Friday, September 3, 2010

Being at Peace with Others; Talking about Faith

The way to peace with others is that one's primary relationship in life be with God. When all relationships are bathed in the Spirit of God, the enmity and hatred and distrust tend to subside and fade over time.

I do think that there are a number of people in this world who are not overtly religious but who have a deep appreciation for life and live it graciously in such a way that they are "in the flow" with the Spirit of Life. This too may be a way of bathing all of one's relationships in the relationship with God.

My faith is in God, not in creeds that talk about or try to describe, define or limit God. I am concerned with the reality of God, the real presence of God in the world. Since this is my concern, I am somewhat objective when I start describing where I think God is present in human life. And, at times, it seems that God is present with a good number of people who don't subscribe to religious creeds.

I deeply love many religious writings and traditions of the Christian faith, and of the Jewish faith. And, these all point towards the center. These writings and traditions have at their core an unspoken center.

The center of my religious experience is a trembling awe that I have as I consider the Divine given to humanity in Jesus flesh, and what happens to the Creator of all in human flesh. It is a mystery that shakes me to the core, that I will always be moved by deep in my heart, and that I will never comprehend. Somehow I feel "comprehended" by the mystery and I rest in this feeling that is deeper than feeling. Maybe that is what we call "faith."

Looking for a Center of Gravity in Life

"The Lord is my Shepherd: Looking for a Center of Gravity in Life"

To get through one week in this life with an open heart and mind requires a lot of balancing, regrouping, reflecting. It just takes a lot of give and take inside for a person to travel through a week and still be intact psychologically and spiritually at the end of the week.

It is easy to get off-balance internally, and for the off-balance way of being to become the status quo. What is needed is some internal sense of spiritual balance that can adjust and change with all the challenges while maintaining some sense of continuity. I guess I am trying to talk about "the soul" again. What I am wanting to talk about is having a "center of gravity in life." A center that is strong enough that it allows you to venture out and try on new thoughts, new perspectives without losing a sense of where you have been as a person and where you are hopefully going.

Psalm 23 leads us into the experience of "having this center of gravity" in God. These words reflect a profound "God-orientation" in living. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the quiet waters. He stills my soul."

This "God-orientation" means that I am turned and drawn towards God in my living. That whereever I go, whatever I do, I am always drawn back to God, prone to turn my heart God's way, and be influenced and guided and restored by the Spirit of the Living God.

The only real center of gravity we can have in life is found in a real relationship with someone truly alive, and the most "alive" of all beings is the Creator and Author, Sustainer and Redeemer of Life. An analogy to our relationship to God is found in the relationship of a child to a parent. As a child grows up, his or her center of gravity psychologically or spiritually is what helps her have the courage to venture out while not losing a sense of who she is. But, this center of gravity isn't necessarily found in strict rules for living that are internalized, but in a living, vital relationship between child and parent. Only this living bond is strong enough and adaptable enough to respond to the real struggles and challenges of life. In the same way, with regard to religious faith, it is not primarily a set of rules that are internalized that provides the center of gravity for living. It is the living bond, the relationship with the great Other, God, that is a well of living water, a source of renewal, a voice of judgement calling us back.

Our center of gravity is in finding ourselves truly in relation to others: human, God, and other creatures as well. In these vital relationships, we are not only sustained, but we help sustain others. In these vital relationships, what is deep in us is respected and strengthened. But, it is in the One vital relationship that we find the Center of Gravity that orients and refashions and revitalizes all our other relationships and keeps them alive and oriented towards God, the source of all life and love and hope and purpose.

"The Lord is my shepherd... I shall not want... Though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil... Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

In the end, the great thing is that God has a profound "human-orientation." Without that there would be no power to draw us, to call us, to restore and renew us. Without the deep and pervading Love of God at work continuously in this world, there would be a nothingness. With this Spirit binding all things together, there is always hope, always a chance that our spirits will relax just a little and be renewed by that grace.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tommorrow Really is a New Day

I just woke up from a bad dream. Without going into details, I was in a really bad situation, had made a bad mistake, and was in trouble that wasn't going away. Gradually as I awakened, I began to realize that it was a dream. My experience changed dramatically from one just barely awake and feeling that my life had fallen apart to one three-fourths awake and realizing that, well, things were still basically o.k.

But, what if the dream had been reality (in the dream, I was getting ready to serve a significant jail sentence, lose my jobs, etc.)? If that was my situation, how would I look towards the future? What would I think as I woke up each day?

Many people, and probably about all of us at some point, face a deep struggle as they face "tommorrow." And, what may determine us more than anything is the "tommorrow" that lives in our hearts today.

As I lie awake in the early hours of this day, I am suspended between yesterday that is already gone and tommorrow that is not quite here. I have been reminded by my dream that a fresh start on a new day is not to be taken for granted. Sometimes a person has to go deep, deep down to find a fresh start on a new day when it seems that all tommorrows are cursed by past mistakes.

So, this morning as I am beginning to feel that hope that tommorrow is really a new day, my heart is with all of those struggling to realize this hope, whether their bad dream is their present reality or just a dream.