE.  So, God sent the Christ Consciousness (in the form of Christ, Krishna, Buddha etc) to earth to remind all us silly souls running around taking an eye for an eye that karma was not such a great idea.  Apparently, Lucifer didn’t like this so he rebelled and well, the rest is what they call “history” if you can call mythic biblical angelic/demonic events history.

So – God overrode the law of karma with the law of Grace!  The Christ Consciousness was sent here to free us from karma, from sin, from error and ignorance.

Yet I know that much of religion still has a lot to do with the tension between Karma and Grace.  On the one hand is Sin, struggle, guilt, redemption, repentance and doing the right religious rituals to somehow earn our salvation.  On the other hand is GRACE – the complete and absolute love from God that says, there are NO rules, there is NO sin, you don’t need to do anything except receive the Grace of God!

I sometimes think, ok, if you really believe that Christ died for our sins, then BE forgiven!  Stop feeling bad or guilty and receive the Grace (of course, in all humility, this is easier said than done).  To quote from my Valentine, Richard Rohr, “People get trapped in chains of guilt and low self-esteem, what they judge to be poor performance and less than perfect attendance. As if the goal of religion is “attendance” at an occasional ritual instead of constant participation in an Eternal Mystery!”

So – one could say that Grace is part of the Eternal Mystery.  It is hard to understand that God’s Grace is available to anyone at all times for no reason whatsoever.  But that is the definition of Grace, isn’t it?

247987_349278608498234_1130549657_nAt one point, I was told repeatedly that my Grace had “run out.”  That somehow my bad karma had caused my grace to dry up, I couldn’t have any more because I had, in her opinion, been a bad girl.  At the time I kind of accepted that and tried to improve myself and “earn” more grace again – but now I realize that statement was not only not true in my case, it is NEVER true in any case – it is FUNDAMENTALLY false.  It is completely contrary to the very definition of Grace!

If I feel bad about myself, if I believe someone else telling me I am not worthy, if I deprive myself of the experience of Grace that is available to me at all times, then that is my own doing.  Likewise, if a person is angry and hateful and destructive, they probably won’t experience a lot of Grace, but that has nothing to do with their deservability – it has to do with their focus.

Grace has nothing to do with karma or sin.  That’s the whole point!  Grace transcends karma.  Grace overrides and overrules karma.  Grace trumps karma.  Grace extinguishes karma.  Grace kicks karma’s butt.  To quote Richard Rohr again:  “Divine Love is stronger than hell, death, or sin. In the end, grace wins!”

Grace is so beyond karma that there isn’t really any “versus” – Grace doesn’t even struggle with karma at all – it just shines its glorious light of infinite love and radiance endlessly through the whole universe as if karma doesn’t even exist.

bluepearlocean2One night, many years ago, as I was walking up from the temple after an evening gathering of chanting and meditation, I stopped to look up at the stars.  What I “saw” with my inner eye was God’s Grace showering down upon the whole earth – like a warm golden light of luminous love, peace and absolute good that was just part of the fabric of the universe, constantly showering down upon us, radiating through our very lives even if we don’t notice.  And now I somehow know that this wasn’t just a moment of Grace I happened to witness – it is ALWAYS happening.  Grace is inside us all and inside all of life, the entire universe!  All we have to do is realize it.

And I guess that is the tricky part – realizing it.  That is where the illusion of karma comes in, the illusion of our stories, our guilt or lack of self-worth, what falsehoods we believe about ourselves or about God.  I guess that is where the repentance, the prayer, the ritual and the spiritual practice comes in.  That is where it’s important to be able to discern – wait, my Grace has not run out – that is impossible!

It also has to do with our judgment of others, our use of karma to blame and justify the suffering of others and to withhold the compassion that would flow naturally from our hearts if we were filled with Grace. We can’t really take the goodies of the Grace for ourselves without sharing them with everyone.  Grace doesn’t work that way.  So, I guess in order to live in Grace we must 1) realize that we deserve to receive God’s Grace for no reason at all and 2) realize that is true for all of us.  Except that there are no “musts” when it comes to Grace.  Grace is a Mystery.  So, forget about everything I just said and just experience the Grace.

God’s Grace is here, it’s free, it’s radiant and embedded in the very fabric of the universe for us to simply BE.

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Caroling with the Gandharvas

my-photos-food-fashion-photographyDid you know that it’s not just Love, Peace and Compassion that is common among different religions?

There are many descriptions of God, Holy Beings and the Heavenly Realm that are strikingly similar across faiths – the feeling and experience is the same, only the words are different.  One such experience is the Gandharvas, as they are known in Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Gandharvas are heavenly beings who sing for the Gods.  In the Abrahamic religions these Angelic beings are called the Heavenly Host.  They are beings whose sole purpose is to sing honor and glory to God, who spend their entire eternal existence singing praises to the Divine.  I guess I shouldn’t say their sole purpose is singing – for in their singing they uplift, heal and glorify all of life.  In their singing, magic and mystery happens and I’m sure their one purpose of singing contains a multitude of purposes that I cannot even fathom.  But what I do know from experience is that they adore God and in their singing praises they magnify the Divine for the entire universe.  So, that is no small sole purpose.

AAAADH3MBXQAAAAAALGByAOne of the amazing and interesting facts about the Gandharvas (if you can call a trait of a heavenly being a fact), is that they love praising God so much that they are drawn to anywhere such praise is happening.  Wherever people gather to sing gratitude and love for the Divine, they gather also.  Loving God in song is like a magnet for the Heavenly Host – our voices lifted up to the Lord and our hearts loving God in unison pulls them straight to us.  This is one of the many reasons why I love going to church, or to chanting circles, or to Krishna Das concerts, and why this time of year I love to attend Christmas Caroling.

Last night I attended St Cyprian’s Carols and Lessons service.  Our sweet choir, joined by some extra singers from the Community choir, sang some beautiful versions of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘O Holy Night.’  The packed standing-room-only congregation joined them in singing ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ and ‘Angels we have heard on high.’  And as those Angels heard US, they flocked to the tiny church, as well.  (It made me wonder if THEY have any songs called ‘Humans we have heard on low.’)  Luckily, they don’t need chairs or even standing room, or the hundred-year-old wooden walls of the church would have burst.  I could feel them bringing their Angelic presence and their pure love for God to our gathering, adding the vibration of adoration to all of us as we sang.  During the Ave Maria, I closed my eyes and could feel my consciousness being lifted up effortlessly, almost as if I was on an elevator bringing us closer to God.  All I had to do was sing and open my heart.

jtciLast year I attended the Vero Beach Community Church Christmas Eve service.  The Vero Beach Community Church has a choir of at least 80 people and a grand organ that covers the whole front wall with a beautiful stained glass of Jesus with open arms in the middle.  In addition they have a children’s choir and as if that is not enough, they have an orchestra.  The large church has several services on Christmas Eve and all of them are packed.  As I stood as one of a thousand audience members, singing the carols with this human chorus of voices, I could feel the Angelic chorus of Gandharvas and Heavenly Host joining us in tier upon tier above us and all around us.  These magnificent beings joined us in singing glory to God and victory to Compassion and Peace in the victory of Christ, Alleluia!  My heart was filled with ecstatic joy as I felt this vibration of adoration and GOD not only filling my heart and every heart in the room, but radiating out for miles, lifting up the entire world into the victory of LOVE.

So, if you want to, over the next week or so, if you attend any holiday gatherings with people putting their love for God into song, tune into the other beings joining you.  Whether you consciously tune in or not, whether you can feel the angels singing with you or not, their vibration of love will lift you.  And if you choose, you can consciously join with the Heavenly Host or the Gandharvas in their purpose of lifting up the entire universe into the adoration of God.  It is not only a service to the world, it is fun.


 

To learn more about the Ghandarvas, check out The Ghandarva Experience from Tom Kenyon – it has an introduction with information followed by some truly beautiful and angelic music.  This is a CD that is meant to be experienced and used as a spiritual practice and it is very beautiful.

More Tom Kenyon

Jai Ram He Shall Reign Forever Alleluia

angelic-hostThe other day I was listening to Handel’s Messiah Alleluia chorus while driving back to work from the dentist.  It was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – the men and women alternating singing the words “And He shall reign forever and ever.  Alleluia, Alleluia.  Lord of Lords!  King of Kings!  Alleluia, Alleluia!”

I had it on repeat and the drive from dentist to work afforded me the opportunity to sing along 3 and 1/2 times. I was not only singing, but fully participating with the truth of the words.  I had it blaring, full volume.  I mean, I was rocking out like it was Springsteen or Bon Jovi – windows down, sun shining, wind through my hair, singing at the top of my lungs and waving my one hand in the air, reaching up to heaven (other hand on the steering wheel).

Here it is – but before you click play just be sure you are in a private place where you can sing and wave your arms about (at least one of them).

As I was singing the awe-inspiring and somewhat repetitive chorus it struck me that it IS a repetitive declaration of God’s victory.  I realized that singing Handel’s Messiah is much like chanting “Sri Ram Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.”  That is sanskrit for “Glory to God, Victory to God, Victory to God”  It is sanskrit for “And He shall reign forever and ever, Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Dipawali-Special-1And, much like when I chant Jai Ram, as I was singing “And He shall reign forever and ever, Alleluia” over and over again I could feel my heart’s deepest yearning and prayer for God to be victorious in our world, for God’s Love and Peace to reign in our day-to-day world forever and ever, for God’s compassion and justice to be the common place way of everyday business.

In those 15 and 3/4 minutes as I was driving back to work, I felt the place in my heart that deeply knows that God’s Love and God’s Will are one and the same – that all He wants for us is for all of us to live here in harmony and happiness as one human family.  As the song says, “the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!”  Each time I repeated the same phrase, the feeling of God’s victory grew stronger in my chest.

0b5cd4918a1a1c24d4d92646037d2fb9And just as when I chant the Sri Ram Jai Ram, I could feel that yearning and chanting for God to be victorious happening inside of me.  They say that changing the world starts with changing yourself, and the same is true for chanting.  As I was repeating the phrase “And He shall reign forever and ever” I was praying fervently for Christ to reign inside my own self.  I was yearning with all the burning desire of my soul for God to be victorious in me – for God to be victorious in my life, in my thoughts and in my actions, for my heart to be an instrument for God’s victory in the world.

As I parked my car outside of my office building, I rolled the windows up, turned the engine off, wiped the tears from my cheeks, took a deep breath, thanked God for the rogue renunciation of my every day life and went into work with God’s victory ringing inside of me.

So, in this season and all seasons, whether we are singing ‘Alleluia,’ ‘Jai Ram,’ ‘We Shall Overcome’ or ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth and let it start with me,’ we are all singing the one song of Victory to God.

Merry Christmas, Jai Ram, He shall reign forever and ever, Alleluia!

The Essence of Merry Christmas and Goodwill to ALL

Christmas-Card-at-www.best-christmas.net_1In this time of Christmas I am thinking a lot about Christ.  Of course, I tend to think about Christ a lot anyways, but what I mean is that I’m thinking a lot about how Christ’s love applies to all of humanity.  I briefly wrote in my post about Christmas Carols how I believe that the Christ Consciousness of love, compassion and miracles that Jesus embodied and taught is not limited to Jesus the man or even to Christianity. So, that is the part of Christ I’ve been thinking about specifically.  And in this season of warmth, cheer and giving, of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, I so long for everyone to be open to receive LOVE in all its myriad and beautiful forms.

I’d say all in all, Christmas and the holidays brings out the best in us – our charity, compassion and generosity – but inevitably some humans will find something to fuss about. So this is also the time of year for arguments about religion, whether it is more right to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” and the supposed War on Christmas.  (I don’t think Christmas qualifies as an oppressed minority when every store, town center and neighborhood is decked out in massive amounts of Christmas lights and our whole socioeconomic consumer establishment gears up for the holiday with everything from sales to TV programming to “get it there by the 25th” shipping specials.)

And it’s from both sides of the spectrum.  There are the Christians who get outraged if the people greeting you at Macy’s say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and insist that Santa is Satan and we should just focus on Jesus.  And there are the atheists who insist that celebrating Christmas is against the constitution and Santa cannot be scientifically proven so he has no place in schools.

jesus-vs-santa-armwrestleMy sister is a really good photographer.  For her daughter’s school last year she took pictures of the kids with Santa as they entered into the annual Holiday fundraiser and nearly all the children participated and she helped raise valuable funds for their education.  This year someone made a big fuss about how Santa is not what Christmas is about and Santa shouldn’t be allowed in the main hall because Santa violated their religious rights.  So my sister and the kindly volunteer Santa Claus were relegated to some distant classroom away from the main event and raised one third of the money they did last year.  And it’s silly.  Why waste an opportunity for happiness and charity?  What is more religious about that?

I really don’t think it matters if you say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas – what matters is simply the amount of love you say it with.  And it’s silly for anyone to get offended when given a greeting of love simply because some word doesn’t fit into your own personal list of preferred words.  If someone were to smile and give me a sweet seasonal greeting I wouldn’t care if they wished me a Happy Hanukkah, a Joyous Kwanza, a Sweet Solstice, a Merry Christmas or just the generic humanistic Have a Good Day.  As long as we are spreading more love in the world – all the better.

christmasYou see, the Consciousness of love, peace and compassion that is in all the Christmas Carols and Santa movies is the same underlying consciousness that has been at the heart of humanity since before any of the religions were even dreamed up.  And really, if you just let go of the words and what your mind thinks about them and instead just focus on the feeling or the Presence behind the words, then we’ll realize that we’re all talking about the same Presence.  A few days ago I wrote about how sometimes religious words can be associated with religious divisiveness and how we need to reprogram our subconscious minds to get beyond words and into the feeling self.  I know this was true for me and my own associations with the words of the Christian language.

In my teens and early twenties I rejected Christianity.  I saw a lot of bickering, prejudice and narrow-mindedness in the churches that were around me growing up and it didn’t feel right to me, so I closed myself off to that part of God.  Sure, I found Eastern religions, meditation, bhakti yoga and many ways to connect with God, but I was limiting how God could love me.  I was saying to God – no, I don’t want your love in the form of the Christ, I don’t want your love through Jesus or even from Christians – I only want your love through sanskrit chants and Tibetan mantras.

Then one day 16 years ago, my sister was visiting me in Asheville for the weekend.  We went to the Biltmore House (talk about a photographer’s dream – she must have taken 100 pictures in the gardens alone).  Afterwards we went to Biltmore Village, a collection of quaint shops outside of the estate surrounding the church the Vanderbilts built.  The church was really beautiful and reminded us of churches in Sweden.  The docent told us the music was really good and that the organ is one of the finest on the east coast, so my sister said she’d really like to go the next morning.

I would have never thought to go to a Christian church on my own.  But since my sister wanted to go, I said ok.  Who doesn’t like some nice music?  So, on Sunday morning I went to church for the first time in a very long time.

all souls churchThe church in the Biltmore village is Episcopalian (incidentally called “All Souls Cathedral”) and so the service was traditional with the reading of the bible and the singing of hymns.  I was standing in the pew with the hymnal in my hands singing and I started reading the actual meaning of the words of the hymn.  I can’t remember which hymn it was specifically, but it was about the Light of the Holy Spirit coming down and entering into our hearts like a flame – it was about us making room to have the Christ Light dwell in our hearts forever.

I was amazed.  I was astounded.  My heart started expanding and breaking.  This was real.  I had experienced this very thing in meditation.  I had felt the Light of God coming down and entering into my heart like a flame.  For years I had been working to make room in my heart for God’s Light to dwell there forever.  Whatever old monk or Christian musician who had written this hymn hundreds of years ago had the same experiences that I was having as I was chanting the sanskrit names of God and meditating on the compassion of the Buddha!

I wanted to shout out to everyone in the church who were all calmly singing these words – “This is real!  Oh my God!  Christ and the Holy Spirit are real!”  Instead I just let my heart flow over and tears rolled down my cheeks as I could feel Christ and the Holy Spirit coming down and filling my heart.  It was something I had felt before, I just had used different words.  But here I was in a Christian church, singing a Christian hymn about the truth of God.

After that Sunday I started going to this sweet Episcopal church every Sunday.  Not only that, I went to the Tuesday morning services as well.  I went to every service they had, tears flowing from my heart every time.  I found so many truths about God in the words of the hymns, the psalms and the readings.  I found so much inspiration for my spiritual journey in the sermons.  And watching so many people going up for communionmomma3 to become One with the Body of Christ made my heart burn in my chest with exquisite beauty.

And the people there were so loving and accepting.  They had an openly gay deacon who was a major supporter of the local gay and lesbian community.  The pastors were open to all religions and could talk to me about books by Sogyal Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama and Shakti Gawain.  I had a nose ring and tattoos and I thought the congregation would judge me – but one Tuesday morning after the healing service a sweet Southern white haired lady asked me what the tattoo on my left arm meant and I told her “It’s the Hindu chant Om Namaha Shivaya – it means the God Presence in me honors the God Presence in you.”  She nodded and said, “That’s right on!  And that’s real pretty.”

I realized that I had been the one who was prejudiced.  In all my New Age spiritual focus on loving the world, I had been holding on to all kinds of judgments and attitudes, thinking that there should be respect for all religions, but those Christians just didn’t get it.  Yet God was loving the world through Christ and the Holy Spirit for hundreds and hundreds of years but I dismissed it all.  Wow – I was the one who wasn’t getting it.

But now I AM getting it!  I’m getting God’s love every which way!  I am not limiting how God can love me.  I am not limiting God to the shape of my own mind.  If God wants to love me through Hare Krishna or Alleluia or As-salamu alaykum or Merry Christmas, I say YES!

No matter what your personal beliefs are, why not just receive the love?  Why be all bah-humbug because the person giving you the love says either “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” depending on what side of the bah-humbug you fall on.

If someone says “Ola” or “Bonjour” or “Guten Tag” – why get upset if it’s not your particular language.  Just smile and say hello back.  Whether you personally prefer Merry Christmas or Hare Krishna, in essence it means the same thing. So, allow LOVE to enter your heart through baby Jesus, jolly old Santa,the star of Bethlehem, the star of David, the Angels on High, Frosty the Snowman, the generic Holiday Party at work or the all-female living nativity scene featuring the Three Wise Women!

There are no limits to the ways that God can love us if we just say Yes.  Just let go of the mental arguments and Believe in Love, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to ALL!

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Stand on One Leg and LOVE! the Rest is Commentary

456501701A few weeks ago in church we had a reading from Matthew’s gospel where a lawyer asks Jesus “Which commandment is the first of all?”  And Jesus replied:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In Father Ted’s sermon, he also told us of a Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus who was famous for a similar answer to a trick question.  Asked if he could recite the entire Torah while standing on one leg, he stood on one leg and said, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to others.  That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

In Islam, ‘compassion’ is the most frequently occurring word in the Qur’an. Each of its 114 chapters, with the exception of the 9th, begins with the invocation ‘In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful…’piriformis-standing-lga

Love and Compassion are also central to Hinduism and the most important practice of ‘seeing the Self in the other’ (strikingly similar to ‘Love thy neighbor as thy Self’).

Daya or Compassion is a fundamental teaching of the Sikh religion, where it means ‘suffering in the suffering of all others’ and it is believed that Enlightenment cannot be reached through meditation alone but the spiritual seeker must also do good works towards their fellow humans.

Compassion is so important to Buddhists that they have been known to remove insects from the ground before putting up posts during construction, as to not harm any creature, however small.

Compassionate to even smaller creatures still, devout Jains sweep the path before them as they walk and wear masks as to not step on or breath in, thus inadvertently killing, any minute invisible insects.

How is it then that we have seen so much violence in the name of religion?  It is a very peculiar quirk of humans that we can have so many beautiful religions that all profess love and compassion as their central tenets, yet we use those religions to argue, discriminate, hate and at worst kill each other.

In my tradition of contradicting myself, I have two “buts” to that statement.

But, I don’t think i73032265t really is our different religions that drive us to those extremes of disunity, warfare and violence.  I think the conflict is really about something else altogether and religion is just used as an excuse.  The reasons for violence throughout history are such basic things as greed, land or power and instead of kings or emperors, or nowadays politicians, saying to their armies “I want that gold and that treasure in that land, let’s kill them for it” and just being honest about it, they say “Those heathens are doing the devil’s work, let’s go kill them.”  I guess they figured their citizens would be less likely to want to die just to feed their king’s coffers.

The second but is: But I think more and more, people are seeing the absurdity of this kind of religious disagreement about which way of practicing love and compassion is right.  We are finding the common ground that we all share.  In fact, I believe this call for unity, understanding, kindness and compassion among all peoples was actually central to many of the prophets, founders and sons of God who started these religions in the first place.  They themselves were trying to reform the baser human tendencies of greed and violence and taught instead LOVE.

The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus sitting down to dine with tax collectors, accepting the devotion of a prostitute (that was NOT Mary Magdalene, but that is the subject for another post), and of showing mercy and inclusion to gentiles of all sorts.

Flamingo_Web_For Muslims, at the heart of their faith is the principal of tawhid or oneness. This oneness has been described as that which dominates the mind in Islam, while the heart is intrinsically linked to the concept of compassion. “My Mercy encompasses all things” (Qur’an 7:156).  Islam sees love and compassion – the ability to feel with the other, as expressions of the interconnected oneness of all human beings, reflecting the oneness and unity of God.

The Muslim leader Badshah Khan, who waged nonviolent resistance for Indian independence alongside Gandhi has said:

“It is my inmost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen, huhabat – selfless service, faith and love…. My religion is truth, love and service to God and humanity. Every religion that has come into the world has brought the message of love and brotherhood. Those who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellowmen, whose hearts are empty of love, they do not know the meaning of religion.”

This is why religious or spiritual figures from all different faiths and religions are often found saying “Love is my religion” or the like.  This is why I am an Everything.

This is also what Karen Armstrong discovered when she founded the Charter for Compassion.  The bottom line of virtually all religions is compassion – so let’s stop squabbling about the different nuances of compassion or who we believe said that compassion is most important or what name we use to refer to the All Compassionate One – and let’s start making COMPASSION a part of our every day life and all that we do.  Instead of worrying which prophet is the most right or  most godly about compassion, isn’t it more important to actually practice the compassion they all speak of?  That is what putting all our varying religions into Natrajaction actually looks like.  And that is what will bring about the Unity of God that all our prophets, saints and Holy Ones of all religions have taught in one way or another.  That is what we have always yearned for.

That is why I stand on one foot and say – Love!  The rest is commentary.


Please enjoy the inspiring Charter for Compassion video – and if you haven’t already, please sign the charter.

Thanksgiving Interfaith Experience

nterfaith-harmony-300x300Last Thursday I attended our town’s annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service, hosted by the Grace United Methodist church and featuring speakers from a variety of faiths.  It was lovely and inspiring and very well attended.

It started with a beautiful Hindu dance introduced by my friend Arpita.  It included a Buddhist contemplation read by my friend Jane and a passage from the Koran by my friend Dilara.  There was a beautiful dance number to a Gospel song by three young girls from the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  My own “liberal Episcopalian” Father Ted read a psalm.  A local Rabbi read verses from the Old Testament.  My old surfer friend from college turned Presbyterian pastor spoke about the Ecumenical Food Pantry.  And a distinguished local professor of theology gave a very inspiring humanistic sermon on gratitude and cherishing our connections with each other.  We even got to sing one of my very favorite hymns – O Creatures of our God and King!  The whole evening made my heart sing.

As we went through our whirl-wind tour of each major religion, each one lasting approximately 3 to 5 minutes, I was struck by two things.  One – the beauty of all these varying religions coming together honoring our similarities and the common thread of love, compassion and gratitude that is central to all our faiths.  And two – the craving for more from each faith and my desire to experience God from every perspective.

It gave me the idea that in addition to having an interfaith service, for those who wanted to, we could have an interfaith experience.

The experience doesn’t necessarily have to take that much longer – it’s just that instead of just sitting there like audience members passively watching the different faith expressions being played out before us, we would participate in each one all of us together.

So, for the Hindu faith, we would do 10 minutes of chanting and everyone there would dive into it head first and chant Sri Ram Jai Jai Ram with the most devotional of hearts. During the gospel song, we all stand up, sway back and forth and sing with full passion for the Lord, reaching up our hands as we are moved by the Holy Spirit.  During the Shema-Israel-PrayerBuddhist segment, we not only hear a reading about meditating for all beings everywhere to become one with their higher nature, we fully meditate, visualize and feel this from the deep peace of our own higher nature.  For the Jewish segment we could all tie the words of the Shema to our foreheads and fervently pray “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  After the reading from the Koran we could all engage in a sufi dance of Universal Peace.  And for the singing of ‘O Creatures of our God and King’ we would all sing the words deeply connected to our hearts, feeling the truth of the words resonate through us with the beauty of the Christ Spirit, just like I do with Christmas Carols.

Again – this would only be for anyone who wanted to fully participate.  I don’t think that devote Catholics need to experience sufi dancing or Gospel singing in order to truly love God.  As long as we are honoring and respecting each other, we’re good.  And it was truly beautiful to see how packed the church was that night – there were so many people that they ran out of programs, more people attended than they had anticipated.  And if you’re not inclined to participate in other faiths, then sitting and honoring all the different expressions in an interfaith service is wonderful.  But I am the kind of person who WANTS to dive in.

EBC_Exterior_2011I remember 20 years ago, during college, I went down to Atlanta, Georgia and volunteered at the Open Door Community for 10 days.  It was a life changing experience and maybe I’ll write about that in another post.  In this post I’m talking about this one evening where we, the people and volunteers of the Open Door, went to an interfaith service for Martin Luther King’s birthday at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.  Now, this was no ordinary Martin Luther King celebration.  This was the church where Martin Luther King Jr. had been a pastor.  There were speakers from all different faiths honoring the beautiful legacy and life of this incredible man.

And the choir!  They had the most amazing gospel choir I have ever heard.  They stood in the back of the church and when they sang the Amen the sound and the feeling of the Amen blasted through the whole entire church like a tidal wave of praise!

I was this very white Swedish-American college girl.  I had NEVER been to a church like this before.  The pastor was calling on people to stand up to oppression, to stand up for Christ’s love and compassion.  The congregation was alive and passionate and yelling out “Amen!” and “Tell the truth, brother!” as the different rabbis, pastors, ministers and imams spoke.  People were throwing their hands up in the air when they agreed with something, saying “Praise the Lord!”

And the choir!  The music moved me, the harmonized Alleluias went straight into my heart and broke it wide open.  I couldn’t understand how the roof stayed on or how the walls didn’t come blasting off the building.  The music was so powerful that it filled the entire space in a tangible immersion of praise.

choirI was sitting there getting FILLED with so much inspiration, so much spirit, so much passion!  And yet I couldn’t yell out.  I WANTED to.  I wanted to raise my hand up and say “Alleluia!” – but I couldn’t.  I was too white.  I was too self-conscious.  I hadn’t given myself permission to fully participate.  I was amazed and dazed and just too white.

As we left the service and were walking to our bus to take us back to the Open Door, these two African American men who were part of the community came up to me and smiled.  One of them said “The Spirit was in her, I could see it!”  They both laughed and I just nodded my head.  I was speechless.

All this to say that I WANT to participate.  I want to fully experience all expressions of loving God.  If I’m listening to a gospel choir, I want to let the Spirit move me and shout out to the Lord!  If I’m chanting Sri Ram Jai Jai Ram I want to FEEL the Victory of Ram in my heart.  If I’m going to communion, I want to commune and become ONE with the body of Christ.

I would love to have an actual Thanksgiving Interfaith Experience.  I don’t want to be a spectator.  I don’t want to be limited to being just a too-white Swedish-American quiet and contained Lutheran heritage girl.  I want to experience being something else – a Southern Baptist, a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a liberal Episcopalian.  I want to live life to the fullest!  I want to love God and Give Thanks every which way!

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How can I be Pro-Unity without being Anti-Anti-Unity?

preacher-manOutside the library, on the narrow part of the sidewalk that is officially public property, the preacher man is back.  Security can’t throw him off campus for trespassing unless he steps off the sidewalk, so now that he knows the rules, he has been coming for several days to proclaim loudly, at a booming volume, for 4 or 5 hours at a time, that all the college students, and probably most of the faculty and staff as well, are in league with Satan and are going to hell.

He rants and rails against the sinners, angrily proclaiming Christ’s unconditional love for them as long as they accept Jesus and get saved.  Wait… isn’t that a condition?  And the anger doesn’t feel like love.  This is confusing.

I wonder if he has ever converted one single solitary person to Christianity using these methods.  Usually what ends up happening is students gather around, a few outspoken ones start debating him, some clever students bring out a bible to quote back to this man.  One student made a sign that says “You’re doing it wrong.  Signed, God.”

A pastor friend of mine from the church just across the street from me, caddy corner to the screaming man, has written a few blog entries entreating these yelling Christians to stop hurting the Christian faith with their antics.  It’s not helping anyone know Christ and it gives other more gentle or loving Christians a bad name. You could even say this preacher man is driving people away from Christ.

jesus_cat-hugSometimes I imagine going out there and giving this angry man a hug.  Telling him that Jesus must have been a very loving and compassionate man, joyful, uplifting and inspiring to be around – not angry and yelling about fear and damnation.  But then I reconsider – I don’t really want to go out and oppose this man so set in his ways that he can yell for hours at full throttle, surrounded by students who are merely entertained.  I don’t really want to try to convert this man who is so set on converting me.  So, I simply send him some quiet love and pray that he will one day open his heart to love all of humanity like Christ does and allow the love of God to truly touch his soul.

It’s funny, because as I was walking back from lunch, before this man returned to his sidewalk soapbox, I was thinking about how hard it is to be Pro-Unity without being Anti anything. Then I read the post from my friend Meyla about how there is no right or wrong, and then the yelling started.

So, if there is no right or wrong – how do I hold that position to be the truth?  How do I tell people who think there IS right and wrong that they are… wrong?

How do I hold the Unity of All Religions, that there is only ONE God and God is loving us through all religions, and that ALL people are included in that Unity, when this man’s religion has him screaming at the top of his lungs that his way is the ONLY way and everyone else is going to hell.  How do I include his religion in my Unity?

We have talked about this in our Unity & Peace meetings.   We are FOR Peace, but that doesn’t mean we are ANTI military.  As long as we live in a society that is choosing to create war and armed conflict, the people who are serving in our military deserve only the deepest compassion, care and support.  I can’t imagine what they go through.  So, we are collecting items for a local veterans club to make into care packages for our troops for the holidays – sending our love and prayers for peace to those who need it most.

unityBut I find this whole concept of Unity and Oneness hard to navigate in this world of polarities.  And I’m not quite sure what is the “right” way to go about it all (see what I mean?  For there to be a right way, there has to be a wrong way, right?).

I notice that several times in my writing I am responding to something that I disagree with – like today with the screaming man on the sidewalk, or Monday with the karma, or last week with the crazy parts of the bible that are simply unjust, or a few weeks ago when the meditation instructor said “the mind isn’t designed to be in harmony with the soul.”  It’s not that I’m trying to make anyone wrong, I’m not wanting to exclude anyone from the love, peace and happiness I am writing about, I’m just trying to classify or describe what I’m feeling.  As my old English professor might have called it: compare and contrast.  But how do I compare and contrast without making “the other” less than or wrong or in fact, “other”?  Isn’t the whole point that I’m trying to make with my comparison and contrast that we are all One?  It all gets a bit confusing.

How do I speak up for what feels true to me, how do I stand up to injustice and oppression while staying in Unity Consciousness?  How do I oppose the violence of poverty or racism, sexism and homophobia without having an “enemy?”  How do I promote a sense of Unity and understanding between all cultures, religions and peoples without playing into the polarity, without saying – you’re wrong Mr. Preacherman, we are not going to hell and Gandhi and Ghaffar Khan and the Dalai Lama are closer to Christ than you feel to me to be, even though they are not even Christians.

DALAI LAMASo, this is my conundrum.  How can I be pro-Unity without judging those who are anti-unity as stupid or ignorant or wrong?? How can I be pro-Unity without being anti-anti-Unity?  I really don’t know.  Maybe I need to keep looking to Gandhi and Ghaffar Khan and the Dalai Lama as they all seemed to have grasped this much better than I do.

Ah – now I remember.  Amma has already given me the answer to this circular dilemma – Lokaha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.  Whenever I am caught up in a spiral spiritual question that the dual mind cannot quite comprehend, just come back to is this consciousness.  Thank you.  May All Beings in All the Worlds Be Peaceful and Happy!

How has God become offensive?

VATICAN SISTINE CHAPELI am part of a non-profit in St Augustine called Unity & Peace.  It is an organization that is committed to promoting the consciousness of Peace and the understanding of Unity – that all religions, peoples and cultures are one family of humanity.  Yet I find myself struggling with how to speak of the Oneness that binds us all together.

As part of Unity & Peace I am both writing material for the website and leading meditations for World Peace, and I find myself shying away from any words that point to God. I love God. I think about God all day long and I pray to do God’s Will in as many moments of the day as I can – and part of that for me is being an Interfaith Peace activist. I am an Everything – I love God with every name I can think of.  But if I say God and I don’t also say Allah and Jehovah and Shiva at the same time will I fail to be all-inclusive and honoring of the Unity I profess? If I refer to God as a He will I offend the feminists among us (myself included) and be accused of perpetuating the patriarchy? If I speak of manifesting God’s Peace on Earth will I exclude atheists or humanists from joining in our intentions for a world of harmony? If I call upon foreign Saints and Masters will I alienate those Christians who are joining us? If I invoke Christ or the Holy Spirit will I offend the yoga enthusiasts who have bad memories from childhood?god-2

I came across the perfect expression of this grappling with the name of God in the book ‘Eat Pray Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. She writes of the loaded word – GOD – and sets out to explain what she means by it, “just so people can decide right away how offended they need to get.”

Let me first explain why I use the word God, when I could just as easily use the words Jehovah, Allah, Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu or Zeus. Alternatively, I could call God “That” which is how the ancient Sanskrit scriptures say it, and which I think comes close to the all-inclusive and unspeakable entity I have sometimes experienced. But that “That” feels impersonal to me – a thing, not a being – and I myself cannot pray to a That. I need a proper name, in order to fully sense a personal attendance. For this same reason, when I pray, I do not address my prayers to The Universe, The Great Void, The Force, The Supreme Self, The Whole, The Creator, The Light, The Higher Power, or even the most poetic manifestation of God’s name, taken, I believe, from the Gnostic gospels: “The Shadow of the Turning.”

I have nothing against any of these terms. I feel they are all equal because they are all equally adequate and inadequate descriptions of the indescribable. But we each do need a functional name for this indescribability, and “God” is the name that feels the most warm to me, so that’s what I use. I should also confess that I generally refer to God as “Him,” which doesn’t bother me because, to my mind, it’s just a convenient personalizing pronoun, not a precise anatomical description or a cause for revolution. Of course, I don’t mind if people call God “Her,” and I understand the urge to do so. Again – to me, these are both equal terms, equally adequate and inadequate. Though I do think the capitalization of either pronoun is a nice touch, a small politeness in the presence of the divine.

It is strange to me that God – the Presence of Love that is pure goodness, pure peace and infinite Light and that unifies all together as One – can be such a contentious word. It seems to me that it’s just another out-picturing of all our bickering over God – is God male or female, personal or impersonal, infinitesimally small or omnipresent, Caucasian or Arab or Indian?  It is ridiculous to think God is any of these things and yet equally ridiculous to think God is NOT these things as God is everything.  In the end, what is important is simply that each person connects to that Power of Love inside our beings, by whatever name works.  Maybe it’s time we stop worrying about offending each other, stop worrying about the pronouns or what word we each use. All words are equally adequate and inadequate to describe the indescribable eternal infinite lovingness. So, let’s just focus on the Love.

Sun light love

Intelligent Arguments Are Still Arguments

heart energyRecently a beautiful soul friend of mine gave me a magazine from a renowned Christian Apologist, Ravi Zacharias.  I didn’t know what a Christian Apologist is, so I looked it up and learned that it is one who attempts to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections while proselytizing.  My friend told me how well educated this man is, that I could learn a lot from him because he has already done the research – he has worked for years in the field of comparative religions and has learned a great deal about all faiths in order to present his Christian apologies.

I took the magazine home and read one of the articles written by a Muslim who converts to Christianity – realizing that his own faith was wrong and Christianity was right.  It wasn’t over-the-top fanatical, it wasn’t inflammatory with fire and brimstone – it was well reasoned and intelligently presented.  But although it was a well written article and I even learned some things about Islam that I did not know before – the whole right/wrong way of thinking didn’t feel right.  We don’t just absorb information with our minds but with our hearts also, and it’s not just the words that matter.  It is the consciousness or energy behind something that informs us as well.

We have all felt how the energy behind a communication can be felt when we walk into a room where two people just had an argument and the tension hangs thick in the air.  It is the same for the underlying intention or emotion behind a communication – even an article in a magazine.

I remember watching a you-tube video with Sister Shivani of the Brama Kumaris.  She was talking about creating peaceful relationships and how soHeart EMF field 1 much of it has to do with the thoughts or the energy behind our communications.  She gave the example of a husband and wife: if the husband asks “do you want to go to the baseball game this weekend?” and the wife replies “yes” – it is the thoughts and energy behind the yes that makes the difference.  Is she saying “yes” inwardly thinking how much she enjoys watching the sport?  Is she saying “yes” inwardly indifferent to baseball but feeling genuinely happy to spend time with her husband doing something he enjoys?  Or is she saying “yes” on the outside while inwardly feeling resentment and anger that she always has to do what he wants to do and why can’t they go to a museum for once!  The words of the conversation are the same, but the result of the exchange is vastly different.

This was my experience as I read the article.  The words were not offensive but the energy of it didn’t sit well with me. I was reading it as a whole person and while my brain was gaining some interesting information, my heart felt constricted and uncomfortable.  I was reading this story about “I realized Islam was wrong and that Mohammed did this and that which wasn’t right and Jesus is the Son of God and Christianity is right…”  There was a dissonance with the energy of the story and the energy of my whole self because what I was reading didn’t feel like the Truth of God that I know in my heart – the total Oneness and Love that is at the core of ALL paths to God.

I realized that it’s not just about being a well-educated and articulate apologist – because it’s not JUST the information in something, it’s also about the energy behind it.  No matter how well you have studied other religions to compare it to your own, as long as you are telling others that you are right and they are going to hell if they do not agree with you – it’s still in essence the same thing as fanaticism.  Yes – I do appreciate the politeness and it is infinitely preferable to the other end of the spectrum that resorts to violence in the name of God, but it’s still part of the same right/wrong thinking.

So, my conclusion from this experiment with intelligent Christian apologetics is that I prefer to learn things about Islam or any other religion in a more accepting consciousness.  If I read an article about the central truths found in Islam and how there is some controversy about certain things that Mohammed did – I would get the same information without the wrong-making mentality.  So, even if Ravi Zacharias is very intelligent, and even though I am sure he loves Jesus as much as I do – I just don’t agree with the right/wrong energy he is creating around God and religion.  What the world needs is not more intelligent arguments, but more Unity Consciousness.

I Am an Everything & God is not a Christian

All ReligionsI have had people ask me “are you a Christian?” or “are you a yogi?” or “you’re a Hindu aren’t you?” It almost strikes me as a strange question. It was the same when I went to my first meeting with my new Interfaith Women’s group. We have two Muslims, one Jew, one Buddhist, one Hindu, a Native American and a smattering of various Christians – but what am I? I guess you could say that I am actually an interfaith woman. So, if asked, I usually answer “I am an Everything.”

The bottom line is that I just love God! I love God so much I couldn’t contain it to just one WAY of loving God. I want to chant like a Swami, I want to meditate like Buddha, I want to pray like Jesus, I want to melt into Mother Nature like the Native Americans, I want to teach like a Rabbi, I want to dance like a Sufi, I want to shout out God Allah Lord Jesus Christ Shiva Shiva Om! I want to praise God in every way humanly possible. I love God in all religions and I see God loving us through all religions.

God’s love is so immense – to think that God would constrain Herself to only love us through one savior at one point in time at one location on the planet… or that She even COULD! It doesn’t make any sense at all.

I was recently reading a speech by Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “God is not a Christian.”

“We should in humility and joyfulness acknowledge that the supernatural and divine reality we all worship in some form or other transcends all our particular categories of thought and imagining, and that because the Divine is infinite and we are forever finite, we shall never comprehend the divine completely. So we should seek to share all insights we can and be ready to learn from the techniques of the spiritual life that are available in religions other than our own… That what we call the Spirit of God is not a Christian preserve, for the Spirit of God existed long before there were Christians, inspiring and nurturing women and men in the ways of holiness, bringing them to fruition, bringing to fruition what was best in all.”

All religions tell us that God is eternal – God was certainly there in paleo times, in Jurassic times, from the very beginnings of the universe with the big bang to the birth of humankind – God was there. Of course God was loving us all along the way in every civilization and every culture – inspiring and nurturing us in the ways of holiness.

Think of a soul who lived on planet Earth in the year 30 B.C. and after he dies he comes to find out – too bad, if only you had been born a decade or two later you might have had a chance for heaven, but alas, eternal damnation for you. Or to think of a rainforest tribes woman who lives with a heart full of love and reverence and then dies and finds out, too bad those missionaries didn’t reach you in time, off to hell you go. I cannot imagine a God who would create such scenarios.

I love the way Bishop John Shelby Spong puts it in this interview:

“Every church I know claims that we are the true church and they have some ultimate authority… The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book is almost beyond imagination for me. God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist. All of those are human system which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t believe my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.”

▶ Bishop Spong Interview – YouTube. The quote is after the first part about heaven and hell.

That is one of the keys, isn’t it? Having the humility to realize that God cannot be contained by anything we could create – no religion, no book, no church. Isn’t that obvious?

So, I honor all paths, all religions – including all the individual ways of connecting with God and living here as a soul that anyone can come up with. And I honor all those who choose to follow ONE path – I have no interest in starting a religion that believes you have to embrace all religions. A person can just simply be a Muslim or a Christian and take that path all the way to God. Sister Margaret Ann, my catholic nun friend, is not interested in anyone else but Jesus and she has the purest dedication to follow him and that is enough. There are plenty of people who say they honor all religions but do not behave as if they honor any at all. It is sincerity and humility on whatever path you choose that makes all the difference. Bishop Spong need not say a single Sanskrit chant to know God.